By Mayla Guidi, Head Instructor
Clinton, Connecticut is not just the Bluefish Capital of the World. With its protected shallow waters surrounding Clinton Town Beach and Cedar Island, Clinton is also home to a proud US Sailing member called Clinton Sailing Club (CSC).
Having grown up in Clinton with non-seafaring parents, I learned to sail out of state. A program such as CSC wasn’t available for me. Returning home to Clinton to witness the skills my own boys learned here back in 2016 as they attended Clinton Sailing Club’s launch year and my experience as a Shore Power volunteer made it incredibly easy to say, “Yes” to step into the role of Head Instructor. This year is proving to be one of our most successful yet!
Clinton Sailing Club (CSC) is a thriving part of the shoreline sailing community. Located at Town Beach on Waterside Lane, CSC is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization devoted to encouraging people ages 5 and up, regardless of income level, to engage in safe, active, and fun community sailing. It is the community of Clinton, along with its neighboring families and businesses, that have effectively materialized this program to what it is today: A chance for people to develop a lifelong skill and access to the boats for honing those skills.
The club was created six years ago by a few local sailors, spearheaded by Alan Felgate, who brainstormed ways to give all local youth the opportunity to experience the joys and challenges of sailing. While we live in a natural watersports location, accessibility to boats to experience these activities, especially sailing, was lacking. After its first year, CSC quickly grew from youth-only programs to popular adult, family, and women’s only lessons.
CSC is entirely supported by lesson enrollments and memberships. These contributions provide the means to support our deep commitment to provide “Sailorships” to local children in need, support our ability to have US Sailing certified instructors, purchase and maintain our fleet in tip-top shape, and cover the insurance costs to keep the program running efficiently.
We offer four levels of Youth Sailing, Women’s Sailing, Adult and Family Sailing, and Private lessons. Over the past five seasons, CSC has taught over 1,000 children and adults to sail! Lorie Edie, CSC’s President shares, “Our future objective is to start a community sailing program that will allow experienced sailors with a membership to sign out a boat to use what they have learned and enjoy sailing on their own.” We are also exploring a Club Racing team for The Morgan School, our local high school.
Through fundraising and donations, we have created a small fleet that lines the Clinton Town Beach. Our single-sailed 9’ LaserPerformance Bugs are used for our youngest sailors. Our 12’ RS Zests are used for older students enrolled in our Sailing Level 1, where they learn safety, confidence, and good boating habits. They also learn the basics of boat handling, points of sail, upwind sailing, and capsizing. The next level moves students up to sloop-rigged double-handed dinghies. Again, we use 12’ RS Zests as well as 14’ RS Quests for Level 2. These boats have a fairly large, open cockpit that optimizes instruction. Students focus on weather and tides, sail trimming, knot tying, upwind and downwind sailing, crew work, and capsizing.
Sailing 3 students move up to 14’ RS Quests and sporty 13’ Flying Juniors (FJs). The main focus of this level is working together as a team to obtain and maintain optimal boat performance, focusing on sail trim, Rules of the Road, heel control, beach landing, and capsize/self-rescue techniques. In our most advanced class, Sailing 4, students have the experience of partner or single-handed sailing using FJs and RS Quests. Instruction includes techniques promoting speed and maneuverability through racing courses that include roll-tacking and spinnaker use.
New this year is our Little Buggers program, expanding our offerings to the 5-7 year-old population. New sailors are introduced to our boats to develop comfort and safety on and near the water. They get to experience sailboat rides to gain interest and knowledge that will hopefully lead them into a lifetime of sailing.
Regardless of your level of sailing experience or need, we have opportunities for you to get out on the water to enjoy all that living on the Connecticut shoreline has to offer. We encourage first-time sailors of all ages, from 5 to 105, to join us! Our Women’s Sailing program began as a way to introduce women to a male dominated sport. We offer the opportunity to learn alongside one another in a wonderfully supported environment. Family sailing is available for those that would like to learn alongside their partners and/or children. Private lessons are also available to work around individual schedules and cater to specific learning needs.
Even if you are a “landlubber,” we would love your support. Individuals interested in volunteering have a place in our Shore Power. While our students are our sailing, we always have a CPR/First Aid certified adult safety team member available. This team is run solely on volunteers. They communicate with the sailing team and instructors so that in the event of an injury or need on the water, Shore Power can assist. Safety is our first priority. Additionally, supporters can attend fundraisers, make a donation, or provide a “sailorship” to make sailing more affordable to all youth.
The Clinton Sailing Club is all about having fun while learning lifelong skills that extend to off-water activities. Sailors who participate in CSC’s youth programs can grow up to be Junior Instructors and paid Instructors. Sailing can even lead to scholarships to attend the college of their dreams! We foster learning, sailing, and stewardship of the beauty that nature has bestowed upon us in this shoreline town. If you would like to learn more about Clinton Sailing Club, please visit clintonsail.org or visit us at the Clinton Town Beach. ■