The SHYC Sailing Foundation in Stonington, CT recently marked a decade of community programs with the announcement of ambitious development plans and a new name: “New England Science & Sailing” (NESS). The independent, non-profit Foundation offers unique programs including marine science, sailing, kayaking, windsurfing, surfing, paddle boarding and fishing for students age 4 and up, and makes them available to anyone.

Launched in 2002 with the establishment of the Stonington Harbor Yacht Club, NESS is recognized as a national pioneer in combining marine science education and on-the-water instruction. Since 2007, the organization has supported and hosted Special Olympics sailing events in Stonington Harbor, and endeavored to offer financial assistance to any applicants that need it. Out of 1,400 community sailing programs around the United States, NESS is one of only nine certified by US Sailing.

At a reception where he welcomed new staff and unveiled architectural drawings for classrooms, President Spike Lobdell announced that NESS was recently awarded a $250,000 scholarship grant by the National Recreation Foundation, expressly to make on-water programs accessible regardless of applicants’ financial means. “This award is a vote of confidence and an enormous boost,” said Lobdell.

Executive Director Cindy Nickerson announced that NESS has hired a new sailing director, Mark Zagol, a two-time collegiate All-American sailor who for the last seven years has coached at the US Coast Guard Academy. Nickerson said the Marine Sciences staff has also been bolstered with the recent addition of Mary Ann Horrigan, who has taught at the Catalina Island Marine Research Institute in California and Save the Bay in Rhode Island.

NESS is also enhancing the waterfront campus it purchased in 2011, and plans to offer an even more varied year-round curriculum through their partnerships with Mystic Aquarium, Stonington COMO (Community Center), Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center, and the Pine Point School. “We are an inclusive organization with a mission to serve an extended community,” said Lobdell. “Our aspiration is to be a world-class institution.” For more information, visit