By Steve Downs
The Orleans Yacht Club, Town Cove, Orleans, MA was incorporated in September 1947. The charter reads: “To encourage yacht building and sailing, to promote interest in Yachting and Aquatic sports, as well as social intercourse among its members, and to secure and maintain suitable buildings & equipment to accomplish these purposes”.
Well, sixty-seven years later, I believe we have been true to our charter and members, in full filling our sailing and social activities, with the exemption of boat building.
As a youngster sailing and racing on the Cove was always fun and enjoyable. I can remember the adults sailing and racing on Sundays with their 16 foot wood lapstrake Town Class & later 17 foot Daysailers boats and the younger members in their Turnabouts, Crosby Catboats, Sprites etc. Sundays were a great time on the water for all. During the weekdays, members rarely sailed their or club boats and this has been the tradition for many years.
In the winter of 2003, Past Commodore Bill Moore (Daysailer National Champion 1967) and I were discussing OYC sailing. That conversation led to OYC Adult Sailing. We never see anybody sailing during the week. We are a sailing yacht club and maybe it’s time to see if we could generate some interest in sailing among our members.
“Great idea”, we said, "but we will have to teach them". Again we said, “No problem, we’ll do it”. Thus, the beginning of an Adult Sailing Program at the OYC. We begin in mid- April, with several dozen “Wannabee Sailors” for five to six weeks of classroom lessons on subjects ranging from: prepare yourself for sailing, know your boat, wind direction, sailboat terms, points of sail, steering, rigging, tacking, up and downwind sailing, knots, leaving/returning to a mooring, leaving the boat ship shape etc, Our classroom textbook is “Learn Sailing Right” by U.S. Sailing. Some say, “this is not for me” and we lose potential new sailors.
Our next training is on land, learning to rig a sailboat that’s on a trailer, which means our still sailors must get into the boats, crawl around the boom, centerboard and actually try to rig the sails on the spars. All our classroom instruction, our videos etc are now forgotten. We hear such comments as. “Where’s the head of the sail”, “what gooseneck”,” what outhaul”, “which is the main halyard” etc, etc. After these fundamental sailing tasks: more lost sailors.
Now, it’s time to put our Capris and Precision sailboats in the water, tied to the dock for “On the Water Rigging”. Well, now we have fun!! The new sailors discover that boats now move, tip side to side and it's sometimes difficult to get around in the small cockpit, while on the water, let alone, try to remember boat snf sail parts to practice rigging; lose a few more!!
Our sailors begin their “On the Water“ sailing, Wednesday afternoons, weather permitting, 4:30 to 6:30 PM beginning at the end of June, to practice their sailing skills till mid- September with four to six boats. We provide two “Coach/Safety Boats”, to be on the water to give instructions, suggestions, encouragement and be available for assistance if need be. Boats are usually manned by Mark Farber, Bill Moore and myself. As the weeks pass, we hear comments like, “Oh, that’s what they mean”, “now I get it”, “Oh that’s cool, now I know what to do” etc. But each week, we continue to see fewer and fewer sailors.
Toward the end of the season, we have six to eight regulars, who come to learn and practice their sailing skills. As the season nears its end, we have sailors who have accomplished and learned a lot about a sport they never knew anything about; the language is all new and they even want to do it all over next summer to become qualified to sail on their own. But before the sailing season finally ends, the boats and rigging must be washed, cleaned and stored for the winter. And we always have “Wannabee Sailor” volunteers!!