Kim Hap­good, the pro­gram direc­tor at Sail New­port in Rhode Is­land, of­fers ad­vice on how to keep sailors of all ages en­gaged in the sport.

The pro­gram direc­tor at Sail New­port is rec­og­nized na­tion­ally as a leader in com­mu­nity sail­ing pro­grams.

Soundings - - Contents -

Sail New­port is New Eng­land’s largest pub­lic sail­ing cen­ter. What

makes it unique? Our mis­sion is to pro­mote ac­cess to the sport. One way we achieve that is by pro­vid­ing boat stor­age. If you own a boat and don’t be­long to a yacht club, you can keep it here. We have rentals too, for those who don’t own a boat. Close to my heart, though, are the in­struc­tional pro­grams for peo­ple of all ages and ex­pe­ri­ence lev­els.

Do many stu­dents be­come life­long sailors? I can’t put a num­ber on it, but I know we’re very suc­cess­ful at tak­ing adults and kids who come in with no prior ex­pe­ri­ence and mak­ing them into sailors. I think most of the peo­ple who have the op­por­tu­nity to learn here, whether for recre­ational or com­pet­i­tive sail­ing, would say they rel­ished the ex­pe­ri­ence and got some­thing re­ally spe­cial out of it.

Who are among the school’s no­table alumni? There are names that peo­ple will know, sailors like Rome Kirby. But I think the ones to talk about now are the fourth-graders from Pell Ele­men­tary School in New­port. These stu­dents are in­volved in a pro­gram we started a few years ago. They come here dur­ing their aca­demic day to learn the ba­sics of sail­ing over eight weeks. They’re not names that peo­ple who fol­low the sport will rec­og­nize, but their ef­forts are every bit as mem­o­rable.

As an ex­pert on in­struc­tion, what ad­vice would you give to a par­ent who wants to get a child hooked on sail­ing? Two things. One is the sheer phys­i­cal ex­pe­ri­ence; that is what you sell. And then there’s the in­de­pen­dence that comes along with sail­ing your own boat. With these fourth-graders, we see their eyes open as they are ex­posed to a new per­spec­tive. Things look dif­fer­ent from the wa­ter. The sights and sounds, they’re all part of the ex­pe­ri­ence, and those things res­onate with these young peo­ple. For the kids who don’t have an in­ter­est in com­pet­i­tive sail­ing—which is the vast ma­jor­ity—the sport is about the friend­ships and shar­ing the ex­pe­ri­ence. Sail­ing is very per­sonal, and in that way it’s un­like so many of the things that dis­tract kids to­day—stuff like phones and com­put­ers. Sail­ing of­fers them the chance to hang with their buds and en­joy the shared ex­pe­ri­ence. They learn to com­mu­ni­cate, too. That’s some­thing that’s get­ting lost as more kids learn to com­mu­ni­cate with their fin­gers.

Who was your first sail­ing in­struc­tor? My dad. When I was 4 years old, he took me out on a Sun­fish. It cap­sized and I swal­lowed some wa­ter be­fore get­ting hauled back onto the boat af­ter it was righted. Af­ter­ward, he treated me to the big­gest ice cream sun­dae. He made sure the last mem­ory I had of that day was a pos­i­tive one. He made sure that we had fun to­gether.

What’s your fa­vorite pas­time? I do still sail a bit my­self. I’ll do some week­night rac­ing or cruis­ing with friends. One of my cur­rent hob­bies, though, is not sail­ing-re­lated. I race cars off-road. As a sport, it has many par­al­lels to sail­ing. You spend a lot of time prepar­ing.

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