Tag Archive | "sailing"

Community Sailing Thrives at Breakwater

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Sean Elliott, far right, is the new sailing director at the Breakwater Yacht Club in Sag Harbor

Sean Elliott, far right, is the new sailing director at the Breakwater Yacht Club in Sag Harbor.

By Gavin Menu

Jack Reiser was in his second year as club steward of the Breakwater Yacht Club when a young African-American girl from Selden showed up on the club’s footsteps, scholarship in hand, hoping to become a sailor.

“She wanted to learn how to sail, her parents had no clue, but through Head Start they learned about the scholarships, and the kid loved it,” said Reiser, who was one of the club’s first members 25 years ago. “The parents figured out they could turn their kid into a straight A student because they said they would ‘buy’ her the scholarship. The kid went from a C student to a straight A student.”

There are a great many traditions that revolve around the water on the East End, and in Sag Harbor, in particular, with sailing at or near the top of the list. Long considered a sport for the wealthy and elite, community clubs like Breakwater are breaking that mold as they commit to bringing sailing to the masses, children and adults alike.

And Breakwater’s commitment to that pursuit has moved to a higher level as the 2014 season begins. Sean Elliott, who grew up sailing the waters of Patchogue Bay in Bayport and worked as the sailing director at the Devon Yacht Club in Amagansett for seven years, will head the sailing program at Breakwater this year and assist Reiser in running the program. In an interview at the club on Tuesday, Elliott said the club has added new sailboats to its fleet, implemented what he believes is a critical Counselor in Training  program and soon will be welcoming campers in record numbers.

Reiser and Elliott estimate that as many as 400 sailing students will pass through the program between now and Labor Day. Also new this year is the acceptance of children as young as 7 years old. In the past, a student had to be at least 9 to participate in the programs.

“We want the kids at the end of their week here to be able to handle a boat,” said Elliott, who talks a great deal about safety and curriculum, emphasizing that the camp is not simply about cruising the harbor but truly learning to sail. “We’re promoting sailing at a very reasonable rate. You don’t have to join a yacht club, you don’t have to join a waiting list. Here, for next to nothing, you can be sailing for the summer.”

A week of sailing camp at Breakwater costs $325, with discounts available for multiple weeks. A camper who attends Breakwater for six to 12 weeks pays only $165 per week. Adults can also join the club for $250 per season, with opportunities to use the club’s boats, take lessons and spend the summer sailing even without owning a boat.

Breakwater also promotes competitive sailing for both children and adults. The club’s Wednesday Night Sailing series attracts dozens of longtime sailors and a fleet of some of Sag Harbor’s most impressive boats. For kids, the club this year has joined the Peconic Gardiners Junior Sailing Association, which hosts regattas across the East End. A handful of high schools also field teams for competitions in the fall.

“Promoting sailing on the shoulder seasons, in the spring and fall, is going to be great for us here,” Elliott said. “We’re hiring more instructors. It’s growing. We have a lot of the bigger boats now that are looking for crew. There’s one boat, a J-100, where almost the whole crew is made up of instructors or kids from the high school sailing program. We’re trying to tie it all together.”

A crucial component to that progression from young student to experienced sailor is the  Counselors in Training program, or CIT, which is designed for students between the ages of 13 and 15. The program was created to ensure that Breakwater has high quality instructors for years to come.

“If we train 13, 14 and 15-year-olds, I have them from their freshman year in high school until they’re done with college,” Elliott said. “And we have the teachers we want to have. It’s a great way to spend your summer, teaching sailing lessons. We want people to come to Breakwater and spend their lives here.”

For more information on the club, which is located at 51 Bay Street, visit breakwateryc.org.

Under Way: Ed Gifford’s Photos Celebrate the Glory of Sailing

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Ed Gifford's photo of a 92' ketch rigged Whitehawk designed by Bruce King

Ed Gifford’s photo of a 92′ ketch rigged Whitehawk designed by Bruce King

By Annette Hinkle

It’s fair to say that Ed Gifford has always been enamored by two things — boats and photography.

“Growing up in New York City on Riverside Drive, I loved watching the barges and the tugs on the Hudson,” recalls Gifford. “I saw the Macy’s fireworks barge blow up when I was about five.”

“The Hudson was fascinating.”

And boats — especially sailboats — have long been in his blood. In the summer of 1975, Gifford, who spent summers here as a kid, signed up for East Hampton Town’s sailing program.

“I had to bike from Springs to Northwest Harbor,” he says. “It was a tough ride on an old three speed. I took the program with Pat Mundus and Larry Koncelik. It was a treacherous bike ride, but those two made it so much fun and I got the bug.”

After being bitten, Gifford walked into the Sag Harbor office of Bruce Tait to ask for a summer job on a boat. That was 30 years ago and he has since logged 45,000 boating hours, delivered many a sailboat from the East End to the Caribbean and taken part in several races (including the Buenos Aires to Rio race).

But Gifford is not just an avid sailor, he is also a professional photographer and was first inspired by a book of Alfred Eisenstaedt photographs he found in the garbage at the age of 12. He began pursuing photography professionally at 14 when he started shooting for his father, a theatrical publicist.

“I shot The National Lampoon Show with John Belushi and Bill Murray in their New York City debut,” says Gifford. “My first public picture was published in the New York Times when I was 14 — it was Gilda Radner as Patty Hearst.”

Gifford took classes at the International Center of Photography and by 15, was interning at the New York Post. He went on to study photography at Hunter College with Roy DeCarava (and even shot for the Sag Harbor Express at one point).

This weekend, Gifford’s two loves merge in “The Glory of Sail” an exhibition of classic yachts under sail at Bruce Tait Yachts in Sag Harbor. The show will remain on view throughout the summer. An opening reception will be held next Saturday and the exhibition is a retrospective of Gifford’s images of racing boats in their fully glory.

“I photograph mainly famous old racing boats and some old cool yachts,” explains Gifford who notes that one location in particular has a special draw for him — Antiqua in the Caribbean.

It’s a place Gifford has gotten to know well through his work with Bruce Tait.

“I went to Antigua on Id, a boat out of Sag Harbor in 1989. It was my first time in Antigua and I’ve since done may deliveries there and back,” says Gifford. “I’m always passing through Antigua and it’s a place I keep ending up in. Bruce and [his daughter] Danielle are very involved in the sailing scene there and have a lot of clients there. I’m always running into them there.”

Gifford notes the challenges of capturing a racing yacht in full sail is a combination of skill, knowledge and weather conditions, and when it comes to the weather, Gifford loves what Antigua has to offer.

“I’m striving for the painterly effect. The sky and water color — you’re in the Gulf Stream and every place is beautiful,” says Gifford. “You often get these great cumulus clouds and good wind. I think a sky with clouds is more interesting than a blue sky.”

Though Gifford shoots mainly classic old racing boats, he also shoots work boats — an English North Sea trawler is among his images.

“You have to be in the right place at the right time to get the shot,” says Gifford when asked about the challenges of shooting boats under sail. “You also have to have a really good boat driver.”

“You have to figure out what conditions make the boat look great,” he adds. “It’s like fishing. Some days you get a shot and some days you don’t — you have to hit it right.”

Gifford researches and frequently writes about the boats he photographs. Some of them date as far back as the 1870s — which brings up the question of whether such a boat truly still exists if virtually every piece of it has been replaced over the years.

“Every seven years your body renews every cell,” says Gifford. “That’s what happens with these boats. The marine environment is so caustic, they won’t last. It’s very rare to find one that hasn’t had a lot of work put into it.”

Through his work and sailing, over the years, Gifford has made some close connections with people who have helped him pull this show together.

Michael Mella is printing and designing the show and is a corporate photographer,” he says. “[Sailor and photographer] Jonathan Morse helped design the postcard and did a lot of legwork. Another friend and mentor is Jim Mackin. They did all kinds of stuff to help me and I’m really appreciative to all of them.”

“The sea breeds loyalty and a tight knit group,” he adds. You don’t survive if you don’t have that,” he says. “This show is a confluence of different paths coming together and coming full circle. These pictures were incredible to do.”

And for the record? Gifford’s dream boat would be a retired 1980’s aluminum 50 foot IOR (International Offshore Rule) race boat.

Just sayin’.

 “The Glory of Sail” opens Saturday, June 29, 2013 with a reception from 5 to 8 p.m. at Bruce Tait & Associates, 1A Bay Street, Sag Harbor. Entrance is on the dock side of the building. For details call 725-4222.

Pierson Regattas Home and Away

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By Benito Vila

Last Saturday, while many around town were spending their first weekend since May out of the water, the Pierson sailing team was beneath the Throgs Neck Bridge completing their fall racing campaign at SUNY Maritime.

The team placed fifteenth out of the eighteen New York schools that participated in the regatta. Coach Rich Terry praised the effort and the outcome saying, “Fifteenth over all is pretty good considering three out of our four sailors in the race are in eighth grade. We have a very young team with some raw natural talent. As they grow physically, they will be much more capable of man-handling the boats that they race. High school sailors race in collegiate 420 boats basically designed to carry 300-400 pounds. When both skipper and crew have a hard time breaking 200 pounds, they are forced to sail the boat much more conservatively in high winds.”

Coach Terry also saw his young crew grow in confidence and stay out of trouble Saturday noting, “Putting them in a fleet of 18 boats maneuvering in tight corners gives these kids nerves of steel. At the end of the day there were at least five schools working through penalties. Our sailors raced well and stayed away from fouling other boats.” The best finish for the day was a fifth place by Dana Harvey and Jenna Schnayerson in the fourth race of the B division.

Six others made up varsity sailing this fall: captain Carolyn Comber, Ally Manzo, Liz Oldak, Kevin Heine, Madeline Webber and Will Broich. The team raced in two other major events so far this season, one at US Merchant Marine Academy in King’s Point, and one at home in the harbor.

In the home regatta over the rained-out Homecoming Saturday September 27, Comber and Heine led Pierson to a second place finish in the A division. Coach Terry summed up the day by email as follows:

 “Kevin Heine and Carolyn Comber have been sailing together for all of this season and their teamwork is beginning to pay off.  Finishing in the top five for several of the races and having one first place put them in a three-way tie for first in the A division against St. John the Baptist High School and St. Anthony’s High School. After comparing best finishes St John’s took first and Pierson took second in the A division.”

“Despite the torrential downpours Dana Harvey and Liz Oldak sailed extremely well. While having very limited time together on a boat, they worked together to improve their scores. Their hard work was rewarded when they had the best start out of the ten boats in B division and finished first, four boat lengths ahead of the nearest challenger.”

“Overall Pierson finished seventh for the day while the Stony Brook School took first. Sailors from Bayshore and Mamaroneck also scored well.”