New Club Prepares to Set Sail in Clinton – By Lesia Winiarskyj – Published February 3, 2016
If Alan Felgate has his way, you’ll be seeing a few more mainsails and booms along Clinton’s waterways this summer.
Felgate is the founder and chair of the Clinton Sailing Club (CSC), a diverse group of volunteers—including teachers, technologists, and a professional sea captain—whose mission is to introduce local youth and adults to a New England tradition and make Clinton a sailing destination.
CSC plans to offer sailing classes, club racing, and boats for community use at Clinton Town Beach.
Because of their calm, protected waters, says Felgate, Clinton Harbor and the bay formed by Cedar Island, Hammock Point, and Meigs Point are ideal for sailing, especially using dinghies—shallow-draft boats that can sail in places not navigable by larger craft.
“CSC will open up safe, fun, cost-effective new recreational opportunities, make use of our underutilized waterfront, and attract summer visitors who bring revenue to town businesses,” Felgate said.
The target age range for CSC youth instruction is 8 to 18, and scholarships are anticipated.
“A key CSC goal is to make sailing affordable and available to everyone who wants to participate, regardless of income level,” Felgate said.
The program will be open to all youth, although Clinton residents will have first priority.
“Sailing teaches the important life skills of teamwork, sportsmanship, and personal responsibility, and it promotes an understanding of and respect for our natural environment,” said Felgate.
In addition to sailing instruction and club racing, boats will be available for registered members to use during non-instructional hours, for a minimal fee. Fees collected will defray some of the operational and maintenance costs associated with the program.
On Jan. 19, CSC approached First Selectman Bruce Farmer about an initial capital investment. They had hoped the town would provide startup funding and that the program would eventually become self-sustaining.
“Bruce was very supportive and approved of our use of town facilities, such as the Town Beach and dock,” says Felgate. “He encouraged us to continue working closely with Bo Potter, director of Clinton Parks & Recreation, to handle the administrative work of registering program participants. As far as funding, however, the town is in a budget crunch and cutting expenses across the board, which makes it challenging to fund a new group like CSC at this time. So we’re heading in a new direction.”
On Farmer’s recommendation and with help from Phyllis McGrath, principal at Philanthropy Management, and Clinton-based attorney Selectman Lynn Pinder, CSC is setting up as a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization. Benefits to this approach, says Felgate, include allowing the group to be fully independent, accept tax-deductible donations, and pursue grants from businesses and foundations.
“This project has broad, bipartisan support,” said Felgate. “We’ve had a tremendous, positive response to our Facebook page. Over 350 people liked Clinton Sailing Club over the three-day period after we launched. And Clinton Placemakers has agreed to partner with us in our efforts to spread the word and secure funding. We’re very excited to learn there is such strong support for CSC in our community.”
CSC hopes that enthusiasm drives donations and registrations.
“We’re getting ready to launch a crowdfunding campaign and looking into offering rewards for different levels of giving. Some of the incentives we’ve discussed are access to boat rental, discounts on child enrollment, and boat-naming opportunities, which are great for businesses that want to become sponsors. Our goal is to have the program fully funded for summer 2016.”
Startup funding will cover the costs of liability insurance; launching and safety gear; instructors; boat racks and off-season storage; storage space for personal flotation devices, sails, and other equipment; and of course, outfitting a small fleet of fiberglass dinghies, which could be a mix of new and good-quality used boats. Youth sailing programs also typically have a motorized chase boat on the water to ensure participants’ safety. A Boston Whaler or equivalent with console steering and a motor guard would be suitable, says Felgate, and could be donated or acquired on the used market.