As NC Community Sailing and Rowing prepares for its fifth season, the organization’s emphasis remains on growth.
The nonprofit, located at Blythe Landing Park off N.C. 73 in Cornelius, now has four full-time staff members and will begin holding informational meetings about their spring youth sailing and rowing programs this month.
Executive director Sean O’Donnell – a Cornelius resident and former sailor on the U.S. Naval Academy’s Intercollegiate Sailing Team – had been a volunteer with the group for three years before becoming director last November.
O’Donnell said two of his three kids sail through the center, and he’s been impressed by what he sees as the value of the organization’s instruction.
“It’s a sport (kids) don’t have be 6’2, 220 (pounds) for, and there is college opportunity there,” O’Donnell said, noting sailing and rowing are lifelong sports. Kids as young as 7 can sign up for sailing and as young as 12 for rowing, O’Donnell said.
Since sessions are offered in spring, summer and fall, O’Donnell said, it’s possible to go from beginner to proficient in less than a year.
“Ideally, a 7-year-old can learn to sail in the spring, learn skill development (that summer) then go to their age-related race team. Not necessarily because they want to race, but because that’s the (skill) progression,” he said.
O’Donnell said the center has a growing number of adult students and participants, many of whom are surprised to learn it is available to them as well. “Parents drop their kids off and … they’re surprised you can start rowing at 40 or 50. I’ve got a sailor who’s 72 years old. People in their 60s are picking it up,” he said. “You don’t have to be a young athlete to do this.”
Whatever the age or level of ability, O’Donnell said, the organization is there to teach and develop skills. “We do have a program for every level. We’re eager to have them, young and old.”
O’Donnell said together with staff members program director Brett DiCrescenzo, sailing director Ben Whitman and rowing director Scott Branscomb, they’ve been distributing course information in neighborhoods, recently redesigned the website and have held seminars on topics like increased sailing speed and boating rights-of-way on the lake.
“It’s not just people sailing and rowing, it’s people getting plugged in,” O’Donnell said.
He said the center is like a cousin to area yacht clubs, but unlike private clubs, those who are interested don’t have to have their own boat or worry about maintenance and upkeep, the center provides all necessary equipment. For $300 a year, adults who know how to sail or row could check out a boat every day, O’Donnell said
The cost of adult and youth courses vary but scholarships are available, and cost concern shouldn’t keep anyone from the water,” he said.
“It’s their community center, we’re just here to serve them.”
Trenda: 704-358-5089 Twitter: @htrenda
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