Sailing School finishes 9 years of sailing with annual Regatta

Published 6:04 pm Wednesday, August 16, 2017

After nine weeks of sailing school, the director of the Little Washington Sailing School reminisced about almost a decade of teaching Beaufort County children how to sail across the Pamlico River.

“This was the best season we’ve ever had,” Kevin Clancy said.

Saturday, the Little Washington Sailing School capped off its ninth season of sailing with its regatta at the Cypress Landing Marina Association. The regatta acts as the pinnacle of the school’s season, with a series of races following an advanced sailing class made up of returning sailing students. It was the first time the five-race event was held at the marina.

“Cypress Landing was the host, and they just did a phenomenal job,” Clancy said.

Clancy said they have been holding the regatta for years, but this year was the first time the race was able to be a spectator sport. In years past, there wasn’t much opportunity for parents to watch the races without getting out on the water themselves. At Cypress Landing, about 50-60 parents and loved ones gathered to watch children race across the Pamlico, according to Clancy.

Clancy said as children came around the mark, families would cheer loudly and hold up signs to support their sailor.

“It was really exciting for the parents. We can tell them about what their kids did at sailing school, like we do at graduation, but for parents to see them actually doing it, that was really cool,” Clancy said.

The weather pulled through to make for an almost picture perfect sailing day, according to Clancy. He said rain poured down on Friday and on Sunday, but Saturday was beautiful.

“The forecast looked horrible for Saturday, but as it came, in eastern North Carolina fashion, it was perfect weather. Light wind, cloud coverage, zero rain,” Clancy said.

Clancy also described a moment where one of the parents helped start a live stream of the event on Facebook, and chalked the moment up to teamwork. He said the success of the sailing school has been made possible by the community working together to make it great.

“Like everything with this, it’s so many people just chipping in a little bit in an area with something they know about and putting them all together,” Clancy said.

During camp, Clancy also started a program called “Trash Wars,” where children go out to sail and collect trash in a competition to see who can collect the most garbage out on the river. He said a teaching young person to pick up trash is vital because it teaches them at a young age to care about the environment.

“I always say the wind is the fuel and the sail is the motor. That’s what you need to go,” Clancy said. “There’s a connectedness to the environment when you sail.”

Clancy believes the school is offering children in Beaufort County something unique to the entire state. The Pamlico River offers a protected space for sailors, and he said it’s unique because in bigger areas such as Charleston, the ocean is close by, and when the water gets rough, it becomes extremely difficult for children to sail.

The sailing program keeps getting bigger and better, according to Clancy.

“We are building and building and building. … I think we had 130 kids this season. We’re going into year 10; that’s pretty cool. We’ve just grown from this little group of people trying to put together a sailing program into a real sailing school,” Clancy said.

Now, Clancy said he will be able to relax, but only a little bit. He will be preparing boats, making schedules and finding instructors over the next couple of months. He’s both relieved and sad that the season is over, but is already looking forward to his 10th year of teaching children the world of sailing.

“In the offseason — well, we prepare for the on season,” Clancy laughed.