On your mark, get set, sail!
MARION — The Marion Recreation sailing program is finally getting competitive after years of being collaborative and education-based.
The sailing program has been active since the 1990s, but in the last five or six years Jody Dickerson, director at Marion Recreation, has pushed to expand the program through donations.
“I’ve lived here all my life other than a few years in New Hampshire, and I believe that people should know how to sail and swim,” Dickerson explained.
Six weeks ago, Marion resident Chris Collings approached him about growing the summer sailing program at Marion Recreation to include a sailing competition.
“There’s a lot of great sailing here. I’m into sailing, that’s why we moved to Marion. That and the school system,” Collings said. He served as the technical chair for the national fleet of the Bullseye Class Association in 2010.
The existing program has two instructors and offers lessons Monday through Thursday in two hour blocks during the summer.
The Recreation Department depends on two boatyards in town: Burr Brothers Boats and Barden’s Boatyard, which store and prepare the program’s five 12-feet bullseye boats.
When Collings first approached Dickerson, he volunteered to take over organizing and directing the Saturday races.
“All of the ideas just started making sense. The town has the boats. The harbormaster is engaged in it because he sees an opportunity for more people to get access to the water. We have industry service providers who have stepped up to make the logistics of boat ownership doable,” Collings said to sum it up.
Dickerson and Collings said they want to increase public access to sailing, not take clients away from local boatyards.
“It is not our intention to compete against local yacht clubs and sailing groups. It just gives an opportunity for other people to sail as well. They might not have a sailboat, and always wanted to learn to sail. We have sailboats, and that’s a big part of it,” Dickerson said.
“We’ve always had a great working relationship with the local yacht club, and I see no reason why that won’t continue,” Dickerson added.
The two want to get people involved with boating.
“The program is open to everyone. It doesn’t matter if you are young, old, what your income is,” Dickerson said.
Collings echoed his sentiment, saying, “It’s about more access and a different access so that as many people as possible can get access to that. We live in a pretty special area.”
Marion harbormaster Isaac Perry supports the program because it increases public access.
“People love it. In terms of people getting access to the water, we have a lot of docks and access points, but to be able to actually go out on the water is huge,” Perry said.
The harbormaster’s department will lend a hand by looking after the boats when they are moored, and will provide personnel ensure participant’s safety.
Eventually Collings hopes to grow the program beyond the boats it currently uses. First, he and Dickerson need to coordinate the logistics of the program, and decide on offering prizes or not.
Marion residents who are interested in the program should be able to sign up through the Marion Recreation website. Marion sailors can also volunteer to help spread the knowledge of sailing, said Dickerson.
“We’re always looking for help, or donations, if someone has a trailer or boats, whatever you’ve got,” Dickerson said.