December 21, 2014

The Marvel That Is the Pettipaug Sailing Academy, and its Director Paul Risseeuw

Getting the boats ready to launch with Junior Instructors helping out

Getting the boats ready to launch with Junior Instructors helping out

Since the year 2007 one man has been in charge of teaching young people, ages 8 to 16, the art of sailing. That man is Paul Risseeuw of Essex, the Director of the Pettipaug Sailing Academy.  Organizationally, Risseeuw reports to the Chairman of the Pettipaug Sailing Academy, David Courcy.

Assisting Risseeuw, as the chief administrator of the Pettipaug Sailing Academy, are seven senior sailing instructors and seven junior sailing instructors. Many of the instructors are themselves graduates of the Academy.

The Petttipaug Sailing Academy has two teaching sessions each summer, each lasting three weeks. This year the first session of the Academy was from June 30 to July 22, and the second session, that is presently underway, began on July 24 and ends on August 15. Both sessions at the Academy have three-hour morning classes and three-hour afternoon classes.

Young sailors launch their sailboats into the Connecticut River

Young sailors launch their sailboats into the Connecticut River

The morning classes at the Academy are designed for younger sailors, ages 8, 9, 10 and 11 years old. Afternoon classes, which are more advanced, teach sailing to young adults, ages 12, 13, 14, 15 and 16.

These age assignments are not rigid. A young sailor of 10, who can sail like a 14 year old, could find him or herself assigned to the more advanced afternoon classes. On the other hand a totally inexperienced sailor of 13, might find him or herself assigned to the morning classes with other beginning sailors.

Tuition for attending each of the sessions at the Pettipaug Sailing Academy is $400. In many cases students are enrolled in both teaching sessions of the Academy, which costs $700.

Counting the Sailors at the Sailing Academy

The first teaching session at the Academy this year had 91 student sailorss. The second session, presently underway, and pictured in the attached photos, has 93 students. This adds up to 145 different students learning to sail at the Academy this summer.

Learning to sail at the Pettipaug Sailing Academy is very much an on-the water affair, and there are only a limited number of lessons on land. The sailboats used at the Academy are: Optimist dinghies, 420 class sailboats and Blue Jays.

Academy students, when sailing, are on their own. However, instructors in motorboats weave between the sailboats, and rescue student sailors, when their boats capsize. At the end of their sailing courses students are given ranks for sailing proficiency. From the bottom up the ranks are: Seaman, Seaman First Class, Second Mate, First Mate, Bos’n, Skipper and Racing Skipper.

There will be a single graduation ceremony for the two teaching sessions on August 15. The day before graduation, all of the students from both sessions will sail down river to Nott Island for a picnic. It is always an exciting conclusion to the Academy’s premier sailing program.

What could be better than this, a gentle wind and a happy crew

What could be better than this, a gentle wind and a happy crew

Other Sailing Programs at the Pettipaug Yacht Club

 Besides the Sailing Academy there are a host of other sailing programs at the Pettipaug Yacht Club, and there is a powerboat course as well. The first event in the club’s sailing season is the High School Sailing program, which is held in the month of March. Racing teams from three nearby high schools compete: Valley Regional High School in Deep River, Daniel Hand High School in Madison, and Xavier High School in Middletown.

The teams from “Valley and Daniel Hand” use 14 sailboats owned by the Pettipaug Yacht Club. Xavier has 12 sailboats of its own for their team. For students wanting to participate in these races there is one requirement. They must be members of the Pettipaug Yacht Club, which costs $15 a year.

Next on the sailing schedule at Pettipaug is a five day Racing Clinic, which is held from June 23 to June 27. 16 students took the course this year, and instructors Travis Carlisle and Maria Keogh taught the course. The tuition was $200.

Next on the schedule was a two-day, Windsurfer Course on June 26-27. Tuition was free, and the course instructor was Ned Crossley, a retired gymnastic coach at West Point.

In addition, there is a schedule of Powerboat Courses during the boating season. Remaining dates for the full day course are: August 18, 19, 20, 21; and September 6. The course is taught by Paul Risseeuw and three other powerboat instructors. The tuition is $180. Pettipaug Yacht Club motor boats are used for the course.

Without question the central figure behind all of the Pettipaug Sailing Academy’s “on the water” activities is Paul Risseeuw. With the young people from the ages of 8 to 16 who attend the sailing classes, Risseeuw is the epitome of courtesy and understanding.

Pettipaug Sailing Director Paul Risseeuw provides assistance when necessary

Pettipaug Sailing Director Paul Risseeuw provides assistance when necessary

Most likely, Risseeuw’s students, past and present, will never forget how to sail. Nor will they forget who thought them how to do it..