July 2, 2022

Pettipaug Yacht Club Opens “jam packed” Sailing Season with First Race on May 20

Boats jockey for position at the starting line of the race

Sailing regattas, sailboat racing clinics, U.S. Sailing Association courses, powerboat instruction and “learn to sail” courses are all on the agenda at the legendary Pettipaug Yacht Club’s 62nd year season. The club, which is located on the Great Meadows along the Connecticut River, is one of the nation’s premier sailing organizations dedicated to small boat sailing, especially for young people.

The club presently has some 325 active members, including a small group of members whose sailing days are over. They use the club’s private grounds, with its elegant new stainless steel grill, for evening cookouts, when the busy club is not engaged in other activities.

Pettipaug Yacht Club officially opened on May 20

The first official event of the club’s 2012 sailing season was the Forty-Second Annual Commodore’s Trophy race held on Sunday, May 20.  The race was designed for small, racing sailboats, either personally owned by club members or owned by the club.

Race Chairman John Kennedy briefing skippers and crew before the race

When the Trophy race began the wind was blowing a strong 15 knots or more, and it was coming upriver from the south. The tide was also running up from the south. This meant that the upriver legs of the course would be easy, whereas the sail downstream against the tide and the wind would be long and hard.

One boat capsized even before the race began, and another floundered at the end of the race. Both were retrieved by the club’s crash boats, two of which were on duty.

Two sailboats getting ready to sail. The one on the left lost its rig before the race

After the race was over and the boats put away, there was an after the race cocktail party for the club members. This in turn was to be followed by a formal Commissioning ceremony. However, the formalities got mixed up a bit with the American flag being lowered before the club’s trumpeter was ready to play the appropriate bugle call.

However, Pettipaug Yacht Club Commodore Chis Manero kept the proceedings moving, and before the gathered crowd knew what was happening, the club’s Chairman of Races and Regattas, John Kennedy, was reading off the results for the afternoon race. The results were read with a reverse order of their finishes, and even the skipper of the tenth place “winning” sailboat received appropriate applause.

Race Chairman John Kennedy, First Place winner Chris Moore, Club Commodore Chis Manero, Third Place Winner Ed Birch. (Second Place winners, Will and Bill Platt, not pictured)

The top three winners of race received silver platters, with the first place winner receiving the largest in size. The winner of the first place trophy was Chris Moore. The second place winners were Will and Bill Platt, and the third place winner was Ed Birch. Birch is not infrequently in the winning circle in local sailboat races.

The tacking duel at the end of the race between Moore and Birch, both in Lasers, was something to see, and Race Chairman Kennedy made a point at the award ceremony that the official times of the three winners were in a matter of nine seconds apart.

Former Club Commodore Sandy Sanstrom next to the "like new" stainless steel cooking grill that he retrieved from the Essex town dump

Even before the club’s official opening on May 20, in April and early May there have been a number of preview sailing contests held by local high school sailing teams. Specifically, the sailing clubs of Xavier High School, Valley Regional High School and Madison’s Daniel Hand High School have engaged in vigorous sailing contests, when sailing can be a brisk affair, especially when the boat capsizes. However, these high school sailing team activities were completely finished before the club’s official sailing season began.

Teaching would-be teachers how to teach sailing

One of the major sailing courses given at the club, after the official sailing season begins, is those sponsored by the U.S. Sailing Association.  These two and four day courses are designed to teach the teachers at the Pettipaug Sailing Academy how to teach their students how to sail in various sailing situations.

Level 1 of these sailing courses is designed to teach the teachers how to instruct their students in the general principles of how to sail. This course will run on June 9, 10, 16 and 17. Level 2 will concentrate on teaching teachers how to teach the racing of sailboats, and this course will be on June 14 and 15. Finally, a windsurfer course will train teachers on how to teach wind surfing, and this course will be on June 18 and 19.

Tuition for these specialized “how to teach” sailing courses is free, that is if the student teacher stays on the job throughout the sailing season at the club. However, should the teacher stop teaching at the club during the summer, she or he will be charged the full tuition for taking these courses. The charges for dropping out are steep: they are $350 for Level 1, $200 for Level 2, and $100 for the windsurfing course.

Also, on the roster of the club’s learn-to-sail programs is the club’s special sailboat racing course for young people. This course runs from Monday thru Friday, June 25 to June 29. The course is taught by Paul Risseeuw, Director of the Pettipaug Sailing Academy, and 30 students are expected to take the course.

Powerboat courses throughout the sailing season

In addition to a raft of sailing courses at the club, there will be nine powerboat courses sprinkled throughout the sailing season. The courses will feature an intensive, one day, in the boat, on the water, course of powerboat instruction.

The tuition for the powerboat course is $175, and over 150 students are anticipated throughout the season.  The fact that the club has a powerboat course during its sailing season has also meant that the U.S. Coast Guard has given the club a grant of $13,000 to purchase powerboat vessels for use in the courses. The Coast Guard very much wants local powerboats operators to be well trained in safe boating techniques before they go out on the water.

The first date of the powerboat course of April 29, May 6 and May 13 have However, the remaining six of the one day courses will be held on June 2 and 24, July 8 and 22, and August 5 and September 8. The courses begin at 8:30 a.m. and run to 6:00 p.m., and they are rigorously taught by Pettipaug Sailing Academy Director Paul Risseeuw.

Pettipaug Sailing Academy, the club’s crown jewel

The crown jewel of the club’s commitment to teaching young people how to sail is without doubt the Pettipaug Sailing Academy. Directed by Sailing Academy Director, Paul Risseeuw. The purpose of the Academy is to introduce and instruct young student to the fundamentals of how to sail. Not infrequently the Academy teaches its students to love sailing as well. This in turn can lead to a lifetime of loving to sail, whether in small sailboats, or on larger sailboats as well.

The Academy teaches sailing at both morning and afternoon sessions. The first morning session at the Academy will run on weekdays from July 2 to July 24. Presently, 40 students are enrolled in this morning session, and the session is considered full.  The afternoon session is on the same dates as the morning session, and it will have 60 students, and it is considered full as well.

There will also be a second round of morning and afternoon sessions of the Sailing Academy, which will begin on July 26 and will run on week days to August 17. Both of these sessions are full, and in fact, there are 30 would be students of the waiting list to attend sailing courses at the Academy.

To address the sailing needs of those young people who wish to learn to sail, but are stuck on the waiting list, the Academy is planning to offer a series of evening sailing courses during the summer. The club’s web site will announce when these evening courses will be given, and this information will also be posted on the bulletin board down at the club.

Graduation Day for all of the graduating students at the Sailing Academy will be held August 17.  Also, on the heels of the Academy’s graduation ceremonies is the Pettipaug Junior Sailing Regatta to be held on August 19. The regatta will give recent graduates of the Sailing Academy a chance to test their new skills in sailing and racing in the familiar waters in front of the club.

Other official sailing regattas to be held at the club include an open one-design regatta on September 15. Also, on September 22 there are two races, the Charles Birch Memorial Race at 11:00 a.m., and the Robin Starr Handicap Race at 1:30 p.m.

Following the races on September 22, there will be a Decommissioning ceremony at the club, which will officially end the club’s 2012 sailing season.

After that in subsequent weekends, club members will take the docks at the club out of the water and stack them safely on land.  Also, club boats will be stored on the deck of the club, hopefully high enough to keep them safe from the Connecticut River’s  off season, high waters.

Even the club’s new stainless steel grill, in its new life as a gleaming cooking ornament and out of the dump, will be brought up on the club’s deck for safe keeping. After that there begins the long wait until next year’s spring.