Local sailing school wins national award

Published on Wed, Feb 15, 2012 by Jeremy Schwartz

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Last year’s sailing classes drew young and old alike. Photo by Jeremy Schwartz.

The organization that governs professional sailing across the U.S. has recognized a local sailing school for its creativity and innovation in teaching the sport.

The Community Sailing Council, an arm of the national organization U.S. Sailing, bestowed its 2011 Creative Innovation in Programing award to the Drayton Harbor Maritime Community Sailing School. U.S. Sailing certifies and runs sailing schools across the country and manages the U.S. Olympic sailing team.

Ron Snyder, the program director for the sailing school, said the award validates the great work various community members and groups have done to keep the school running for the past four years. He said the school has been completely a community effort, with many local organizations and individuals donating time, money and materials.

“Hats off to the people of Blaine for supporting us,” Snyder said.

The Community Sailing Council recognized the school in January at the National Sailing Programs Symposium in Florida. In a letter to the school, sailing programs administrator Stuart Gilfillen wrote that the council was particularly impressed with the school’s growth over the years and the community partnerships it has established.

“The fact that you’ve been able to accomplish so much in such a short time is incredibly remarkable, and we’re very grateful that we can present you with this award in recognition of those accomplishments,” Gilfillen wrote.

The sailing class started four years ago with help from the Blaine City Council, Drayton Harbor Maritime, which runs the historic Plover ferry, and other local businesses and groups. The biggest step was getting grant money from the city council to pay for the school’s insurance and registration with U.S. Sailing, Snyder said.

“It was a bit of a struggle, but with about 45 minutes of wrangling, it went our way,” he said.

In addition to a grant from the city, the sailing school also receives assistance from the Blaine school district, the port of Bellingham and Northwest Park and Recreation District 2. Banks in Blaine have also chipped in by donating money for sail boats, which are then decorated with the individual bank’s logo.

“It has been all about partnership,” Snyder said.

A large portion of the financial assistance comes in the form of scholarships for students in Blaine and Birch Bay who would be unable to afford the sailing classes on their own. Thanks in part to scholarship money from Northwest Park and Recreation District 2, Snyder said the sailing school is the lowest priced school in the U.S.

The classes start at $120 for everyone, but drop down to $75 for adults and children who live in the 98230 area code. School district students who receive reduced cost lunches from the district pay $37.50, while students who receive free lunches pay nothing. The Olason family of Blaine has also historically paid the cost of at least one student to take the classes, Snyder added.

“They bottom line is, if it’s a kid and they can’t afford it, that’s no reason not to sail,” Snyder said.

Classes run the last three weeks in June, with each class spanning five days. Each class runs four hours per day, Monday through Friday.

For more information on the classes, contact Snyder at 360/332-8082.