JOHNSBURG – Through a new sailing school and scholarships for economically disadvantaged kids, the Pistakee Yacht Club intends to bring the sport to the community, committee members said.
“Every kid should have an opportunity to learn and grow through this, so it’s a conscious effort to really be more inclusive,” said Tom Kartheiser, chairman of the founding committee.
The yacht club, founded in 1897, has operated a sailing school for decades. But in October, the school was at a turning point, said Kartheiser and Jim Huemann, the committee’s treasurer.
The boats were old, and the volunteer director had resigned. Most of the students were family members and friends of club members.
“Most of us had an appreciation for what this club has been for generations here,” Kartheiser said. “We wanted to see it continue as a landmark and community gathering place. ...
“If the school were to go away, then the question was, ‘How long could we sustain sailing here on Pistakee Bay, really?’ This is a powerboat area, but we think it’s pretty special when you look out there and you just see a bunch of sailboats.”
The committee decided to invest in the school, rebranding it as the Community Sailing School @ Pistakee, hiring a support staff and instructors, and opening the classes up to anyone through scholarships.
It bought six O’pen Bics, which are small boats designed for younger children, and a Flying Scott for adults. Boats for high school-aged children also are being sought.
Classes start June 17, and programs are available for children 6 years old to adults. They’re offered on weekdays to avoid the times when most of the powerboats are on the water.
Fundraising will continue through the summer, building an endowment fund from which to offer the scholarships.
In the long term, the committee is looking to coordinate an accredited STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) class with area high schools and set up sailing teams.
“Because the sport of sailing is pretty demanding, it takes kids who want to stick with it,” Kartheiser said. “It’s something where if you tried it once and you fell in the water, you might want to quit; so here our idea is we get them back in the boat right away, and we teach them how to do it the right way.
“The other element of it is teamwork. It’s a whole team effort to get the boats in the water, to support each other out on the water and then close up for the day.”