MOUNT DESERT — In recent years, young sailors from Mount Desert Island have made their mark in high school and college racing and beyond.
Current and former members of the MDI High School sailing team work as sailing instructors and launch drivers. They race in the Luders and International One Design (IOD) fleets, and they often win. MDI now hosts a regional high school regatta every Memorial Day weekend and recently hosted a regional Junior Olympic Sailing Festival.
At last week’s IOD North American Championships, Northeast Harbor Fleet Commodore David Schoeder said two-thirds of the sailors for Northeast Harbor were younger than 30.
“We’re the envy of other fleets. I had commodores of other fleets coming up to me the whole weekend and asking what our secret was.”
A big part of the secret is the Great Harbor Dream project, in which the Northeast Harbor Fleet, MDI Community Sailing Center, Bar Harbor Yacht Club, Seal Harbor Yacht Club and Little Cranberry Yacht club join forces to encourage teenagers to sail and support a fall high school club team and the official high school team.
At a Great Harbor Dream dinner dance party Sunday at the Northeast Harbor Fleet house, Schoeder said that just five years ago, adults in the sailing organizations were concerned about declining enrollment in their programs, especially among teenagers.
“So we got together one day in Mike Cook’s kitchen and dreamed up this project.”
Schoeder recognized the early major donors who supported the design and purchase of a fleet of new Turbo 420 boats for the team, including David Rockefeller Jr.
“It wasn’t my vision, but I certainly bought in,” Rockefeller said.
“Our youth sailors are such a party of the fabric of this community,” MDI High School Coach John Macauley said. “It has been such a privilege to watch them over the last few years, finding their feet and developing a wonderful sense of ‘I can do this!’”
The high school pays the sailing center $4,000 each year for use of the facility and its motorboats. That fee does not cover upkeep of the Turbo 420 fleet or the pavilion, Macauley said, which is why the Great Harbor Dream group continues to seek funding.
Schoeder said learning to sail was an important turning point in his own life, “bringing this introverted North Dakota farm boy out of his shell,” he said.
“You’ll be taking the tiller in no time,” MDI alumna and former Northeast Harbor Sailing School Director Liana Folger said to new young sailors. “And adults, watch out, you’re going to be asked to give it over.”
The Great Harbor Dream party was planned to include an afternoon pursuit race, the former Tom Morris Memorial race, but lack of wind Sunday forced organizers to call it off.