We may be in the middle of winter, but the people behind Greenwich Bay Sailing Association are busy planning for the summer ahead, and those plans include a significant effort to broaden the organization's reach.
GBSA has provided sailing camps for West Bay youngsters for years, as well as held the nationally recognized C.J. Buckley youth regatta every summer.
Established by the East Greenwich Yacht Club as a nonprofit community sailing program in the 1990s, GBSA has thrived through the support of the community and the EGYC. Now it is looking to help get more people out on the water and able to sail.
"We feel there's definitely a need," said GBSA President David Wehr recently. "Our goal is to become the Sail Newport of the West Bay.
The change began with the addition of adult sailing classes. Two years ago, someone donated a J24 keelboat and enthusiasm for the boat was so great, they decided to buy three more J24s.
"Our plan centers around building a fleet of keelboats," explained Wehr. "Two years ago, we were fortunate enough to receive a J24 as a donation to the program. It has proved to be a great boat for our adult learn-to-sail program and for our 'sailing adventures' class in the afternoons for older kids."
In order to make that happen, GBSA is raffling off a J70 sailboat with trailer, made possible with help from McMichael Yacht Brokers of Newport and Mamaroneck, N.Y.
Wehr called the J70 "the most popular boat in a generation," and it seems like he's not the only one who thinks so. Sale of 650 tickets at $100 apiece sold out soon after the raffle was advertised. The winning name will be drawn at GBSA's bi-annual charity auction April 12.
Implementing their plan has meant enlisting help from both the Town of East Greenwich and the City of Warwick – GBSA straddles the line between the two towns – in figuring out where to put the J24s since Greenwich Cove is pretty much at capacity, mooring-wise. But both municipalities were happy to help out and mooring permits are now in place.
The J24s will be available for rental by anyone proving sailing ability. Rental fees have not yet been set, but GBSA is a nonprofit – Wehr said the fees will be "reasonable."
"Now, you won't have to own a boat," he said, "buy it, maintain it, or store it."
GBSA also will be expanding its adult sailing program this summer, as well as continuing to offer camp scholarships for children who might otherwise not be able to afford it.
"We're trying to make sailing accessible. There're so many people who don't get out there, said Wehr, about Narragansett Bay. "It's such a great resource."