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Model sailboat program created to benefit disabled students

by Jan Harley on 10 May 2012
Asa’s V32s on dryland Jan Harley
Student sailors that have disabilities in Massachusetts and beyond will have the opportunity to race model sailboats as part of an extensive senior project take on by Tabor Academy senior Asa Smith.

A resident of Wellesley and a boarding student at Tabor Academy in Marion, Mass., Smith is completing and renovating model boats left unfinished in previous semesters by students taking the Ship and Boat Design class that is part of the Tabor Nautical Science Department curriculum.

He will donate two of the boats to the 2012 Robie Pierce One-Design Regatta for sailors with disabilities in Larchmont, New York, two to Duxbury Bay Maritime School's ACCESSAIL program, two to the New Bedford Community Boating Center and one to the Schwartz Center in Dartmouth, Mass.

With the support of Robie Pierce (Newport, R.I.), a 1958 Tabor alum, and Captain David Bill, head of the Nautical Science Department at Tabor, Smith pulled the unfinished boats out of storage, obtained permission to donate them from their previous owners. He spent the semester completing them including painting them and building the remote controls that will enable children and adults with disabilities to sail them as part of model boat regattas.

'I found a biography about Robie in an old alumni magazine at Tabor that talked about how he had founded the Shake-a-Leg program in Newport, R.I., which is now called Sail to Prevail,' said Smith. 'I got in touch with him shortly after that and he’s been so supportive of my project ever since.' Pierce is himself a sailor with disabilities, while Sail To Prevail creates opportunities for children and adults to overcome adversity through therapeutic sailing.

The American Model Yacht Racing Association V32s that Smith worked on are 32-inches long and sloop rigged. The radio controller operates a rudder servo and a sail servo, which enable the sailor to steer and sail the boat.

'Asa is a super guy, a tremendous sailor, and a great student,' said Captain Bill of the lifelong sailor and member of the National Champion Tabor Varsity Sailing Team. The son of Beth and David Smith of Wellesley, Massachusetts, Smith learned to sail at the Hyannis Yacht Club in Hyannis, Mass. 'This project is exceptional because of its benefits to the sailing community in addition to the learning experience for the student.'

Each year, approximately 30-40 seniors are approved to work on an individually-designed senior project, with each participant forgoing 'traditional' class time so that he or she can devote energy to initiating, developing and completing a project of personal interest. Projects vary in scope and design, but each entails a great deal of preparation and research. All projects must be approved by the academic department and each project has a student supervisor.

Founded in 1876, Tabor Academy is known as The School by the Sea. Located in Marion, Massachusetts, Tabor is one of only two Naval Honor Schools in the United States. In addition to traditional college preparatory coursework, the Tabor curriculum features extensive nautical science and marine science curriculum including seamanship, coastal and celestial navigation, naval architecture, sea survival training, and sail training in both small boats and cruising vessels.

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