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US Sailing names One Design and Adaptive Sailing awardees

by US Sailing 3 Feb 10:06 PST 1 February 2024
US Sailing names One Design and Adaptive Sailing awardees © US Sailing

US Sailing awarded the annual One Design and Adaptive Awards this past week at the National Sailing Programs Symposium in Savannah, GA. Awardees were nominated by their peers in the sailing community through a public nomination form.

One Design Presented by Chris Snow, One Design Committee Chair
The One Design Club Award - Pentwater Yacht Club (Pentwater, MI)
The One Design Creativity Award - Chuck LeMahieu (McKinney, TX)
The One Design Regatta Award - 2023 E Scow National Championship, hosted by Mendota Yacht Club (Madison, WI)
The John H. Gardiner Jr. Service and Leadership Award - Gerry Christman (Bloomington, IL)

Adaptive Presented by Betsy Alison
Robie Pierce Award - Lake Champlain Community Sailing (Burlington, VT)
Gay S. Lynn Memorial Trophy - Deborah Mellen (Miami, FL)

Service Appreciation Award Presented by Dr. Anne Allen
Dr. Sam Murray (Savannah, GA)

The One Design Club Award
Pentwater Yacht Club (Pentwater, MI)

The One Design Club award is given to a yacht club or organized group that has shown effort and leadership in the promotion and growth of One Design sailing, emphasizing the spirit of volunteerism and group-wide participation.

Pentwater Yacht Club, on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan and roughly halfway between Muskegon and Traverse City was founded in 1935 and is an integral part of the community and village of Pentwater, MI.

In 2022, the club completed construction on a new facility to replace the century-old warehouse it was founded in. Along with the new building came a new emphasis on all things related to sailing and sailboat racing. These include a refreshed Sailing Academy and hosting some significant events, including the 2023 Ensign Nationals. The club boasts a very active Sunfish fleet and participation sailing and racing at the club has more than doubled in the past five years. Vice Commodore Mike Bass accepted the award on behalf of Pentwater's membership.

The One Design Creativity Award
Chuck LeMahieu (McKinney, TX)

The One Design Creativity award celebrates innovation and creativity in the promotion of One Design sailing. Past winners have included unique regatta formats as well as innovative products to support sailing.

The US Sailing Championship of Champions regatta is an annual event whose entrants are all recent National, North American, or World Champions in their class. They represent the best of the best One Design sailors in the US. Assembling an evenly matched fleet in which to hold the event is no small task and for 2023 it looked like the event might need to be cancelled as there were no viable bids for hosting.

Into this void stepped Chuck and CJ Lemahieu, the importers and distributors of the DF line of radio-controlled sailboats in the US. The Lemahieus provided 12 new DF 95s for use in the championship, branding them with the class logo of each participant, and provided spare parts and plenty of onsite tuning and training expertise for the sailors, many of whom were new to RC sailing. Chuck also helped to organize White Rock Lake Sailing Club in Dallas to host the event. By all accounts, the event was a great success with Para World Champion Betsy Alison saying "This was some of the most fun I've had at a sailing event in a very long time."

The One Design Regatta Award
2023 E Scow National Championship, hosted by Mendota Yacht Club (Madison, WI)

The One Design Regatta Award recognizes an outstanding national level event that promotes and inspires participation in One Design sailing. The award recognizes creativity in execution and management of the event. Past winners have included Charleston Race Week and many significant large One Design events that helped to raise the profile of sailing in the US and internationally.

The E-Scow class spent close to a year planning their 2023 National Championship to mark the 100th anniversary. The hard work of over 200 volunteers resulted in an amazing event with 126 boats starting together on Lake Mendota in Madison, WI. Despite not having a facility, Mendota Yacht Club and its army of volunteers made it happen by partnering with the city of Madison to take over a city park next to the lake that provided space to dry sail all the boats and ample room for social activities.

Hosting the event right in the middle of Madison provided a further opportunity to engage non-sailors and introduce them to the sport. Dale Gordon accepted the award on behalf of the regatta organizers.

The John H. Gardiner Jr. Service and Leadership Award
Gerry Christman (Bloomington, IL)

The John H. Gardiner Jr. Service and Leadership award recognizes outstanding efforts by an individual in the promotion of participation in One Design sailing. John started and ran the Red Lobster Cup in central Florida in the early to mid 1980s, which attracted over 600 sailors across a range of classes. Featuring clinics run by professionals combined with great parties and sponsors, Gardiner's enthusiasm was a significant contribution to sailing.

It is no secret that the sport needs ambassadors to introduce sailing to people, especially adults. At the Clinton Lake Sailing Association near Springfield, IL, Fleet Captain of Thistle Fleet 66 Gerry Christman organizes weekly "Thistle Thursdays." Assembling a small group of used Thistles to train people in, Christman is taking new sailors from learning to sail, to racing, to being active, boat owning members of his fleet and the Thistle class. By purchasing and refurbishing a constantly revolving fleet of used boats at his own expense, Christman has a ready-made fleet to train new sailors in an inventory of boats they can purchase once the hook is set.

Robie Pierce Award
Lake Champlain Community Sailing (Burlington, VT)

The Robie Pierce Award is given annually to an Outstanding Adaptive Program that has made notable contributions to promote public access sailing for sailors with disabilities.

Lake Champlain Community Sailing has demonstrated a commitment to inclusivity by offering adaptive sailing programs that cater to individuals with varying abilities. Their efforts in creating an accessible and welcoming environment for all sailors, including those with disabilities, showcase a dedication to making sailing a sport for everyone in line with their mantra of "we've got something here for everyone, regardless of age, disability, or income." It is a place where members and visitors gather to play on the lake together.

The impact of the Lake Champlain Community Sailing program extends beyond the sailing community. By actively engaging with the broader community and promoting awareness about adaptive sailing, the program contributes to breaking down barriers and fostering a more inclusive society. This outreach effort enhances the program's significance and aligns with the spirit of the Robie Pierce Award, which recognizes initiatives that go beyond the sailing realm to positively impact lives. Program Director John Nagle and Program Manager Justin Shay accepted the award on behalf of Lake Champlain Community Sailing.

Gay S. Lynn Memorial Trophy
Deborah Mellen (Miami, FL)

The Gay S. Lynn Memorial Trophy is awarded annually to a person who has made an outstanding contribution for sailors with disabilities and the sport of adaptive sailing over a sustained period of time.

The Impossible Dream is a 58' universally accessible catamaran that is dedicated to raising awareness of barrier-free design and improving the quality of life for disabled persons through sailing. The boat, a brainchild of Mike Brown who is a paraplegic, was built in 2002 to be fully operational and ocean-worthy for a person in a wheelchair. For its first 10 years of operation, Brown traversed the Atlantic and the Mediterranean and his friend Geoff Holtz, a British quadriplegic, sailed across the Atlantic only accompanied by his care attendant.

Together with Harry Horgan of Shake-A-Leg Miami, Deborah Mellen - a businesswoman, paraplegic, and sailing volunteer - founded the non-profit Impossible Dream, Inc., serving as founder and CEO, and opened a new chapter in Impossible Dream's life.

Every summer since 2015, Impossible Dream has traveled the East Coast of the United States on a five-month summer voyage from Miami to Maine, sharing the joy of sailing with over 1,000 disabled persons and their families, at no cost. The organization is committed to improving the lives of disabled persons through sailing and building awareness of the benefits of universal design. Being on the water is healing, creates community and independence, and improves the quality of life for everyone on board.

Traditionally boating is nearly impossible for wheelchair users. The Impossible Dream is changing perceptions of what is possible. With its unique barrier-free design, the Impossible Dream is an equalizer, creating a community that works together to sail the boat. A unique aspect of the program is that the vessel is sailed by a mixed ability crew. In this innovative approach, disabled Guest Crew members mentor new sailors with respect to the challenges of living, working, and sailing the vessel. Guest Crew also instruct program participants on the use of many assistive technologies such as hydraulic lifts and automated systems incorporated throughout the boat. There is a revolutionary moment on every cruise when a sailboat with people in wheelchairs sails into port and the community has a glimpse of what is possible when universal design and compassion meet. In partnership with local community groups and rehabilitation hospitals in twenty ports of call, the Impossible Dream spreads the message that having a disability is a challenge that does not need to limit quality of life. For many newly injured, a sail on board is a transformational experience.

Mellen, as owner of the most accessible sailing catamaran in the world, who has chosen to share her life's passion for sailing with the adaptive community, and whose vision, leadership, kindness, and generosity breaks barriers every day, was presented with the Gay S. Lynn Memorial Award.

Service Appreciation Award
Dr. Sam Murray (Savannah, GA)

Dr. Sam Murray was also presented a Service Appreciation Award for his dedication to the Sports Medicine Committee. Dr. Murray, a retired orthopedic surgeon and Professor Emeritus and Assistant Dean at Mercer University School of Medicine, has worked with US Sailing as a medical officer, team physician, Sports Medicine Committee Chair, and as a member since the early 1990s. Dr. Murray was instrumental in sailing medical coverage of the 1996 Olympic Games when sailing was hosted in Savannah. Through the years, Dr. Murray has been caring for Olympic and Paralympic athletes and covered multiple regattas including World Cup events, Charleston Race Week, and America's Cup World Series. By working with US Sailing athletes through the performance enhancement team, Dr. Murray contributed to the success of many American sailors over the years. Dr. Murray's dedication to the health and safety of sailor athletes has left a permanent impact on the sport of sailing, and US Sailing and the Sports Medicine Committee are grateful for his time and service.

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