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Giving back to the Sport

Southern California sailor Steve Schupak provides the following commentary about how his local sailors were able to help one of their own, and in the end, experience the thrill of giving back to the sport.

(Monday, July 3, 2006) Olympic fundraising has always been a challenge for aspiring sailors. Most young sailors know how to sail a boat well, but to get up in front of a group of older adults, tell them a convincing story about how they should open their wallets to help the aspirant live their dream is a huge hurdle to overcome. But the funds are necessary whether you make it to the games, or just get to the trials.

Last week I attended a special fundraiser for a unique and not so young Olympic aspirant who's shown that through his love for sailing, we all need to stop and help out our juniors and local Olympic aspirants when the come asking for help. This particular story is especially personal for me, but the needs required for training and international competition are the same and how we need to selflessly give to help those few try and enable them to live their dreams of making it to the Olympic games.

The story goes something like this:

Last summer, the "Mother Sabot" group (official term for the senior women sabot sailors) hired a new part time coach to help the ladies improve their sailing in the bay. They happened to get hooked up with a local sailor - Nick Scandone - a former college all American and Olympic aspirant who in 2002 was diagnosed with ALS. He was also from the rival club down the bay.

The group instantly fell in love with their new coach. His skills were as sharp as you could ever hope for. His experience in the boat, (Sabots are the west coast 8 foot goofy square boat with the board on the side) were more than you could ask for. At the end of the summer, the Mother Sabot Commodore, Hollie Sutherland, wanted to have a little fund raiser to help out "Coach's" Olympic campaign. With perseverance and persistence by Hollie and the coach's good friends the Pinkney's and Malm's, the event took off.

In the ensuing months of preparation, the flag officers from both clubs came together and became friends. More importantly, both clubs, the flag officers, club managers, and staff were on board and determined to make the event a success. There were people from every yacht clubs in the area. The "little fundraiser" was now a sell out with over 250 people showing up. Previous Olympians Peter Wells and Charlie Ogletree shared their thoughts about how special the Olympics are and how, without the support they've received locally, they would have never made it to the games.

Photo by Dan Nerney (Rolex)
The event was a home run. Everyone was so upbeat, positive, and hopeful that we were helping to support the next gold medal winner. But, as we all know the games are a long way off. It doesn't matter, because not everyone can make it to the Olympics. Just knowing that we're helping out a friend try gives us the satisfaction and ability to live the road to the Olympics vicariously through "Coach's" experiences. There were lots of donations, and though "Coach" was receiving the money, the rest of the group became richer for being part of his Olympic experience.

So when your local sailors come asking for support to attend a regatta, start an Olympic campaign, or start a sailing program, help them out with what ever you can. And sailors, tell us your dreams, articulate the needs you have to realize those dreams, and when you accomplish them tell us about it, or what it was like trying. Sailing is all about dreams, and being able to help make dreams come true is a more rewarding feeling a than you can ever place a value on. - Steve Schupak

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