2008-05-29 / News

Conanicut Island Sailing Foundation helps make sailing dreams a reality

By Stephanie Heelan Cotsonas

It is true that anyone can learn to sail, and some Jamestown residents will get a little help from the Conanicut Island Sailing Foundation (CISF).

"Over the course of the years that the foundation has existed we have never turned down a learn to sail or instructional sailor whose family needed some help. We have paid the tuition at the Conanicut Yacht Club (CYC) or Sail Newport or wherever they wanted to get their lessons. We are not just high level," said Robert Salk, a CISF board member.

CISF is a tax-exempt, charitable organization established in 2001 by Bradford N. Swett to promote sailing and racing at every level, for the benefit of Jamestown residents of all ages.

According to CISF President Hannah Swett, CISF has dispersed $350,000 since inception and has given funds to Olympians, youths learning to sail, clinics, and Opti charters among other causes. For the past six years the foundation has awarded a new Opti to the winner of the Bradford N. Swett Regatta.

CISF raises funds through 100- percent tax-deductible donations. The foundation solicits and accepts cash, securities and boats to be sold and leased. CISF has one fundraiser a year on Labor Day weekend. According to Hannah Swett, "We have a pool party with a regatta that morning and awards and a silent auction that evening. We raise all the money we give out there and we usually raise close to $20,000. All that money goes directly to the kids to go sailing."

There are two main categories of sailors that the foundation supports. The first is the young sailor who has shown great promise at the youth instructional or interscholastic level. The second is the adult sailor who has excelled at the collegiate, national or international levels.

For both of these categories, coaching, travel, and equipment expenses often prevent promising sailors from reaching the next level of success. The foundation provides necessary funding, coaching or equipment to qualified individuals who would otherwise not reach their full potential without such assistance.

According to Hannah Swett, CISF has no administrative costs so 100 percent of the dollars raised gets paid out. "We distribute all realized revenue to sailors and these funds will be awarded based on the individual needs of the applicants."

Hannah Swett is also proud of a new program where CISF has partnered with the CYC in a learn to sail program in Hunter 14's. Throughout this summer CISF will be offering free sailing lessons to introduce Jamestown children to sailing in a fun environment with a short time commitment. CISF hopes it will jumpstart the interest of some island kids so they will sign up for a sailing session the following summer.

Grants requests are due by May 1 and Nov. 1 of every year. According to Salk, CISF is trying to spread the word about who they are and what they do. "We are getting more applications every year because word is getting around that we do indeed pass out dollars. We think there are some people out there who are struggling whose kids can't do junior sailing with the high price tag," Salk said.

Salk continued, "We have funded a cross section of athletes from Olympic hopefuls to rising high schools stars to eight-yearolds. We have some very qualified sailors that we have funded along the way who we think will become All-Americans including islanders Luke Adams, Brendan Faria and Natalie Salk." May 2008 grants went to Erica Lush, Walmen Dumaling, Kelsey McDonough, and Amina Brown.

CISF board members include Jim Bryer, Anne Deffley, Alyce Dwyer, Kim Ferguson, Meg Gaillard, Peter Johnstone, Ralph M. Kinder, Bill Munger, John C. Quinn, Robert A Salk, Cory Sertl, and Hannah M. Swett.

According to Salk, "We are always looking for two things: we are looking for support and we are looking for applicants who need that support."

For more information on CISF, contact Hannah Swett by phone at 212-772-7550 or email at hannahs@ aol.com.

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