ZigZag: Adaptive Sailing
by Heather Grosso
The WaterFront Center’s ZigZag program is specifically designed for people of all abilities to experience the joy of sailing. ZigZag has welcomed a variety of individuals & groups to leave their differences ashore & enjoy the freedom of recreational sailing. We’ve recently invited two influential groups in adaptive fitness to come aboard our Sonars to experience sailing on West Harbor!
Third Eye Insight arrived with a group of nine ambitious first-time sailors. The group provides fitness classes including Martial Arts/Self Defense and Yoga visually impaired individuals. Naturally, Third Eye Insight’s group was excited to experience a new sport, especially on the water – where all the other senses can be honed and used to sail a boat. Experienced sailors know that taking the helm is all about feel, Third Eye Insight’s sailors took this to a new level. Hearing the luff of the sails in the breeze, feeling tension on the tiller, being heaved by the wind and waves; these are the tools of a sailor with visual impairments. Along with some teamwork from their instructors and guides, these new sailors have found a new passion and plan on returning for future ZigZag events!
The New York City Chapter of Achilles International is a non-profit organization that provides athletes with disabilities a community of support to participate in various running events including the TCS New York City Marathon and 2XU NYC Triathlon. Achilles-NYC, a previous participant of ZigZag, returned to West Harbor in June with eight athletes accompanied by four guides, all who were eager to give sailing a try. After working together to navigate the bay, feel the wind, and trim the sails this group made it back to land with big smiles all around!
ZigZag is not only reserved for groups, the WaterFront Center also provides adaptive sailing to a number of individuals who come on a regular basis. One of our outstanding students is Jamie Schagat! When Jaime arrived for her first ZigZag class, her mother, Midge, had confided in us that Jaime was very nervous, so much so that she almost didn’t attend! After introductions, I made it my goal to get this girl out on the water and on her way to becoming a sailor.
Once we got Jamie and another wheelchair bound participant into the Sonar, (Jamie had insisted to not use adaptive gear) we were off, leaving Midge and their very friendly golden retriever, Jessie, on shore. Both of the girls took the helm that day, exploring West Harbor the wind at their whims! The experience left them “stoked” wanting to come back for more. Jamie now is a regular participant who has learned to use adaptive gear and continues to develop her sailing skills. Last class we took some time to ask her about her ZigZag experience.
Do you feel like you’re becoming a Sailor?
“I learned a lot like when the sail starts to flap tiller to your lap… and I need to get better at pulling the lines”
What is your biggest improvement from the first day to now?
“I now finally have a sense of direction.
I know where I’m going and not just winging it”
What is your favorite part about the Zig Zag program at WFC?
“I don’t know if I have a favorite thing. I love the sailing. I mean, I keep coming back. That is a lot to be said for me… Jessie loves it too” (One day we’ll get a doggie sized life jacket for Jessie!)
Why did you choose sailing?
“I love being outside and there are so few opportunities to be outside for me and for adaptive sports on Long Island”
The Waterfront Center is thrilled to provide unique sailing experiences like Jamie’s for people of all abilities and we’re looking forward to upcoming ZigZag events. We would like to thank groups like Achilles-NYC and Third Eye Insight, as well as all additional ZigZag participants for letting us share our passion for sailing. If you know anyone who would be interested in breaking down their barriers, facing new challenges, and learning how to sail, please contact Heather@theWaterFrontCenter.org
August 11th, 2017