As the yacht racing season was approaching last year, Dick Stevens had a couple of crew slots to fill on his Sabre 34 Honalee and was looking for reliable people with good attitudes and a willingness to commit to the races on his schedule.

Meanwhile, Cayce Dalton was getting his first real taste of sailing, through SailMaine, a community sailing program based in Portland. Dalton had spent a lot of time on or near the water doing water quality research, but he had only sailed once in his life, and only as a passenger with no assigned task.

After eight years living in Maine, he decided it was time to learn.

“I thought, ‘What better place is there to sail than here in Maine?’ ” he said. “I wanted to learn the correct way to do it, so I signed up for a class.”

Little did Stevens and Dalton know that their paths were about to cross. SailMaine had just teamed up with the Gulf of Maine Ocean Racing Association (GMORA) to put on a new race. Each participating sailboat would take on a couple students from SailMaine’s programs to give them their first experience at “big boat” racing.

Dalton was assigned to sail on Honalee with Stevens, and it turned out to be a perfect match.

“It was really fun — it was the first time I’d ever raced, and the first time I’d been on a big boat and actively sailed,” he said.

The day went so well that Stevens invited Dalton and a friend to become regular crew on Honalee for the GMORA summer series.

“I didn’t know it would turn out that way, but figured Dick would be good person to learn more from,” said Dalton. “And he was kind enough to take me on when we had very little crew experience.”

“Cayce was fresh out of school and not terribly experienced, but he was eager to learn,” added Stevens.

Like many skippers, Stevens places a good attitude ahead of experience when he’s looking for crew.

With the SailMaine alumnus on board, Honalee performed well enough over the season to earn a couple of trophies in the GMORA series, along with the award for Most Improved Boat in 2009.

Both SailMaine and GMORA are hoping for more success stories this year, as they host the second annual SailMaine Shakedown Regatta on June 5, out of SailMaine’s home at the Portland Yacht Services complex off Fore Street.

The regatta is open to all boats, as an introduction to both SailMaine and GMORA. It serves as a tune-up for the season series that begins officially June 12 with the Centerboard Regatta and continues through the summer.

Both organizations hope boats and crew who haven’t jumped into Gulf of Maine racing will be tempted to give it a try.

Along with matching up prospective crew members to racing boats, SailMaine hopes to raise funds for its programs through entry fees, sponsorships and sales of food and other items. The post-race parties are open to the public, so you don’t even have to race to join in the fun.

SailMaine offers sailing instruction for both youths and adults, along with coaching for high school and college teams. The organization is committed to promoting the values of leadership, self-reliance, sportsmanship and respect for the environment that the craft of sailing teaches, and aims to provide access to the community as a whole — not just a few.

Dalton, who had never sailed growing up, took the 15-hour Learn to Sail course at SailMaine over five consecutive weeknights last spring. He did some reading on his own ahead of time, and while the study was helpful for learning some basic concepts and terminology, Dalton said it was no substitute for being on the water.

“The program gave me a chance to get access to the water and get instruction that was affordable, friendly and didn’t make me feel intimidated,” he said. “And it’s right there in Portland on the waterfront — I can’t think of a better place for it.”

As the course was wrapping up, Dalton learned of the regatta and signed up. The move turned out to be mutually beneficial to Dalton and to Stevens, Honalee’s skipper.

“It was a good, worthwhile and rewarding experience all around,” said Stevens. “Other skippers could benefit the same way I did.”

 

Gail Rice of Freeport and her husband, Randy, sail on Casco Bay. Contact her at:

[email protected]