A spirited crowd of sailors, students and SailMaine supporters gathered at SPACE Gallery for the organization’s annual Winter Warm-Up party.

“We’re here to raise funds for our SailMaine scholarship program,” explained Katie Hatch, the nonprofit’s executive director. “This allows us to ensure every junior sailor has access to the water and can get sailing. We’ve never turned away a junior sailor for their inability to pay.”

For a sport that typically requires affluence as much as passion and ability, this program is heaven-sent.

“I think SailMaine is a really great thing for the city of Portland,” said Margaret Fenderson of Cumberland Foreside, who attended with her husband, Capt. David Fenderson, and their daughter Meg Fenderson, who sits on the board. “We’ve sailed all our lives, and this is such an opportunity for people who want to sail. It builds a lot of character and self-determination.”

With programs geared toward members of the greater Portland community who share a desire to get out on the water (including adult sailing, high school regattas and special-needs sailing), SailMaine claims many ardent admirers among its ranks.

Among the partygoers, Cuyler Morris of Morris Yachts chatted with Cyrus Hagge. Chris Moore, chair of the event committee and director of the board, attended with his wife, Bree LaCasse. Maggie Robinson of Falmouth attended with her husband, Chris Robinson, who founded SailMaine with Phineas Sprague and Win Fowler back in 1996.

Putting a unique spin on the live auction proceedings, nine skippers were auctioned off to compete in a J22 race on Casco Bay this summer. The bidding was lively and robust, and helped to raise $13,000 for the fund.

“It’s both a physical and intellectual sport,” said Henry Clews, skipper and sailing coach who attended with his wife, Mary Clews. “It’s a sport that a lot of kids find when they don’t fit into conventional sports. You may never be a great soccer or football player, but if you have that mix of mental toughness and a love of the wind and the water …”

“It’s competitive, but at the end of the day, we’re all friends,” said Adam Meyer, a junior at Falmouth High School. “There is a real camaraderie.”

“Our goal is to raise awareness, remove barriers and get people sailing,” said Hatch, summing up the evening. “Casco Bay is beautiful and we want people out and enjoying it.”

For more information about SailMaine, please visit http://www.sailmaine.org.

Margaret Logan is a freelance writer who lives in Scarborough. She can be reached at:

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