March isn’t too early in the year to think about sailing. Not for members of the Portland High School sailing team, who get back in the water Monday (with dry suits). And not for the 160 SailMaine supporters who turned out to the Winter Warm-Up fundraising event on March 7 at O’Maine Studios in Portland.

“As you can imagine, everything to do with sailing is expensive,” said supporter Maggie Robinson of Falmouth. “This event helps subsidize the cost and makes programs affordable for sailors.”

With a silent auction featuring nautical items as well as opportunities to pledge support toward scholarships, boats and facilities, the Winter Warm-Up raised $12,000.

“We’re raising money to really impact kids’ lives,” said Executive Director Michael McAllister. “This is about youth development through sailing. We teach kids to sail, but they also gain confidence and leadership skills and make lifelong friends.”

In 2018, SailMaine grew its youth sailing program to 1,250 participants and doubled its adaptive sailing program, getting 125 people with disabilities out on the water. A new program with Portland elementary and middle schools introduced 330 students to sailing for free. SailMaine also supports eight competitive co-ed high school teams with Collegiate 420 class sailboats, J/22 keelboats, access to the water, coaching, equipment, scholarships and facilities. Of the 16 members of the Portland High School sailing team, only two came from boating families.

“Now these kids are out there three days a week and racing on weekends,” said parent coordinator Henry Clews. “And it wouldn’t happen without SailMaine.”

“For a lot of people sailing wouldn’t be accessible, but SailMaine provides scholarships through this event,” said Jondall Norris, a SailMaine instructor and Portland High School sailing team member.

“When people hear ‘yacht club,’ they think it’s exclusive, but SailMaine isn’t a yacht club, it’s a community sailing program,” said Lucy Kilbreth, an instructor and co-captain of the Portland High School sailing team. “I’m honored to be part of that culture.”

“It’s such a wonderful community,” said Cordelia Pitman, whose eldest daughter, Clementine Furber, learned the ropes at SailMaine before joining the Tulane University sailing team. “To go down and see everybody sailing is beautiful.”

Amy Paradysz is a freelance writer and photographer based in Scarborough. She can be reached at:

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