Young sailors return to SailMaine’s headquarters on the eastern waterfront in Portland last week after spending some time on Portland Harbor. A regatta later this month will help to raise money for SailMaine’s community sailing programs. Michael Kelley / The Forecaster

Close to two dozen teams will take to Portland Harbor later this month for a SailMaine regatta to raise money to introduce the sport to new audiences, including New Mainers, at-risk youth and those with disabilities.

“The money raised for the event will support the opportunity for children to have access to sailing and the waterfront that would not otherwise be able to have this amazing opportunity,” said Michele Smith, chairperson of the SailMaine Festival and Regatta, which is taking place Aug. 14-15.

Participants in SailMaine’s City Sailor program head out on a sail with Spring Point Ledge Light in the background. Contributed / Kevin Fahram at Foreside Photography

Michael McAllister, executive director of SailMaine, said the money is critical to three SailMaine programs: Family Sailing, City Sailor and Adaptive Sailing.

“They are doing a wonderful job bringing people who don’t have access to sailing into the sport,” said Tim Tolford, a lifelong sailor who is a part of the organizational team for regatta. “Their programming and facilities have been expanding for years.”

Last year 250 New Mainers were introduced to sailing through the inaugural Family Sailing program, which takes families new to this country out for a free sail on SailMaine’s 40-foot catamaran.

SailMaine volunteer Andy Meyer has been using used the Family Sailing program as an integration tool for families he works with at Welcoming the Stranger, a 5-year-old organization that helps asylum seekers acclimate into the greater Portland community,

“It is a chance for them to be part of the Portland community that is not available to them in any other way,” Meyer said.

Through the program, Meyer was able to introduce 12-year-old Gelson Domingos and his family to sailing. Now Domingoes, 12, is taking youth sailing lessons.

“My favorite part of sailing is you get out on the water and see things. You gets to see animals, like sea gulls and seals,” said Domingos, who lives with his family in Westbrook. “The coaches are really kind and if you need help, they help you right away.”

He hopes to continue sailing with SailMaine, he said, and encourages others to try it out as well.

“My hope is that someday Gelson will be an instructor at SailMaine and he will be welcoming new Americans to the sport and to this country. Gelson is a classic example of SailMaine’s mission,” Meyer said.

Through partnerships with groups such as Portland Community Squash, the Boys and Girls Clubs, Portland Parks and Recreation and Portland Public Schools, the City Sailor program has been able to expose more than 300 underprivileged youth in Portland to sailing through after-school programs and lessons.

“A lot of these kids live just a mile or two from the water, but have never had the opportunity to experience it,” McAllister said.

The program, now in its fourth year, teaches youth more than just about sailing, he said. It also helps to instill confidence and helps to students with goal-setting, perseverance and stepping out of their comfort zone.

“We have had so many kids say they are more confident or parents say they feel more confident about their kids after seeing them do this,” McAllister said.

In its Adapative Sail program, SailMaine partners with the Adaptive Outdoor Education Center and Special Olympics of Maine  and volunteer coaches to take sailors of all ability levels, including those with physical disabilities, out on the water three times a week.

“Our mission is to provides affordable access to the water through community sailing and education programs,” McAllister said. “This (introduces sailing to) people who can’t do it on their own or never been able to before.”

As of July 28, 20 teams had joined the regatta, half the total McAllister is hoping for.

McAllister hopes to raise $40,000 through the festival and regatta. As of the middle of last week, $24,000 had been secured.

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