Rhode-Island-Boater-of-the-Year-Kate-Wilson. Photo Bill Shea

February 9, 2017

What it Means to be Boater of the Year

A few weeks ago, I got a phone call from an unknown number. Normally, I get so many telemarketers that I don’t pick up but this cold January morning, I picked up and it was Wendy Mackie, President of the Rhode Island Marine Trades Association, and she told me I had been named the 2017 […]

A few weeks ago, I got a phone call from an unknown number. Normally, I get so many telemarketers that I don’t pick up but this cold January morning, I picked up and it was Wendy Mackie, President of the Rhode Island Marine Trades Association, and she told me I had been named the 2017 Boater of the Year. I laughed out loud.  “You have to be joking,” I said. I didn’t think I had done any outstanding “boating” in the last year besides some local regattas and weeknight races. Wendy went on to explain the award is named for John H. Chafee and “recognizes an individual who has contributed to the success of the recreational boating industry in Rhode Island or championed the cause of bringing recreational boating to the public.”  This award is for my involvement in the Rogers High School Sailing Team and the Newport Yacht Club Marine Adventure Camp. As part of a marine-trades industry breakfast that stood as the official opening of the 24th Annual Providence Boat Show, Governor Gina Rimando handed me the award, a beautiful half hull that also carries the names of some of the biggest names in our industry like Ted Hood Sr., Halsey Herreshoff, Ken Read, and Rome Kirby.  Needless to say, I was pretty nervous to give a few remarks but here is what I said:
This award is really for all the volunteers who are getting kids on the water. To create life-long sailors we need to start with our youth.  All too often as a local high school sailing coach, I was seeing kids burning out on the competition due to the schedule and pressure of competition. First, at the high school level, we got rid of our aggressive schedule and made a plan to practice Monday through Thursday to get ready for the big meet on Friday. We called it the Friday Night Lights Series, and invited other teams from around the state to take part in a round robin style event. Newport Yacht Club members and parents came down to flip burgers. It was organized chaos but it was fun and the sailors were having a much better time. So I took that same model to Newport Yacht Club’s Junior Program. We were seeing a decline in our numbers. So we got rid of the racing program and made it all about fun and just being on the water. I couldn’t have done it without the amazing staff who were there everyday with the kids and bought into the idea. We had great success with these approaches but we had to measure success a little differently. It wasn’t about race results but it was measured in the number of smiles at the end of the day and the number of kids that came back each day, each week, and each season. We are lucky enough in this room to get to work in an industry that is more than a job to us. It is a way of life we are passionate about. So ahead of this boat show, I challenge you to go back to the reason why you got involved in this industry in the first place. Remember, boating is all about the fun! And I guarantee that if you focus on that, you will be successful.
  I want to thank everyone for their support on receiving this award and I am always here to talk about Adventure Sailing and Junior Sailing. The 2017 Marine Adventure Camp‘s registration is open if you have a child or family who you think would be interested. Check out RIMTA’s Press release: http://rimta.org/index.php/2017/02/07/wilson-boater-of-the-year/