Updated: 3 days ago
For the seventh year SailAhead and the Centerport Yacht Club worked hard to organize an event, that for many has become "the highlight of my summer!" We thank the Centerport YC Board, sailors, and volunteers! Special thanks to Bob Slingo and Thom Hering and the Event Committee that helped us put this together!
Table of contents
Sailing for Hope: SailAhead and the Centerport Yacht Club Join Forces
SailAhead, in collaboration with the Centerport Yacht Club (CYC), orchestrated its 7th Annual Event on August 13th, an unforgettable gathering that has become a beacon of hope for veterans facing the challenges of PTSD and mental health issues. This year, the event welcomed nearly 140 veterans and guests aboard 34 sailboats, each with its own unique story and crew of volunteers. In this blog post, we delve into what makes this event so special, from the moving ceremony to the exhilarating sail and the heartwarming BBQ that followed.
What Makes This Event So Special?
The SailAhead and CYC Annual Event is not just a day of sailing; it's a testament to the power of community and the therapeutic benefits of the sea. It's about bringing veterans from diverse backgrounds, including those who have faced homelessness and served in various conflicts, together on the open water to find solace, camaraderie, and hope.
This event, now in its 7th year, has grown in significance and scope, touching the lives of veterans and their families. It's a day to remember those who have fallen, raise awareness about PTSD and veteran suicide, and honor the indomitable spirit of those who have served.
The event commenced with a poignant ceremony that set the tone for the day. Gathered on the picturesque lawn of the CYC, participants were treated to a touching and emotional lineup of speeches and tributes.
USMC Colour Guard and the National Anthem: The ceremony began with the solemnity of the United States Marine Corps Colour Guard presenting the colors, followed by a stirring rendition of the national anthem. This symbolic start reminded everyone of the sacrifices made in service to our nation.
Ben Weise's Emotional Speech: Ben Weise, a Vietnam War combat veteran, delivered a moving and heartfelt speech about the harrowing experiences of war and the challenges of transitioning back to civilian life. His words resonated deeply with all present, offering a glimpse into the untold struggles that many veterans face.
Jim Day's Tribute to His Son: Jim Day, father of Ryan James Day, one of Our Mates, shared an emotional speech that explored the ever-evolving emotions of losing a loved one to war. Jim's anecdotes, including a poignant moment at a wedding, provided a touching testament to the enduring bonds that connect veterans and their families.
Fran Racioppi's Influence and Tribute: Fran Racioppi, SailAhead's racing team director and a US Army veteran and Green Beret, not only paid tribute to those who have served but also shared the profound impact he had on his friend Ryan James Day, who was inspired by Fran to join the Army. Fran's connection to Ryan's story added a deeply personal dimension to the event.
The ceremony was a time for reflection, empathy, and unity, as attendees honored the memory of those who have served and acknowledged the struggles veterans face long after their service ends.
Following the emotionally charged ceremony, it was time to set sail. The CYC's harbor was abuzz with activity as veterans and guests embarked on a journey of healing, adventure, and connection. A fleet of 34 sailboats, mostly privately owned and operated, awaited their eager passengers.
The event saw participation from a diverse range of veterans, representing conflicts from World War II to recent deployments in Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan, and other classified locations. The variety of experiences showcased the event's inclusivity and the universal nature of the challenges veterans encounter.
Volunteer Crews from Yacht Clubs and Marinas: The vessels were crewed by dedicated volunteers from various Yacht Clubs and Marinas around the Long Island Sound. Their passion for sailing and commitment to the cause ensured that veterans had a safe and enjoyable experience on the water.
Support Vessels and Helicopter Flyovers: Adding to the excitement, five support vessels provided an extra layer of safety and support during the sail. Two helicopters, one piloted by SSgt John Vahey of the Suffolk County Police Department and the other by pilot David Windmiller, contributed to the event's aerial spectacle. David's helicopter soared under the height of the sailboats' masts to capture stunning aerial photographs of the fleet. This breathtaking feat provided an unforgettable visual record of the day's activities.
As the sailboats gracefully glided through the water, veterans had the opportunity to connect with the elements, bond with their fellow shipmates, and experience the therapeutic benefits of sailing. The sound of wind in the sails and the rhythmic lapping of the waves served as a soothing backdrop to conversations and shared moments.
After hours of sailing and camaraderie, the fleet returned to their moorings, but the day's festivities were far from over. The Centerport Yacht Club staff had been hard at work preparing a sumptuous BBQ feast to welcome the hungry sailors and veterans back to shore. And Arizona Beverages for sponsoring this event!
Live Music and Volunteer Performers: To add to the celebratory atmosphere, volunteers provided live music, creating a backdrop of harmonious tunes that resonated throughout the club. This musical gesture, offered with love and dedication, set the stage for a festive and heartwarming BBQ.
The BBQ not only provided nourishment for the body but also nourishment for the soul. It was a time for laughter, storytelling, and bonding, as veterans and sailors shared their experiences and reflected on the day's adventures.
The SailAhead and CYC Annual Event is a testament to the incredible impact that can be achieved when a community comes together with a shared purpose. It's a day that transcends barriers, offering hope and healing to veterans while raising awareness about the mental health challenges they face.
As the sun set on this extraordinary day, attendees left with hearts full of gratitude and a renewed sense of purpose. The event's success is a tribute to the resilience of veterans and the unwavering support of the community. It's a reminder that, together, we can make a difference in the lives of those who have served and sacrificed for our nation.
In conclusion, SailAhead and the Centerport Yacht Club's Annual Event is more than just a day on the water; it's a day of connection, healing, and hope—a day that exemplifies the power of unity and the enduring spirit of our veterans. It's a day to remember, honor, and sail forward towards brighter horizons.