The Sailing School: The Early Years

Article in the Midland Free Press, July 2, 1975 on the sailing school and its new Flipper Scows.

The sailing school was established in 1972. The Club, led by Commodore John Leitch, felt strongly that giving back to the youth of the community was an important initiative, both for the future of the Club and for sailing in the area generally. That year, instruction was undertaken by some of the more proficient racing sailors in the Club, notably Ed McGrath, and the boats used were those owned by club members and made available on loan for use in the fledgling sailing school. There were 63 participants that year, a good start for the sailing school and an indication of its popularity that has been experienced through the years. The main focus was on youth but adult instruction was included.

The land that MBSC enjoys today was not yet a reality or even a possibility and these early beginnings were hosted by Harvey and Marg Payne on their beach front property in Portage Park. As the school grew, the nearby park area known as Gawley’s Beach, near Portage Park, was used. Our present location was made available to the Club by the Midland Parks Board in 1974 and thereafter the school has been conducted from this location.

newspaper clipping 1976 kids and instructor
John Kerr teaches a sailing school class in the Midland Free Press, August 1, 1975.

Soon after its inception, it became clear that the Club needed appropriate boats for use by the sailing school and the junior members took a lead role in the necessary fund raising. They raffled off a hand made quilt while the adult members, primarily the ladies, sold refreshments at Club events. There was also critical outside support made available by the Midland Rotary Club and the Midland Recreational Council of the day.

The first boats purchased were Flipper Scows, a 14-foot dinghy with main, jib and spinnaker. They were well received and popular with the junior members, and even survived reasonably well, given the tough treatment that is typical of sailing school boats over the years.

These were the early years of the Club as it began to take shape from the first beginnings as an informal group interested primarily in sailboat racing to the more fixed base operation it is today. Particularly when money was needed to develop the Club property soon after the sailing school was established, there was competition for the limited funds that were available. But, the sailing school always got the nod and has ever since.

—Ted Symons