One of the most notable staples in Bellport Village is sailing, and with the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic, carrying on that tradition was threatened this year. Still, the Bellport Bay Sailing …
One of the most notable staples in Bellport Village is sailing, and with the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic, carrying on that tradition was threatened this year. Still, the Bellport Bay Sailing Foundation found ways and made changes to accommodate the safety of their sailors and instructors to continue the 2020 sailing season.
Jonathan Pokorny, president of the Bellport Bay Sailing Foundation, said the program is currently up and running with full enrollment, though the adult program has been put on hold. The season began on June 29 and will run through Aug. 12. Classes operate Monday through Thursday.
“The summer program for the kids has been underway and it seems to be working,” added Bellport Village mayor Ray Fell, explaining that he had met with the organization to go over protocols prior to the start.
Beginners, ages 6 to 10, Pokorny said, usually learn in large groups of up to 25 kids with four per boat with an instructor. This year, the schedules have been modified with only two students per boat and one instructor for an hour and a half, with a half-hour between to sanitize the boat and gear up for the next two students. Parents, Pokorny said, were also encouraged to request siblings and friends to sail together in an effort to keep people who are usually together with each other. Older and more advanced students are only permitted one or two sailors per boat.
Bellport Sailing race coach and head sailing coach at SUNY Maritime College, Zach Runci, 29, of Bellport, said it was frustrating losing out on the spring sailing season with his college team, though he was very happy to be able to get back on the water with his hometown’s sailing program.
“I was really excited to hear that the sailing program at Bellport this sum- mer was going to go forward despite the pandemic,” said soon-to-be Bellport High School senior and sailor Laura Slovensky, 16, of Brookhaven hamlet. “I’m so thankful to all of the people who worked so hard to make it happen. I am looking forward to a great summer of both sailing and instructing.”
Masks, Pokorny explained, are also required by all parents, instructors and students on land and by instructors at all times. Also, though not intended, due to the construction of the Bellport Dock, their usual home-base facility, the Bellport Bay Yacht Club, has been inaccessible, allowing for only outdoor interaction under tents. Temperature checks are also conducted on all instructors daily.
“The changes worked out pretty well; we do a mild bleach spraydown between sessions all day long and everyone wears a mask,” Pokorny said. “The kids are actually pretty good with it; the instructors are doing well and the parents have been very conscientious.”
Also due to the pandemic, all Great South Bay Yacht Racing Association regattas have been canceled and the 2020 John W. Everitt Advanced Racing Clinic was postponed from the original June 26-28 dates to Aug. 14-16, though continuing the clinic is still being discussed. No advanced payments have been collected and a decision is expected within the next week or so.
According to Eric Everitt, Bellport Bay Yacht Club commodore and Great South Bay Yacht Racing Association delegate, even though regattas that usually take place every Friday throughout the summer have been completely cancelled, the Bellport Bay Yacht Club is still anticipating their invitational for the community on Labor Day, Saturday, Sept. 5.
“We are really hoping to get together, towing out in the middle of the bay one afternoon and race,” added Pokorny of being hopeful of some sort of racing event. “We are happy with the season [still], given all the different challenges we have had with the construction on the dock and COVID-19. We have made out fairly well, the parents are comfortable. It’s really all about getting out with some activity while at the same time being safe.”