Sail Martha’s Vineyard, the nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting and preserving the Island’s maritime heritage and skills, has taught many young Islanders the skills of the sea.
Andrew Nutton, at 39 years old, relocated to the Island from England, and will be taking over as director of programs at Sail MV. As waterfront director, he will be in charge of overseeing and sustaining all activities of Sail MV, such as its many summer programs, the rowing club, and the high school sailing team. Mr. Nutton is not only bringing his family to Martha’s Vineyard, but also a more expanded and structured sailing program.
Since the age of 3, Mr. Nutton has been an avid sailor. “My family threw me in an Opti and off I went,” he said. Optis, commonly referred to as “bathtub boats,” are small, single-handed dinghies designed for children up to age 15. Like Mr. Nutton, many of the children of Sail MV learn the basics of sailing in Opti boats, mastering the techniques of sailing upwind, tacking, jibing, and even capsizing.
As he got older, Mr. Nutton acquired a passion for the sport, and began to expand his sailing repertoire to include a variety of boats and types of racing. Throughout his youth, he raced in both dinghy- and yacht-racing events, competing several times in Cowes Week, one of the oldest and largest annual sailing regattas in the world, held at the Isle of Wight. Growing up in Southampton, located on the south coast of England, Mr. Nutton was able to pursue his passion.
After completing high school, Mr. Nutton went on to be a chef, “but then I decided I didn’t want to have so many unpleasant hours,” he said. He left the culinary industry and decided to dedicate his life to the sport of sailing: “I love sailing because it allows you to feel true independence, and it allowed me to meet most of my friends.”
Mr. Nutton, before arriving and even before discovering Sail MV, knew about the Vineyard. “I heard a lot about Martha’s Vineyard before, through tales of the Kennedys and such,” said Mr. Nutton. On arrival, he quickly learned about the Vineyard, discovering the ebbs and flows of Island life, and the differences between each season.
Mr. Nutton, being a seasoned traveler, has not had much trouble adjusting to Island life. When he first became involved in the sailing scene at a professional level, he took time to travel from summer to summer. He ran the U.K. Sailing Academy program for adult and professional dinghy racing, as well as the national sailing center of Abu Dhabi. “It was as much a change there as it is here,” said Mr. Nutton.
He and his wife, Becky, have two children, Griffin, who is 2½ years old, and Beau, who is only 8 weeks old. The family is getting acclimated, and learning to love Vineyard living. “It’s a pretty Island, and the community is really welcoming. We’re looking forward to getting settled in,” said Mr. Nutton.
With the introduction of a new waterfront director come changes to the Sail MV curriculum. “The main aim over the next two months would be to rationalize and adjust the program to have a more linear flow,” said Mr. Nutton. “Instructors will know exactly what they are doing and the student will know exactly what they are meant to be doing by the end.” During his time in the U.K., Mr. Nutton wrote a junior and adult dinghy syllabus, which he plans to implement in the upcoming summers to streamline and bolster the sailing programs throughout Sail MV.
This past spring, Sail MV decided to develop its program to include a new boat, known as RS Fevas. These boats are double-handed dinghy boats that are meant for kids 14 and up. They are smaller and slightly more responsive than 420s, which are typically sailed by kids 15 and older. “Andy identified a significant gap in our offerings, and once on board, urged us to acquire a small fleet of skiff-like Fevas, a training boat popular in Europe and one with which Andy has had significant experience,” said Brock Callen, executive director of Sail MV. This new fleet of boats is meant to bridge the gap between Optis and 420s, allowing for more kids to continuously sail each summer and learn more advanced skills while being comfortable in a boat suited for their size and abilities.
On June 26, the Fevas’ sails first caught wind with the start of Sail MV’s summer classes. “They’ll be out in them this afternoon in 18 to 20 knots of breeze, going around the courses,” said Mr. Nutton.
In addition to the new boats, Mr. Nutton will be adding a racing and seamanship arm to the sailing programs, utilizing his experience and knowledge of the U.K. programs. In these programs, students with significant sailing ability and interest are able to obtain their instructor’s and first aid qualification, powerboat license, and radio license. Students who complete a program such as this one would then be able to work as an instructor or a similar job in the maritime industry during the summer months. Furthermore, sailors with an interest in racing will be able to develop their skills with the introduction of fleet and team racing facilities. “Students will be able to gain the ability to read a chart and the ability to do man-overboard,” said Mr. Nutton. “The racing arm will then be an introduction to racing, teaching racing rules, tactics, and the application of rules on the start, while team racing may be used as a teaching tool for the application of rules and tactics in general.”
In the upcoming years, Mr. Nutton hopes to implement the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award. This award, which has been introduced in Boston and other U.S. cities, is awarded to young people who engage and push themselves in both the physical and mental spheres of life. “We can use our boats and program to fulfill the physical and skill section. The award has a volunteering, skill, physical, and expedition section, and sailing is a sport that bridges those sections,” said Mr. Nutton. “The kids could take the Rhodes 19s and go under the bridge and out for two to three days.”
Many of the instructors for Sail MV are from Ireland, due to the better and more organized training programs that exist in Europe, according to Mr. Callen. “One of Andy’s real challenges will be to see if we can do a better job of developing instructors, over time, from within,” said Mr. Callen. With the introduction of these new programs and an increased dedication to the maritime industry as a whole, Mr. Nutton is on his way to overcoming this challenge, as well as transforming Sail MV to not only teach sailing, but develop a passion and appreciation for the maritime heritage of the Island and the opportunities sailing presents. As the Vineyard Cup and Seafood Buffet and Auction approach, Mr. Nutton will be able to share his view and plan for the future of Sail MV.