Sail MV suspends summer programs

Nonprofit will hold its seafood buffet fundraiser virtually.

This summer's Sail MV program has been suspended. - Lexi Pline

A program that teaches 450 Island and visiting children how to sail has suspended its summer sailing program to ensure the safety of those young would-be sailors and regatta participants. The Vineyard Cup Regatta has also been canceled for 2020.

“We looked at it from all angles and couldn’t come up with a way to do it safely,” John Kettlewell, executive director of the Sail MV program, told The Times. “It came down to what is going to be the best way to make sure everyone stays healthy and safe. That’s always our number one concern with people trusting their children with us.”

Kettlewell said there was just no way to assure social distancing with the sailing classes or even in the boats. While some of them only have one sailor in them (younger sailors are two to a crew), there’s no way to assure proper social distancing and safety protocols, he said. Most of the program’s sailboats are 11-foot RS Teras, though the program does have some 19-foot sailboats and a couple of catamarans.

The program has sailors as young as 8 years old and as old as 80. There is also a rowing program that Sail MV is hopeful will have some activity this summer, but that’s still in the works.

Sailing classes for Martha’s Vineyard students are offered for free, Kettlewell said, underwritten by the program’s donors.

To that end, Sail MV will not have its traditional Seafood Buffet & Auction on the Vineyard Haven waterfront and, instead, will have a virtual event. There will be a live online component to it, but those details are still being worked out, Kettlewell said. “This would have been its 30th year and unfortunately we just don’t envision a scenario where we can have a tent at Tisbury Wharf with 350 people in it,” he said.

Sail MV President Peggy Schwier touched on the virtual buffet and auction in her prepared statement. “We are developing a new fundraiser, Support Sail MV, that will be highlighted by our Virtual Seafood Buffet. This 30-minute, live program on July 9th will be a fun way to generate support for all of our programs,” she said. “Hosted by Director of Programs, Andy Nutton, this celebration of Sail MV will have interviews and entertainment, announce the results of our online auction, explain our various giving opportunities and update the status of our campaign. Buy a ‘table,’ and participate in our auction, as we look forward to 2021’s Seafood Buffet & Auction at Tisbury Wharf.”

Throughout this challenging time Sail MV continues to conduct, virtually, maritime studies classes for the high school, and it continues to promote and support the maritime heritage of Martha’s Vineyard, according to a press release. Executive Committee member Jim Oakes reflected on Sail MV’s current situation: “We have the resources and a plan to survive. We look forward to the high school team sailing in the fall, returning to teach in the high school, and rowing. We plan to be here 25 years hence, and we hope to get something going this summer. Stay safe, and smile.”

The nonprofit’s board also voted to suspend the Vineyard Cup regatta for 2020.

Kettlewell asked the public to visit and its social media sites for updates.