The Annapolis Yacht Club (AYC) was presented with the prestigious Captain Joe Prosser Award at the U.S. Sailing Leadership Forum in San Diego, California on February 6.
The Prosser Award is one of U.S. Sailing’s most distinguished and coveted awards. It was created in recognition of the Merchant Marine Academy’s first sailing master, Captain C.A. “Joe” Prosser, USMS and is awarded each year to an organization who, in the opinion of the U.S. Training Committee, has made an exemplary contribution toward “improving the quality and safety in the training or instruction of sailors.” Additionally, nominees must embody all characteristics of sportsmanship: honor, integrity, and a selfless dedication to the sport.
Joel Labuzetta, Sailing Director, Alana O’Reilly, Junior Program Coordinator, Gerard VandenBerg, Junior Fleet Chairman, and Brian Asch, General Manager, accepted the award on the Club’s behalf from Richard Jepsen, Chairman of the U.S. Sailing Training Committee.
AYC was nominated for the award based on the many years of the Club’s proven commitment towards leadership and excellence in the sport of sailing and sailing instruction. The Club fields one of the most complete and experiential junior sailing and racing programs in the country.
The AYC Junior Program routinely trains over 375 sailors, ages five to eighteen, and incorporates U.S. Sailing training materials and methods into all sailing instructions and safety practices. Moreover, the Club assigns a full-time coach for its sailors to provide consistency in instruction, while also periodically introducing new, world-class coaches and coaching styles to ensure an always challenging, yet fully comprehensive learning environment.
The results of AYC’s first-rate Junior programs are evident through the number of awards won by sailors competing under the AYC Burgee. In 2013 alone, AYC Junior sailors were awarded the California International Sailing Association’s Advanced Racing Clinic’s Sportsmanship Award, the Brooke E. Gonzalez Trophy, the U.S. Sailing’s Youth Championships Dave Perry Sportsmanship Trophy, the New York Yacht Club’s National Sportsmanship Award, and the Club 420 Association’s “Triple Crown” Award.
“The Club also sponsors several adult learn-to-sail and learn-to-race programs with a specific emphasis on women’s sailing,” Mr. VandenBerg stated. He explained the “Club’s leadership feels strongly that adult programs – like junior programs – are essential to the long-term viability of sailing in the nation.”
Over the past year, AYC offered several courses to its members and their spouses including, a U.S. Powerboating Certification course, Women’s Learn to Sail program, and Women’s Group Skills classes which taught basic sailing topics, such as knot tying, dinghy handling, and powerboat docking.
AYC’s attitude and commitment towards water safety also helped to make the Club worthy of being considered for the Prosser Award. Mr. VandenBerg said at AYC, “safety is viewed as a philosophy and not simply as items on a checklist.”
To ensure safety remains at the forefront, an Instructor Training Period is held at the start of each sailing season. The Club has also developed a comprehensive Safety Plan which utilizes the training materials and procedures developed by U.S. Sailing, which covers preventive measures, policies and procedures, and emergency responses.
Today, all local-area clubs which conduct on-the-water instruction are familiar with AYC’s Emergency Response Plan and participate in AYC-sponsored yearly meetings with members of the U.S. Coast Guard, the Annapolis Harbor Master, and emergency responders.
The Club’s programs not only strive to promote and improve the sport of sailing in a wide variety of ways, but as Mr. VandenBerg expressed, “also strive to ensure all sailors continue to build lifelong friendships while managing to squeeze in some time to have fun along the way.”