One of the best clubs in the area for families and old salts is the Sarasota Sailing Squadron (SSS) on City Island. Founded in the late 1930’s the Squadron has been serving the community ever since with sailing lessons, regattas, races, social events and environmental projects.
Manager Craig Bridges has helmed the club since 2011. He grew up sailing in Sarasota and has been a member since 1972 when his parents joined the SSS.
Currently there are 700 family memberships with over 2000 people. The club hosts about 160 activities every year. Their 72nd Annual Labor Day Regatta will attract hundreds of sailors from the U.S. and Canada to compete in different races for all ages.
“Sailing is a lifetime sport – we have people in their 80’s as well as kids that are 8 years old. There are very few sports that can last a lifetime,” Bridges said. “If you have the ability to ride a bicycle you have the ability to learn to sail.”
Classes are available for all ages. The squadron promotes the sport of sailing and teaches technique, safety and good habits on the water. Sarasota Youth Sailing is a non-profit organization and students from many different schools in the area are taught to sail.
Two years ago Bridges set up an adult teaching program with boats acquired from the disbanded Red Cross program. The squadron now offers non-member adults an opportunity to learn about sailing and the club. This program tripled in size after its first year.
The Luffing Lassies teaches sailing to women as an organization within the SSS. They also host about 70 women who race in the bay every Thursday. The Lassies are among the many volunteers in the club. The SSS benefits from over 10,000 volunteer hours a year with a staff of only four which helps keep membership rates low.
Volunteers are integral to club operations and are also devoted to helping many area organizations. They participate in dozens of projects by working with Sarasota County, Mote Marine, Sarasota Bay Watch and other environmental groups. Club members clean up trash and mono-filament that damages birds and aquatic life. From cleaning the mangroves to assisting with the sea grass survey, the volunteers are very active.
One of the challenges the Sarasota Sailing Squadron wants to overcome is its perception to others. “There is a misconception that the sport is exclusive and the truth of the matter is our club is very inclusive.” Anyone with a sincere interest in sailing – this is the best spot for them. I don’t know if the majority of people understand that we are not a yacht club – there are no blue blazers here,” Bridges emphasized.
As a “silent water sport” sailing provides access to beautiful Sarasota Bay and the club offers many opportunities for sailing and fun activities.
“You don’t have to own your own boat; members can use our rental fleet,” Bridges said. Rentals include sailboats, a tandem kayak and paddle boards.
Residents are invited to explore the website for additional information and membership details: www.sarasotasailingsquadron.org.