Healing Wounded Veterans Through Sailing
SailAhead was officially launched in the winter of 2013 by brothers Kilian and Sean Duclay with the enthusiastic support of their family, friends and Oakcliff Sailing Center.
As a result of their own positive experience with winter sailing and the benefits of sailing in general, they began to invite local Long Island veterans to share the experience of sailing.
When the surrounding conditions are cold and harsh, one quickly comes to realize the necessity and challenge of working together. This is a perfect fit for veterans, who have learned to work together as a team in the most demanding of situations. This was the beginning of using sailing as a therapy for those who needed it the most.
SailAhead has since taken hundreds of veterans out on the water. Many of these veterans are suffering from various service related disabilities including but not limited to Traumatic Brain injury (TBI) and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Nearly 1,000 individual veteran sailing experiences have been logged in the past three years. Some veterans have sailed with them once, while many others come back regularly and experience the healing power of being out on the water, with friends, sailing.
SailAhead’s crew of volunteers, themselves veterans, take pride in sailing many types of vessels all year long and in all kinds of weather. The veterans are not just tourists on the boats, they are an integral part of the crew. When headed out on their first voyage the veterans all start as strangers and eventually become friends and sailors through hands-on training.
In 2015, American Legion Post 1244 became an active partner in support of SailAhead. With our assistance, SailAhead became an Adaptive Sports partner with the Northport VA Medical Center, giving them the opportunity to help more veterans in need of the sailing experience. We also helped SailAhead to organize, in partnership with Centerport Yacht Club, the first annual “Let’s Take a Veteran Sailing” event. This event has since exposed hundreds of veterans to the sailing experience and raised awareness in the community of PTSD and veteran suicide.
In 2016, SailAhead, in partnership with the Waterfront Center, began offering Keelboat Certification Classes, so that our veterans could be trained to become skippers who would then be able to take other veterans sailing. 2016 also saw the SailAhead’s Veteran Teams becoming involved with many events in the sailing community. Among them were the Clagett Races for disabled sailors, the Transat Race in New York Harbor, and the William K. Vanderbilt Memorial Race.
In July, we helped organize the second annual “Lets Take a Veteran Sailing Event.” A total of 51 sailboats manned by 149 volunteers were provided by SailAhead, Oakcliff Sailing Center, US Merchant Marine Association, Oyster Bay Marine Center and many independent yacht clubs and boat owners. They gave a free three hour sailing experience to 98 veterans and their 68 guests on Long Island Sound, followed by a BBQ at Centerport Yacht Club.
We have accomplished a lot; so much in fact that we can proudly say that at the end of 2016, thanks to SailAhead's work we have helped to provide 1,000 sailing outings for our veterans.