The Wayzata Community Sailing Center Offers Sailing Opportunities for All Ages and Abilities

Sailors of all ages and physical abilities can learn the ropes—literally—from the experts at the WCSC.

The Wayzata Community Sailing Center’s history goes back a long way—officially, even back to 1890, when the facility that houses the WCSC was built.

Almost 100 years later, in the 1980s, parents of students in the Wayzata Yacht Club (WYC) wanted to start their own sailing school, separate from the already established Lake Minnetonka Sailing School (LMSS). Beginning as an informal group, the WYC partnered with the LMSS in the mid 1980s to offer formal sailing instruction in the west parking lot of the LMSS space. The makeshift parking lot instruction area was in place until 2004, when the Wayzata Sailing Foundation was formed, and the group created the Wayzata Sailing School in 2005. The school blossomed after the Wayzata Sailing Foundation purchased their own property in 2007.

“That’s what swung us from being a bunch of people in a parking lot who came out and used boats to being an actual sailing center,” explains Matthew Thompson, director of the WCSC. “It gave us a home.”

Ernest Brody, the adaptive sailing director at the WCSC, remembers the board of the Wayzata Sailing Foundation wanted to offer more than just sailing instruction—thus, the unique mission of the Wayzata Community Sailing Center was born. “We wanted to serve the community,” Brody says. The WCSC’s motto, “Sailing for everyone,” is carried out in very real ways. Through youth scholarships and grants, the WCSC prioritizes offering financial support to people who would not otherwise be able to sail.

That includes sailing instruction for students with physical limitations. “I said, ‘I want to set up an adaptive sailing program,’ ” recalls Brody. “Because if we call ourselves a community sailing center, we should act like one.” Starting in 2010, the WCSC worked with blind and visually impaired youth from Transitions Plus, a special education service. Two boats were set up (first on dry land) for the kids to explore. They became familiar with the bow, the keel, the sails and the mast, all with their hands. Then they went cruising. “The kids got to hear the boat. They got to trim the sail,” says Brody. “We focused on the ability rather than their disabilities.”

Since then, the WCSC has made adaptations to a number of boats so people of all abilities can sail. Al Luebbers, active in the adaptive sailing program since 2012, lives with muscular dystrophy. He says two major modifications are used to make boats more accessible. The first is for people who use a wheelchair or scooter: A chair near the front is secured in place for the sailor operating the lines for the jib sail.

The second modification is in the back, where a seat is mounted to a gliding bar, so sailors can easily move as the boat changes direction. “It’s important that you be able to shift your body to the correct side of the boat to handle the tiller better as you’re functioning as one of the crew members,” he explains.

Lucy Adson, who lives with multiple sclerosis, says the center focuses on the needs of each sailor. “They just cover all bases. For getting into the boat, they have what’s called a Hoyer lift,” she explains. “They strap you into the seat that raises you up and into the boat. They want you to be safe.”

Luebbers, a self-described “get in and learn” person, says the center is dedicated to helping people enjoy the beauty of the lake. To support its adaptive programming and the future of the center, the WCSC has launched a capital campaign to raise money to update their building. Remember that house from 1890? Well, at age 126, it needs some revamping.

“The goal is to get us a home where we can be the community center we want to be,” Thompson says. He says an updated building will help the center expand its outreach and programming to become a community center for Wayzata and the surrounding cities.

To learn more about the programming at the Wayzata Community Sailing Center, visit their website or facebook page.