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Baldwin Park Living Monday, Oct. 25, 2021 1 month ago

Baldwin Park is home for The Sailing Club in Central Florida

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The club has brought together and inspired those who have a passion for sailing.
by: Annabelle Sikes Staff Writer

Todd McCurdy and Penny Potter both found passion in sailing from their fathers.

Now, McCurdy, current commodore for The Sailing Club in Central Florida, and Potter, in charge of instruction and classes, pursue that passion in Baldwin Park.

Potter says her love for the water is a family affair.

“My dad had been in the (U.S.) Navy, and he was on a Destroyer in World War II in the Mediterranean,” she says. “He always loved the water and boats, and some of that passion transitioned on to me and my sisters.”

In the 1970s, both Potter’s sisters, who lived in Maryland, found a sailing class where they lived and took it. They told Penny she should find one in Florida.

“I took it, and I was hooked,” Potter says.

Potter purchased her first sailboat less than a year after she took the class.

McCurdy also fell in love with sailing quickly.

His grandfather was passionate about fishing, and his father, who passed away before he was born, was a sailor.

McCurdy lived in northern California and had a sailboat growing up that was bought by his parents, who taught him to sail. When the family moved to Ohio, McCurdy stopped sailing for a while. When he moved to Florida, he found a passion in windsurfing.

However, about three years ago, McCurdy was walking around Lake Baldwin with his older daughter when he saw the sailboat compound. The pair immediately signed up, took the class and loved it. They have been part of the club ever since.

THE EXPERIENCE

McCurdy said the sailing program is unique, because it is cost-effective, the instructors are all volunteers, and the program is local and community-driven.

“It is such a serene but also exciting experience being on a sailboat,” McCurdy said. “You feel adventurous and free.”

McCurdy says sailing has many benefits, including the social aspect, exercise, fresh air and fun.

“We’ve got people of all ages in our program, and it’s such a great way to bring everyone together,” McCurdy says.

The program is currently the only one in Orlando that offers group (rather than individual) classes.

The curriculum for the classes almost mirrors that used by the American Red Cross. The classes have a maximum of 12 students, and the classes last three weeks, with two classes per week. The class is a combination of both textbook and lecture learning, as well as on-water experience.

Those who pass the final tests are invited to join the club.

The official sailing club offers a variety of benefits for members. The members get to enjoy all the club activities, including Sunday free sails, race series, fun sail cruises and more.

The group also used to have events such as picnics or Christmas parties in winter before the pandemic. Potter says the club is working on bringing more of these activities back — but with improved safety guidelines. McCurdy says the club currently is meeting via Zoom to be safe.

A BIT OF HISTORY

The Sailing Club in Central Florida’s history dates back almost 50 years; it began with the American Red Cross small craft program. The Red Cross taught both sailing and canoeing before opting to dispose of the program in the mid-1990s.

That could have been the end of the program, but two members who were friends with former Orlando Mayor Glenda Hood and her husband, Charles, helped save it. The Hoods were avid sailors and helped to arrange for the program to be taken over by the city.

In the late 1990s, the Orlando Recreation Department bought a fleet of 12 new boats and moved the program from Lake Orlando in Rosemont to Lake Fairview. When Glenda’s term ended, the city lost interest in the program and abandoned it, leaving the sailing program without a sponsor and without boats.

The program decided to set up a 501(c)(3) in 2008 and received enough funds from members and other organizations that it could purchase boats. The program also made a deal with the city of Winter Park recreation department to use a portion of Lake Baldwin Park to store the boats.

Today, the program still resides in Baldwin Park and has six sailboats.

LESSONS

The first sailing lesson of fall 2021 will take place Oct. 4.

For detailed information and registration, those interested can call (407) 645-1892 or email [email protected].

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Annabelle Sikes is a staff writer at the West Orange Times & Observer, Southwest Orange Observer and OrangeObserver.com. She graduated in May 2021 from the University of Central Florida with a bachelor's degree in journalism and a minor in sociology.  Her past...

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