Plain Sailing With River City Community Sailing Program

By Igor Guryashkin
Staff Writer

The River City Community Sailing Program got its start when a group of friends met in the basement of local Louisville sailor, the late Bob Sandlin. They were united by the fact that they wanted to pass on their passion for sailing to the young and old of Louisville. And so, after that afternoon in the Summer of 1996, the goal was to grow the program into a hub of learning. First, they registered as a nonprofit, and second, by finding plentiful volunteers who would happily pass on their passion for sailing, they ensured that almost two decades later it’s still here and thriving in Louisville. One such individual who dedicated his time was Roger Kennedy, the current program director and a man who himself found his way into sailing via unorthodox means.

“I got into it relatively late, started sailing around 1980 and started sailing after I had travelled around Europe and had got involved in writing about sailing, which seems like a quirky thing to do when you don’t know how to sail,” he said. “But then I thought, ‘If I’m going to keep writing about it, I should really know what I’m doing.’ But I really love the sport, and so I spent ten years or more, writing and working as a photojournalist, covering events throughout the U.S. and Europe and covered a few Americas Cups and have had photographs in probably every major sailing magazine.”

Program Director Roger Kennedy.

Program Director Roger Kennedy.

Kennedy is unequivocal about why sailing is such a large part of his life and what others see in it all the time.

“There is something about sailing that you can’t quite capture in any other sport,” he said. “It’s very quiet and you’re using Mother Nature to go. It can be quite exhilarating when you’re so low to the water. So even if by car standards you’re going slow, you feel like you’re going a million miles an hour and there is a real pleasure and exhilaration when the boat slices through the water and you feel the wind in your face.

“At the same time it’s a sport you can do on your own or it’s a team effort,” he said. “So when you’re racing a Sunfish or a Laser (types of boat), you’re on your own. You have to determine where the wind is, and if you’re racing, what the best tactics are. In that respect, it’s like golf. But on the larger boats there are crews, anywhere up to five people, and that then becomes a team sport, with everyone working together. And when it comes together with tactics and maneuvers, it’s really fun. Best of all, it’s a sport you can continue up to an old age.”

One of the best ways that the RCCSP gets people involved is through classes during the Summer geared towards introducing people to sailing at a very affordable rate. For a set fee of $10 an hour, the individual gets 15 hours of teaching.

“We’ll do Saturday morning class, a Saturday afternoon class and a Sunday morning class, and each class is three hours and 40 minutes long, so it’s 15 hours, with each class at $150,” Kennedy said. “Our classroom is the boat, and 90 percent of the boat will be on the water.”

Aside from the traditional classes, Kennedy and his fellow volunteers also love to make sailing even more fun by having casual nights, like the Friday evenings during sailing season in which they host their Sailing Pizza Night.

“It’s great because the kids come down, pay a small fee, and we provide all the pizza they can eat and then we go out sailing,” he said. “And it’s great because they get even more time on the water while doing it.”

For Kennedy, the ultimate goal is to find people as passionate about sailing as himself and everyone else at RCCS. If the program finds one person who gets immersed and addicted to sailing, then it is all worth it.

“Finding someone who has been bit and caught by the sailing bug is our reward,” Kennedy said. “And that happens on both the youth side as well as the adult.”

2014 Learn-to-Sail Clinic – A free learn-to-sail clinic for Children 9 to 18 years old and Adults will take place on Saturday, June 14. Children 1 to 3 p.m or 3 to 5 p.m. – Adults from 1 to 4 p.m. Admission is free, and clinics will be held at Cox Park on River Road, Louisville.

For more information, call 502.899.1311 or visit


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