NYC nonprofit introduces city kids to sailing


The South Bronx isn’t exactly a sailing mecca, but a local nonprofit celebrating its 20th year has developed a sailing program for neighborhood kids.

Four sailors from Rocking the Boat bundled up in late February for “frostbite” racing organized by Mamaroneck Frostbite Association. Beach Point Yacht Club in Mamaroneck, N.Y., hosted the competition that used 9-foot Dyer Dhow dinghies.

“They had an outstanding day,” said Jaye Pockriss, who handles development for Rocking the Boat, located in Hunts Point, Bronx.

The competition was a first for Rocking the Boat, which formed two decades ago. The program initially used traditional wooden boatbuilding to teach life skills to the mostly immigrant and minority children in the neighborhood. Since then, the organization has expanded to include sailing, rowing and environmental restoration.

Roughly 850 students have participated in Rocking the Boat initiatives since its founding, Pockriss said. Thousands more have joined in its weekend rowing and sailing programs.

The frostbite competition took place on Feb. 23 in Mamaroneck Harbor. Weather conditions were just about perfect: bright and clear, with 5-mph winds and temperatures in the low 30s. The course was a single windward and leeward once-around.

All told, seven racers from Rocking the Boat and a second youth sailing program, Hudson River Community Sailing, competed. “We finished in the middle of the pack,” Pockriss said of the Rocking the Boat team. “We beat some sailors who do this every weekend, and we also capsized.”

Winning, of course was not the only goal. Matt Wierzbach, the group’s sailing and life skills program director, said the competition was intended to give students a new type of sailing experience.

“We hope to give them a new life experience as well, by exposing them to people and places they wouldn’t ordinarily come in contact with,” he explained in a statement. “While sailing is often perceived as an elite sport, in reality it’s struggling and badly needs new blood and diversity. We hope our presence provides fresh talent and perspective.”

For more information on the program, or to get involved, visit

By Ocean Navigator