The four sailboats of the ACCESSAIL program glided over the calm waters of Duxbury Bay Saturday afternoon, racing around two giant orange inflatable buoys. The programs participants were technically racing, but they were having so much fun the programâ€™s director had to remind them to come back to the Duxbury Bay Maritime School, where a barbecue was waiting.
ACCESSAIL is an outreach program at the maritime school that aims to provide sailing opportunities to students, age eight and up, with disabilities. Over the years, the program has had students with Down Syndrome, Autism, Multiple Sclerosis and other challenges, as well as a large group from the Perkins School for the Blind.
Program Director Gene Orosz has been working with ACCESSAIL for three years, and the program has been around for five. Ned Lawson, longtime director of the school, created the program.
Orosz said that once he retired, he was looking for something to do that would give back to the community.
â€œI love to sail,â€ he said. â€œIt provided me with the benefit of being on the water ... the program has exactly the balance I was looking for.â€
He said the program has grown each year. This year, the program will have taken 200 students out for a sail over the summer, three times more than last year.
â€œItâ€™s grown by word of mouth and by the PR work that we have done,â€ he said.
Saturdayâ€™s regatta involved four boats specifically used for ACCESSAIL. Two larger vessels, called Oâ€™Dayâ€™s, have been modified to include seats and harnesses. The other boats, called cat boats, are occasionally skippered by the students. Orosz called the race a â€œquasi-end of seasonâ€ event, involving 20 sailors from the program.
The programâ€™s season runs from early June until the end of September.
He said ACCESSAIL is a unique program at the maritime school, in what it can give to the students.
â€œThereâ€™s no other program that combines the facilities we have here, with the boats that we have, and the talent of our crews,â€ Orosz said.
He said he believes the program has a positive effect on the participating students.
â€œThey definitely get a sense of being special, and independence,â€ he said. â€œEspecially for those individuals who have the capabilities to do things on the boat.â€