Indian River Press Journal January 23, 2010

By Janet Begley
Correspondent - VERO BEACH -

VERO BEACH — Ever since 7-year-old Callahan Corrie of Vero Beach took sailing lessons last summer, he’s wanted his own sailboat.

And through the Youth Sailing Program of Indian River County, Callahan and his dad Brent are building their own dinghy, under the watchful eyes of some experienced, blue water sailors.

The program is open to youngsters ages 6 to 16, and takes place at the Vero Beach Municipal Marina.

“We’re trying to create a bonding experience between a parent and child as they work on the boat together,” said Charles Pope, who serves as chairman for the Youth Sailing Foundation. “We also want to expose children to things like sailing techniques, safety in the water and competitive racing.”

The dinghies are built to exact measurements for the Optimist International class of boats, which are 7 feet, 9 inches long by 3 feet, 8 inches wide. Each boat is constructed of okume plywood, which has very few knots, Pope said. Over 150,000 similar boats have been built worldwide.

Brent Corrie said that he’s looking forward to working on the sailboat with Callahan.

“We’re hoping that by spending time building the boat, he’ll have more respect for it and get a lot more use out of it,” Brent Corrie said. “He’s always wanted his own sailboat because he wants to race, and we thought this was a great way to do it.”

Children in Youth Guidance of Indian River County’s mentoring program will also be eligible to participate, Pope said. Donations have already purchased eight kits for sailboats that are being assembled by volunteers, and the boats will become part of the Youth Sailing Foundation’s fleet.

“We’re using it as a way to get kids interested in sailing,” said Varoujan Karentz, a part-time Vero Beach resident who is helping with the construction of the first several dinghies. “There are similar programs in Fort Pierce and Miami for kids, but we don’t have anything like it in Vero Beach.”

Also assisting with the Youth Sailing Foundation are members of the Vero Beach U.S. Power Squadron, the Vero Beach Yacht Club, city workers and dozens of volunteers. Sailing lessons will be provided by the Vero Beach Power Squadron certified instructors in the classroom and U.S. Sail certified instructors on the water.

At a Jan. 18 open house for the Youth Sailing Program, Troy and Paige Visser of Vero Beach brought their 8-year-old son Randy to sign up for the program.

“I love the idea,” said Troy Visser, who will work on the boat with Randy on the weekends. “I think it’s a great way to get kids interested in sailing right on the ground floor.”


The cost for the entire kit, which includes everything necessary to build the complete sailboat, is $1,400, including mast, spars and sail. Some grant funds are available to help families that cannot afford to purchase the kit. For additional information or to register, contact Charlie Pope at or (772) 567-9000.


VERO BEACH — The newly formed Youth Sailing Foundation of Indian River County is up and running and is moving full speed ahead. Thus far they have completed or nearly completed four Optimist dinghies and next week will have their first family begin construction on their very own dinghy.

The Youth Sailing Foundation (Youth Sailing Program) provides an opportunity for young children (at all income levels) to take advantage of the Indian River's unique location and facilities.

They learn how to safely sail and handle small boats and participate in racing the world's most popular entry level sailboat. The Youth Sailing Program includes building an International Class "Optimist" dinghy under supervision (no power tools) of experienced blue water sailors. They also participate in sailing lessons provided by the Vero Beach Power Squadron certified instructors (classroom) and U.S. Sail certified instructors (on the water).

The dinghies are constructed of very special wood, expertly cut out by laser cutters right here is Vero Beach and the entire kit that includes everything necessary to build the complete Optimist Dinghy is available for $1,400.

Dan Thomas - through National Optimist website
Optimus Dinghies race in a heavy wind

Some funds are available to help families that cannot afford to purchase the kit. Expert assistance will be provided in a room provided by the Municipal Marina by trained volunteers, but the principal emphasis will be on having the child and his parent(s) build the boat and then have the child learn to sail it. For additional information on the Youth Sailing Program, contact Dan Thomas at or Charlie Pope at