A three-year pilot program at Harvard University (Cambridge, Mass.) has culminated in a formal partnership between the University’s sailing team and Rhode Island-based Sail To Prevail, the not-for-profit organization that has pioneered overcoming adversity through the sport of sailing.

Michael O’Connor (Foxboro, Mass.), the Crimson’s Head Sailing Coach, felt that not only should his student-athletes share their skill sets with others who likely would never have their same opportunities but also that his sailors should be encouraged to contribute to society as part of their overall education. In collaborating with Sail To Prevail CEO Paul Callahan (Newport, R.I./Cape Coral, Fla.), a Harvard graduate and accomplished sailor, O’Connor has brought a new dimension to the Cambridge campus, as well as the local disabled community.

O’Connor dedicates at least 15% of his overall practice time to allowing members of the sailing team to work with specially trained instructors from Sail To Prevail; the student-athletes then put those techniques into action with children and adults with disabilities from Allston, Brighton, Cambridge and the greater Boston community. The program, which runs during the fall season (roughly twice a week, weather permitting) from the Harvard Sailing Center in Cambridge, allows the Sail To Prevail participants and instructors to sail on the Charles River in a specially-equipped Catalina 20 right alongside members of the varsity sailing team. With O’Connor integrating the program into regular practices, the disabled participants are able to feel that they are part of the team and the Harvard sailors learn firsthand how to teach sailing to people with disabilities.

The mission of Sail To Prevail is to utilize sailing to teach people with disabilities how to use the acquired sailing skills – including teamwork and leadership – in their daily lives to overcome adversity and gain self-confidence. Recently, Sail To Prevail has found that the program has a similar effect on the able-bodied people who have come in contact with the organization.

“Michael O’Connor has designed a program that results in maximum outcomes for both the Harvard sailors and the disabled participants alike,” said Callahan who explained that the new program is allowing Sail To Prevail to expand into another geographic area and offer its model to more people. “People with disabilities who drive along the Charles River and wish they could somehow get out on it, we provide that opportunity for them.”

Sail To Prevail has helped over 18,000 individuals since the organization was founded in 1982. From its base in Fort Adams State Park in Newport, R.I., the organization coordinates a wide variety of sailing opportunities including daily sailing sessions and competitive racing on Wednesday nights throughout the summer; sailing clinics for veterans in cooperation with the Boston Veteran’s Administration for rehab patients and their families; the Confidence is Cool summer day camps for children aged seven to 17; and out-of-hospital therapeutic sailing experiences provided to pediatric cancer patients, their physicians and parents through Sail Away From Cancer. Additionally, a satellite program runs in Nantucket, Mass., also during the summer. For more information, please visit:  sailtoprevail.org

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Ryan Belmore has been the Owner & Publisher of What's Up Newp since 2012. He also currently works for Mountain News, where he serves as Senior Editor - North America for OnTheSnow. He previously worked for the New England Patriots and American Cancer Society. He currently serves as Vice President of Fort Adams Trust and is a member of Local Independent Online News (LION) Publishers and North American Snowsports Journalists Association (NASJA).