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Nov 09

Sailing Program Changing Lives

Posted on November 9, 2017 at 9:59 AM by Ben Schorzman

Eugene Rec Veterans sailing
This summer, a group of five Veterans with no previous sailing experience became a winning team.

The Eugene Rec River House Veterans Sailing Team placed first in the Fall Series and third in the Summer Series at Fern Ridge Reservoir, despite racing against teams with decades of experience. The team spanned three eras of military service — from Vietnam to Afghanistan to recent combat — and four branches of the military.

Team member Phillip Hudspeth, a Coast Guard Veteran, is available for media interviews. “This was an amazing experience,” Hudspeth said. “We were a team of strangers, and we were novices when we stepped onto the boat. A lot of the training we experienced in the military — teamwork, vision, doing your job right — came together on the boat with our crew. There was a learning curve and there were snafus, but we had great coaches who gave us the tools to become proficient sailors. I would encourage any and all Veterans to participate.”

This year marked the Vet Sailing program’s second season, although Eugene Rec’s River House Outdoor Program has run sailing programs since the early 1980s. Similar programs nationwide focus on teaching sailing but not typically on racing. “The program has become more than I ever could have hoped for,” program director and sailing coach Roger Bailey said. Bailey holds a vision of eventually traveling with the team outside of Oregon to race in larger, longer regattas lasting up to three weeks.

The team received overwhelming support and acceptance from the Eugene Yacht Club, the Joint Race Committee and local sailors. Hudspeth referred to the Eugene sailing community as providing a wonderful, warm and welcoming environment.

Eugene Rec Veterans sailing

“Before I participated in this program, I lived in a very small world,” 2016 program participant Cliff Lyon said. “If I could find a way to make it smaller, I did so. I basically went to work and came home and that was it. Since starting in the sailing program, I have branched out a lot more. I am an assistant wrestling coach. I have taken advantage of more career development opportunities. I have just started saying yes where I would have said no in the past right away.”

The sailing program is made possible by sponsors Underway LCC, Prairie Sail & Canvas, the Eugene Yacht Club and Matt Sprick.

For the 2018 season, Eugene Rec will build a new team with five new Veteran sailors. Interested Vets are encouraged to contact Roger Bailey at the River House Outdoor Center at 541-682-6323.

Individuals or businesses interested in supporting the program can do so by visiting


Kathy Lieberman
November 16, 2017 at 2:53 PM
Congratulations! I love sailing! Keep the programs going!

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