Why is there only one sailboat dealer at the Mid-America Boat Show this year?

Rob Morley of Riverfront Yacht Services in the Flats says it’s because sailing is a dying sport.

“It sure does feel that way,” said Jennifer Daus. “But I see a lot of interest, like with the Foundry.”

Daus, along with more than a half-dozen other groups at the boat show, are all about growing sailing in Lake Erie.

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There’s the Foundry and the Cleveland Metroparks, of course, who have partnered to teach sailing, as well as host student regattas, out of Cleveland’s Old Coast Guard Station.

There’s Broad Reach Sailing, which offers fractional leases on a 38-foot 2016 Dufour yacht, out of Edgewater Marina. There’s the Inter-Lake Yachting Association, which hosts sailing regattas at Put-in-Bay throughout the summer. There’s Adaptive Adventures in Sandusky, which teaches veterans with disabilities to sail. There’s Cleveland Sailing Singles.

There’s the Highlander Fleet 14, one of the largest Highlander fleets in the country, at Whiskey Island and Edgewater Yacht Club. The group is celebrating its 60th anniversary.  

There’s the Erie Islands Sailing School and Harbor North sailing school in Huron, as well as a handful of other sailing schools. Harbor North hosts an all-women’s learn-to-sail weekend each summer, and the first weekend of June, they offer an hour sail to people who donate to the United Way.

“The people who tend to be sailors now are a little older,” said T.J. Wright of Harbor North. “It’s easier to grow up with power boats.”

Since the recession, Wright said, sailors have tended to hang on to their boats longer. But in a few years, he believes, sailboats will be selling again. 

Because as cool as the fancy power boats are, nothing competes with harnessing the wind and slicing through the waves, powered by your own brain and brawn.

“It’s just been a joy and a pleasure for us to share our passion,” Daus said of her family’s yacht business. Every Wednesday night, they take teenagers battling addiction out in the tricked-out yacht, in hopes that they’ll get hooked on sailing.

Every Wednesday night, the fleet of Highlanders races.

“Wednesday nights are the best part of my summer,” said co-captain Steve Merriam.

The fleet signed up a few newbies at the boat show. And fleet co-captain Gary Vinicky aims to create a sort of classified ad web page, where experienced sailors could sign up on race boats of skippers looking for crew.

“My mission is to create entry-level opportunities for people,” Vinicky said.

It’s a refrain among sailors, who want others to share the marvel of the wind on water.

“Our objective is to get them out for the experience,” said Larry Knauer of Adaptive Adventures. “If they want to learn, we teach.”