Noah x Sunfish
A fixture for us along the south shore of Long Island - or really anywhere there’s a body of water for that matter - Sunfish Sailboats were always in neighbors’ yards and every marina. They were really just a part of the landscape. And if you were looking to learn sailing, they were one of the most accessible ways to get out on the water. You didn’t need a crew and it taught fundamentals you could eventually apply to sailing larger vessels down the line.
For our collaboration we brought our custom Sunfish to The Great South Bay with McKinney Glass, Job Skills Program Director and sailing instructor at Rocking The Boat, a non-profit organization devoted to teaching students boat building, rowing, sailing, and urban waterway restoration. Formerly a student there, he now teaches lessons he has learned over the years to others. And, as someone with only 6 years of sailing under his belt is remarkably talented, having competed in several regattas and distance races.
The sailing program at RTB uniquely serves the South Bronx community, where virtually no familiarity with sailing existed before and many students who enter the program have never been in a boat and often don’t know how to swim. To that end, we will be donating 10% of all sales from our Sunfish collaboration to the organization in order to help further their efforts.
We caught up with McKinney to hear a bit more about his background, teaching, and speedy transition to sailing.
Can you tell us about your sailing background? Where and when did you learn to sail? What kind of boat did you learn on?
The first time I stepped foot on a sailboat was on the Bronx River, after joining RTB in high school. We did a weeklong sailing trip on a Connecticut River drag boat made by their boat builders that was only being sailed once, for that trip. I didn’t have much experience sailing until RTB started their sailing program. They needed instructors, and I was chosen. Teaching other people in my early twenties was when I really learned how to sail well. Then I got a job at UK Sailmakers, where I started to compete in regattas on racing yachts and much bigger boats than I first learned on. After that, I got a job at Doyle Sailmakers, where I met a captain who introduced me to delivering boats and offshore sailing.
What’s unique about sailing on the Bronx and East Rivers?
Sailing on the Bronx River where it meets the East River is something special. My fondest memory is the first time I sailed a high performance dinghy. I remember it was windy, wet, and wild. I was sailing away from Rikers Island, and thinking, “Yeah, this is for me!”
Can you tell us more about your role at RTB?
As the Job Skills Program Director, I teach juniors and seniors in high school how to get ready for the “real world” while also sharpening their sailing and teaching skills. By the end of the program, if they’re eligible, they can take the US Sailing Level 1 Instructor Course. I also recently picked up the Racing Team Coach job, and in that role, I teach RTB alums and students how to race in a regatta.
What would you say is the main thing you teach your students?
The main thing I teach my students is presentation and accountability skills. Not all of them want to grow up to be sailors, so I try to focus on skills that can benefit everyone. My thinking is: if you can present yourself well and hold yourself accountable, getting by in life might be a little smoother.
What’s it like sailing in major regattas and distance races?
I’ve sailed in many day races and distance races held by various yacht clubs on Long Island Sound. At first it was a little intimidating, because I worried about what I could bring to the table against people who’d been sailing their whole lives. But I learn fast, and pretty soon, when people started to ask how long I’d been sailing, I’d tell them and they’d say, “No way!”
How does sailing a boat single-handedly differ from sailing on a boat with a crew? Do you have a preference for one over the other?
For me it's like the difference between playing basketball one-on-one and playing on a team. I’m a great team player, but I definitely enjoy my alone time. In terms of which I like better, it depends on the crew!
What’s next for McKinney Glass?
I never know what’s next for me to be honest, but I’m planning on continuing down this path of competitive sailing a little longer. Who knows? I could be on TV competing in the Volvo Race or America’s Cup one day.