Community Sailing Center

The Burlington Community Sailing Center's early days were scrappy and optimistic. Founded in 1994, the center operated out of the abandoned Moran plant, a city public works garage, and sometimes, even a tent.  That optimism paid off. Today, the center is in a three-story, 22,000-square-foot building that opened in 2018 along the bike path, north of what's now the Moran Frame

This spring, the Sailing Center will open a new waterfront area on Lake Champlain, with a 200-foot-long central dock, new sail cranes, and a 50-foot-wide launch ramp.  Even with the impressive upgrades, at least one thing has stayed the same: access is at the heart of the center’s mission.   "The Sailing Center is an asset for everybody," says the center's executive director, Owen Milne.


Along the Waterfront 

The Sailing Center's improvements are the latest of many improvements to the Burlington waterfront over the past four decades. In 1988, the city constructed the Burlington Community Boathouse. "The late Marcel Beaudin, an avid sailor, was the architect of the iconic boathouse. He co-founded the Sailing Center in 1994. "Our humble beginnings started with Marcel identifying that boat ownership was a hurdle for people to participate in the sport," Milne says. "We had to figureSailing out how to help people get out onto the lake." For the past 25 years, the center has done precisely that—encouraging people to explore the lake and helping them learn how to sail, kayak, paddleboard, and more.


Access for All 

The stunning view from the new Sailing Center ramp includes the Burlington Breakwater North Lighthouse and the Adirondack Mountains. Even if you're not sailing, the center's new ramp offers some of the best lake views around. The new ramp and docks will also be easier to access than ever before, thanks to a newly installed ADA-accessible walkway. "This is a really great viewing opportunity for the public," Milne says.  The new 50-foot ramp replaces a 10-foot-wide ramp to increase capacity and create more room for boaters, kayakers, spectators, and kids attending summer camp. Milne says two new permanent sailboat cranes will also allow the center to host woSailingrld-sanctioned regattas from Burlington's waterfront on Lake Champlain. A regatta hasn't happened here since the local Yacht Club burned down in the 1940s," Milne says.

Removing Barriers 

The Sailing Center serves about 8,000 people annually and offers rentals, lessons, and summer camps. From the beginning, the center's mission has been to provide access to people who might not feel like sailing is for them. Those barriers can be racial, cultural, economic, or related to gender or disability. "Anytime we start a program of any sort, we spend time understanding the challenges first," Milne says. "That way, we're not leaping in and establishing a scholarship because we assume that cost is the barrier."

Here are just a few of the Sailing Center's signature initiatives focused on access:


Sailing Diversity Access Initiative 

Now in its fourth year, the Sailing Diversity Access Initiative provides campers between 11 and 15 who identify as BIPOC with a 100% fully paid and supported summer camp experience of one to four weeks.  



Women in Wind

The Women in Wind project is for all people who identify as women to feel empowered in the sailing center's innovative, customized sailing program. Adults and youth learn progressive skill-building in a positive learning environment. Take courses, attend events, and be part of a welcoming community. 

Adaptive Watersports Program

The Adaptive Watersports Program supports individuals with cognitive or physical disabilities. It helps participants realize their goals using adaptive teaching methods and specialized equipment.

The program, in partnership with Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports, has served thousands of people with disabilities since its inception in 1997. In 2015, it expanded to include Special Olympics Vermont, providing competitive sail training for individuals interested in local and regional regattas.

Visit the Community Sailing Center 

Whether you visit the center for lessons, camps, rentals, events, or views, Milne wants you to feel welcome. "We don't have any kind of membership. It's not a club," Milne says. "The center is for everyone."

The Community Sailing Center is located at 505 Lake Street in Burlington.

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