Radio-controlled boats will benefit people with disabilities
Student sailors with disabilities in Massachusetts and beyond will have the opportunity to race model sailboats thanks to an extensive senior project undertaken by Asa Smith, who graduated from Tabor Academy in Marion, MA last month. A resident of Wellesley, MA, Smith completed and renovated seven model boats left unfinished in previous semesters by students taking the Ship and Boat Design class that is part of the Tabor Nautical Science Department curriculum.
Smith donated two of the radio-controlled boats to the 2012 Robie Pierce One-Design Regatta, an annual event for sailors with disabilities that was hosted by Larchmont Yacht Club in Larchmont, NY in June, two to Duxbury Bay Maritime School’s ACCESSAIL program, two to the Community Boating Center in New Bedford, MA, and one to the Schwartz Center in Dartmouth, MA.
With the support of Robie Pierce of Newport, RI, a 1958 Tabor alum, and Captain David Bill, head of the Nautical Science Department at Tabor, Smith pulled the unfinished boats out of storage and obtained permission to donate them from their previous owners. He spent the semester completing the boats, including painting them and building the remote controls that will enable children and adults with disabilities to sail them at model yacht regattas.
“I found a biography about Robie in an old alumni magazine at Tabor that talked about how he had founded the Shake-A-Leg program in Newport, RI, which is now called Sail to Prevail,” said Smith, a member of the National Champion Tabor Varsity Sailing Team who learned to sail at the Hyannis Yacht Club in Hyannis, MA. “I got in touch with him shortly after that and he’s been so supportive of my project ever since.” Pierce is himself a sailor with disabilities, while Sail to Prevail creates opportunities for children and adults to overcome adversity through therapeutic sailing.
“Asa is a super guy, a tremendous sailor, and a great student,” said Captain Bill. “This project is exceptional because of its benefits to the sailing community in addition to the learning experience for the student.” The American Model Yacht Racing Association V32s that Smith worked on are 32 inches long and sloop rigged. The radio controller operates a rudder servo and a sail servo, which enable the sailor to steer and trim the sails on the boat.
Each year, approximately 30-40 seniors are approved to work on an individually-designed senior project, with each participant forgoing “traditional” class time so that he or she can devote energy to initiating, developing and completing a project of personal interest. Projects vary in scope and design, but each entails a great deal of preparation and research. All projects must be approved by the academic department and each project has a student supervisor.
Founded in 1876, Tabor Academy is known as The School by the Sea. Tabor is one of only two Naval Honor Schools in the United States. In addition to traditional college preparatory coursework, the Tabor curriculum features extensive nautical science and marine science curriculum including seamanship, coastal and celestial navigation, naval architecture, sea survival training, and sail training in both small boats and cruising vessels.