About NESS – History

New England Science & Sailing was created in 2002 by the Stonington Harbor Yacht Club with the mission to develop sailing and educational programs that benefit the community at large.  We started out that year with just 14 children, 8 tiny boats, and a big dream of being inclusive of those who love or want to learn about the water. A catalyst for this initiative was the initial donation by the Rogers family on behalf of their father and mother, Syd and Harriet, who embodied all the principles that our community sailing programs are based on:  seamanship, sportsmanship, safety, and fun.

In 2004, we became a nonprofit 501(c)(3), separate from Stonington Harbor Yacht Club, and adopted the SHYC Sailing Foundation name.  We continued our mission of inclusiveness as we grew to serve more and more children each year with instructional sailing programs.  In 2008, we added a marine science program to expand options for getting on the water to those children not keen on sailing.  That year, we also began renting our current location, 70 & 72 Water Street in Stonington Borough, to give us more elbow room and dock space to accommodate our expanding classes and fleet of boats.

2010 saw the addition of our first full time staffer as well as our popular surfing program, which began our adventure sports program.  In 2011, we ceased renting and purchased our Stonington facility to secure our permanent home on the harbor.  That same year, we were selected by US Sailing as one of the first nine Community Sailing Centers in the country to be recognized under their new accreditation program.

In 2012, we changed our name to New England Science & Sailing Foundation to note the large role science education was playing at NESS.  We also committed to year-round operations by hiring full-time, year-round program directors, and we were chosen by US Sailing as one of a handful of centers around the country to help develop the US Sailing REACH STEM lesson plans.

To recognize our programming and outreach efforts, we were selected by US Sailing as the 2013 Outstanding Community Sailing Program in the country.  Also in 2013, we obtained our youth day camp license from the Connecticut Department of Public Health for our Stonington location.  In 2014, we became a US Powerboating Training Center as well as a certified surf school by the National Surf Schools & Instructors Association.  To better serve students in surrounding communities, we began offering programs in both New London and Westerly in partnership with local organizations. And with the awarding of an AmeriCorps State grant in 2014, we believe we now run the only AmeriCorps program in the country that uses sailing as a platform for building confidence and other life skills in underserved youth.

Today, as an ocean adventure nonprofit, we serve thousands of students age 4 and up each year with our inclusive, engaging programs.  We have no membership requirement, and scholarships make the ocean available to all.  Our marine science program serves multiple age groups, our sailing program includes both recreational and racing classes, and our adventure sports program now includes surfing, kayaking, fishing, and stand up paddle boarding.  We strive to be a valuable resource for all members of our extended community, to foster an appreciation of our marine environment, to get our students out on the water to learn and have fun, all while building confidence, teamwork, and leadership skills.