GENEVA — Chris Lytle is the first to admit that sailboating has a reputation for being a recreational endeavor for the upper crust.
Yes, there are some folks who ply the Finger Lakes in yachts that are better than a lot of folks’ homes, said Lytle, but you don’t need to be well off to enjoy sailing.
That’s what the Seneca Sailing Academy is trying to communicate.
On Saturday at Lakefront Park, they’ll be taking that message to the Geneva Farmers Market, where they are offering free sailboat rides for youngsters and parents who’d like to experience what it’s like to sail.
The event is funded by a grant from the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation and the Rochester Area Community Foundation.
The academy will have an information table at the Farmers Market to talk about programs it offers for youth, and academy members will be taking up to three passengers onto three Flying Scot sailboats they’re bringing to Lakefront Park. Rides will be offered from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Lytle said it’s been the academy’s goal to reach more Geneva kids, noting that despite living in a lake city, many have never spent time on the water.
“They’ve never been on a sailboat,” he said.
Partnerships with the Boys and Girls Club have helped engage more of the Geneva community, said Lytle, pointing to five-day camps at the academy’s home at the Seneca Yacht Club, which he noted is hardly a hoity-toity kind of place.
Saturday’s free sailboat rides are the first of a series the academy plans to host at Lakefront Park and at the yacht club over the next year.
If the kids enjoy themselves, they can consider attending their camps or getting private lessons, Lytle said, noting that scholarships are available.
He said sailing is not as hard as some might think, and it’s never too late to try.
“I didn’t start sailing until I was 50,” he said.
Lytle said he didn’t get lessons. He got a Sailing for Dummies book and went from there.
“It’s really quite easy,” he insisted.
Aaron Holland, board chair of the Sailing Academy and an award-winning racer, said the SSA was created several years ago “when we realized that a majority of our kids were from the larger community, not just the children of Seneca Yacht Club members.”
Holland said the SSA looks at its sailing program “as a community asset rather than exclusively a club benefit. Our aim is to make sailing and related water recreation available to as many kids as possible without finances being a barrier.”
For any kids interested, the SSA also offers Introduction to Boating, which provides a broad overview of non-powered boating — from row boats, kayaks and canoes to paddleboards and sailboats.
Getting them on the water is the first step, said Lytle and Holland.
“We think that by trying out various types of boats, kids will learn more and be more open to trying out a sailboat,” said Holland.