Monday, October 23, 2017

Sailing towards Healing

September 1, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

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sailing towards healing 1

Many of us have a passion for the sea and enjoy quality time on the water.  The Duclay brothers, Sean and Kilian, have those feelings, too, along with a desire to help others share their enthusiasm.

Sean and Kilian are teenagers who have created an amazing organization called Sail Ahead to engage traumatized and wounded Suffolk County military veterans in therapeutic sailing. At the ages of 16 and 18 years old, these brothers learned that 22 U.S. veterans commit suicide every day, and they wanted to enlist a team of sailors who would let service members get pleasure from our waters and be reassured that their lives matters.

The Oakcliff Sailing Center in Oyster Bay has partnered with Sean and Kilian and a group of volunteers to take some of Suffolk County’s 80,000 military veterans out sailing.

sailing towards healing 2Sailing takes lots of concentration and thought; it pushes you to work hard and keeps you focused. The Sail Ahead program puts veterans into situations where they can use their training and instincts to accomplish tasks and come out as successful sailors.

The sailboats used at the Oakcliff Center are Hobie Cat 16s and 21s. Both models are sturdy enough for competitions and easy enough for beginners to use and try out. The faster boats (16s) give participants an adrenaline rush and need a higher level of team work.

Sail Ahead is a year-round organization. Veterans are put to the test during long summer days; in the winter intense cold water races test their determination. As Sail Ahead organization says, “It cleanses the mind while also showing that expertise developed in combat can be applied with success towards competitive sailing or just recreational sailing.”

sailing towards healing 3The Duclay brothers believe that by having a chance to shine out on the water, the veteran sailors start to heal as they learn new skills, get a chance to express feelings, and socialize with others while working with them — or competing against each other.

They get a lot of thanks and expressions from veterans about how Sail Ahead helped them in so many ways they could never have imagined before setting sail. “One of the first veterans we took out started crying. He hugged us saying how much it has helped him,” says Kilian. “One lady with cancer told us we made her year, not just her day,” adds Sean.

Sean and Kilian know that if it weren’t for the service of our military veterans, we wouldn’t have the freedom to go boating and enjoy our beautiful waters, so they are happy to provide this opportunity. “We have helped approximately 50 veterans so far, and most of them come weekly, and keep coming back,” Kilian advises. “We wish to increase that number in the future.”

As of now the program is just based in Oyster Bay, but they are looking to expand to Huntington Harbor. Sail Ahead welcomes new veteran participants, and it is also looking for more funds, volunteers, and sailboat donations. “We just received a 26-foot boat, and with that we can help so many more veterans, which makes us happy,” Sean shares.

To help the Duclay brothers turn more veterans into sailors, please call 631-831-8763 or 631-742-3138 or visit sailahead.org. They are also on Facebook at SailAhead

By Melissa McMahon


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Duclay family sailing video


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enjoys water sports and boating with her family. She spends most weekends on the water and enjoys writing about her activities. Visit her website:

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