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Cotuit Mosquito Yacht Club

Christopher Jackson recalls the spectacle. “I was 7 years old,” he says, “and the Chesneys were eager to show off their little boats—we learned they were Optimist Prams designed by Clark Mills of Clearwater. They let all of the older kids take turns sailing them, and soon the Cotuit sailing brain trust decided these would be excellent boats in which to teach children to sail.” The excitement over the Pram coincided with a move inside the harbor in 1960, when Harriet Ropes Cabot offered the CMYC use of her beach and dock, down near Hooper’s Landing. This presented the opportunity for both a more protected mooring field for the Skiffs and a beginning for the Pram Program, a sailing school that offered a way to train sailors who were still too young to handle the larger boats on their own. It also presented a business opportunity. Jackson says: “My father, Gardner Jackson, his brother Geoff, Gerry Henderson, Larry Odence, and Leonard Peck were active socially, with some drinking involved. This led to some dreaming and scheming, and overnight, they established a corporation called Optimist Prams of New England.” Over the next few years, the company would produce plywood Optimist Prams from Mills’ original plans and convinced yacht clubs all over the Cape to purchase fleets. In this way, the forebearer of the ubiquitous “Opti” that nearly every sailing program now uses was introduced to the yacht clubs of Southern Massachusetts. 

The modern CMYC would make its founders proud. Today, as it was in the 1950s, Cotuit racers often jostle with over 30 boats at the starting line. The Pram Program has expanded to include Laser sailing, 420 racing, and a Skiff Workshop introduces small children to the traditional boats. 

Commodore Abigail Ford, who recently turned 18, is in her third summer of teaching sailing; and served as the CMYC treasurer for the past two years. In her new role as commodore, “I am most excited to be a liaison among all of the club members,” Ford says. “There is something so special about racing with kids 10 years younger than me, as well as those who are 60 years my senior.” Her feeling seems universal; from the youngest “prammers” to the most senior elders, when she says, “Each summer, I fall in love with the composition of the club all over again.”

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