Bob Millard, Sailing Instructor

Bob Millard, a Narragansett Sailing School Instructor, shares his tales of sailing, from early days to a weekly event to what new sailors must know:

1. How did you first get into sailing?

When I was about 10 my dad, who used to sail as a kid when his family summered in Matunuck, bought a Penguin and started frostbiting winters at the Bristol Yacht Club. I used to go down with him and watch the fleet race off the dock and fish at the same time. When the weather warmed up he brought me out sailing with him — and that’s how it started.

2. Have you had any disaster scenarios, failures, or simple problems in your sailing career that have given you a valuable lesson as a result?

Very fortunate to be able to say no “disaster scenarios”, but more failures and simple problems than I could ever remember. How about an engine failure landing a boat on a commercial fishing dock at rip tide in the Port of Galilee, or catching my hand in-between the bow chock and a mooring pick up on another rip tide in Westport Harbor. Maybe the dumbest thing ever was starting to fill up my fuel tank with fresh water! Every failure or problem is ultimately it’s own lesson and I don’t ever expect the lessons will cease.

3. If there’s one thing you can tell new sailors when they are just introduced to the sport, what would you tell them?

I would tell them to seek their own personal joy in sailing; not someone else’s. There are so many different ways to enjoy sailing. Maybe it’s weekend cruises, high-level racing or club-level racing. Maybe it’s only day sailing on fair weather days, crossing an ocean or just sitting on your boat marveling a sunset. There is no right way or wrong way to experience the joy of sailing — there should only be your way.

4. What advice would you tell a new sailor to ignore? What are bad recommendations you hear about sailing?

Ignore the idiots that cross your heading. Fortunately, from my experience, sailing isn’t infested with them, but they are out there. Give them a wide berth.

There are some out there that recommend bigger is better when it comes to choosing a boat. Not so. If you do decide to purchase a boat, think long and hard about how you sail, why you sail and whom you sail with.

5. Who most influenced your life when it comes to sailing?

That’s an easy one: my dad.

Once he realized that I was interested, because it was my choice to do so, he shared everything he knew with me. He wasn’t a technical sailor. He sailed by feel and by his senses. The variables of wind and current are always changing, just like navigating through life, so you best pay attention, he would say.

My dad, my brothers, our children, friends and I raced Wednesday nights every year at Bristol Yacht Club for over forty summers. We started Wednesday Nights in Cape Cod Mercuries, then a Sea Sprite, and finally his dream boat, a Pearson Triton.

One Wednesday Night in 2006, we had a great night on the water. It was steak fry night, so we shared dinner, some beers, stories and laughed with friends. Later, that night, my dad passed in his sleep. For me, it was a big change in the wind and current, but I was ready to navigate through it. We’re still sailing Wednesday nights in Bristol, but now it’s called the Millard Summer Series.

6. Outside of sailing, what is something that you love to do; something that makes you feel alive?

I also love to ski. Last year I got my Level 1 PSIA-AASI Instructor Certification and now teach at Yawgoo Valley. As with Sailing, it’s hard to beat that gratification of watching someone “get it” and the realization of “I can do this!”

About Bob Millard

Bob got hooked on sailing as a youngster when his neighbor offered his dad the use of a leaky old Beatle Cat. Narragansett Bay has been his primary sailing home for over 50 years and he’s never grown tired of it. For Bob, sailing with family or friends on a summer day or club racing Wednesday nights is as good as it gets. He never tiers of introducing new people to the joy of the sailing experience and loves to be part of that A-Ha! moment when a student feels the wind, connects the dots and realizes “I can do this!”

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