Meet Another Neighbor: Jeff Cumming, Director of SailMaine

By Carol McCracken

Jeff Cumming was polishing the John Ford silver trophy with enthusiasm to be admired. He was readying it for the upcoming John Ford Regatta. “It’s coming along,” he said, grinning and referring to the trophy. “It’ll be ready by Thursday.” That’s August 14 at 6:00 p.m. at the SailMaine headquarters adjacent to Portland Yacht Services on the waterfront.

Cumming who grew up in Wiscasset, Maine, graduated the University of Southern Maine where he was an Englilsh major. He said that major taught him critical thinking which has been very useful to him. He was on the USM sailing team. From there he was picked to run the summer program. Because of the program’s exceptional growth, it’s become a year-round job for Jeff. It’s the “Bees Knees” of a job for him, he said over the weekend just past. (An expression he attributes to a friend of his who is currently coaching the Canadian sailing team for the Olympics in China).

The upcoming regatta later this week is only one of the fifty SailMaine hosts throughout the sailing season – which – by the way – lasts 10 months out of the year. (That includes the frostbite sailors who sail in 21 foot keel boats ). The John Ford Regata is for young people thirteen years old and under. It came about when Ford’s granddaughter gave a perpetual gift of a trophy in the famous movie director’s name. Ford lived on Munjoy Hill for many years.

Cumming also administers the school’s six sailing programs as well as the 30 seasonal staff required to do the teaching. SailMaine offers a wide variety of programs designed to get the entire community involved in sailing, regardless of age and financial ability. Currently there are 350 participants in the organization.

During the two month winter break, Cumming and his two part-time employees, hunker down at the shed on the property loaned to them by the City of Portland. There they recover from the extremely demanding summer just passed and do extensive planning for the coming sailing season. “There is plenty of work to keep us busy then,” says the modest Cumming. He has an easy commute to his job since he lives on the Hill as well.

As to the future, the mature Cumming said: “It’s hard to speculate about the future of the waterfront, but we know there’s a demand for sailing. We hope to meet that need.” Moreover, Cumming would like to see this organization grow into a regional organization for sailing. “We wouldn’t be here without a lot of people helping us,” he adds. “Certainly Phin Sprague, Jr. of Portland Yacht Services, is one of them.” When the non-profit was originally established, it was on Portland Yacht Services waterfront property – rent free.

“With almost 3500 miles of coastline, shouldn’t the people of Maine be sailors?” is a question on all of the non-profits literature.

For more details, visit www.sailmaine.org or call (207) 650-7878.