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Unifying ‘holiday’ sets sail for ninth year

Summer Sailstice originator is hoping to grow his nationwide celebration that promotes sailing

Summer Sailstice originator is hoping to grow his nationwide celebration that promotes sailing

Sure, there is something romantic about taking your sailboat solo into the sunset, with nothing but the wind and the water around you. But no person — or sailor, for that matter — is an island. With that in mind, a loosely-knit band of sailors is marking their calendars for June 20 and the annual Summer Sailstice.

Founder John Arndt, 51, started Summer Sailstice in 2000 when he saw the need for a nationwide event to unite sailors in celebration of the sport.

“I’ve worked in the sailing industry for the last 20-plus years, and I’ve been a sailor my whole life,” says Arndt. “I’ve got my own perspective and views on sailing actively for recreation, but I wanted to think of a cohesive way to unite the sailing world and build community.”

Arndt says the difficulty with sailing is that part of its attraction is escaping from other people. So he came up with the tagline “sail locally, celebrate globally.”

“Unlike other sports like football, where you can all gather in a stadium, sailing has so many different options,” says Arndt. “Some people sail in dinghies and racing boats, others can’t imagine less than 40 feet with air conditioning and all the amenities. There’s something in it for everyone and people can party as they like.”

On the Web site ( ), anyone can post a local Sailstice event they are having, whether they’ll be going it alone or wanting others to join the party. Those interested in participating can find out what local Sailstice events are going on in their area by typing in their country, state and city.

“We haven’t quite broken the international barrier yet, but it is something I would like to see happen in the future,” says Arndt. “We have had a few sailors from Ireland, Scotland, Japan, China — even one from Australia.”

Arndt admits the holiday is a work in progress. About 200 people participated in the first year, mostly friends, family and business contacts of Arndt’s. The following year, people began catching on and soon Arndt had to redevelop the networking option on his site to accommodate a larger audience.

“It was exciting to see participants and sailing groups popping up like flowers all over the nation, in the most unlikely places,” says Arndt. “Last year, we had 49 states participate, the only exception being North Dakota.”

Soon, Arndt had to start calling Sailstice a holiday, rather than an event, to signify that anyone anywhere can celebrate any way they want to.

“When we called it an event, people would contact me and ask me where it was being held,” says Arndt. “I’d have to tell them, ‘right where you are!’ ”

Arndt is a resident of San Anslemo, Calif., and is the advertising manager at Latitude 38, the West Coast sailing publication. He grew up in Maine and learned the ropes sailing the waters of New England. He attended the University of Vermont and participated in a number of student-run regattas against the likes of Tufts and Yale. He took a year off from college and sailed with two friends from Maine to Venezuela and back in a Camper Nicholson 35 his uncle chartered. In 1984, he moved to California and now owns a 1974 Ranger 33 appropriately named Summer Sailstice that his wife, Leslie, and two daughters, Sarah and Hannah, love to go out on.

“My daughter Sarah, who is 16 now, first came up with the word ‘Sailstice,’ ” says Arndt. “We wanted to have a day that would work for everyone across the nation, even the globe, and since many people around that time are starting to get their boats out, the first day of summer seemed very appropriate.”

Sailstice is also welcoming back its partnership with The Ocean Conservancy for a second year. Established in 1972, it is the oldest nonprofit organization dedicated to the protection of the world’s oceans. Sailors are encouraged (but not required, Arndt is quick to say) to give $1 for every mile they sail to create a donation equivalent to a global circumnavigation.

“It is 26,000 miles around the globe,” says Arndt. “If we get 2,600 boats to donate and they each sail 10 miles, which would be $26,000.”

Whether people decide to donate or not, Arndt says the core of Sailstice is to get out, have fun and connect with like-minded people.

“We don’t want to task anyone with a weekend to-do list,” says Arndt. “Every year we turn the soil and make [Summer Sailstice] grow. It’s just a lot of fun.”