February 28, 2016 08:44PM
By BROOKE CONSTANCE WHITE
Sun Staff Writer
STONINGTON — New England Science & Sailing (NESS) Foundation Sailing Program Director Mark Zagol was recently named 2015 Outstanding Program Director by U.S. Sailing at the 2016 Sailing Leadership Forum in San Diego.
U.S. Sailing, the governing body for the sport in the nation, gives the award out annually to someone who has made notable contributions to promoting public access to sailing throughout the country.
Zagol was nominated by the foundation’s executive director, Cindy Nickerson, for his work transforming their summer-only program into a year-round program since he was hired nearly four years ago.
While sailing often has a reputation as being a sport for elites, Nickerson said Zagol has worked tirelessly and selflessly to make sailing accessible to all who want to learn and experience the benefits of time on the water.
“Mark firmly believes that the benefits derived from sailing — increased self-confidence, teamwork, leadership, independence, and resilience, to name a few — should be available to everyone, not just yacht club members and their friends and families,” Nickerson wrote in her nomination letter. “At NESS, Mark devotes countless hours and tons of energy to sharing his love of sailing with NESS’s students in the community, through on-the-water coaching, instructor management, program management and fleet preparation.”
Zagol oversees all of NESS’s sailing activities in the summer as well as during the off-season with dozens of schools, which includes four months of daily, after-school sailing.
He’s also worked to pilot and implement U.S. Sailing’s REACH program at NESS, which uses sailing as an educational platform to teach science, technology, engineering and math.
Zagol said his passion for being a sailing director comes from his love for the sport of sailing as well as the way it develops and grows children and adults of all ages.
“I am really passionate that everyone should have the ability to get out on the water and NESS is the perfect place to make that happen,” he said.
At the moment, they are developing an adaptive sailing program for students with physical and cognitive disabilities and are working to expand the current STEM program into more school districts.
Zagol came on as sailing director at NESS after spending 12 years coaching at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, the United States Merchant Marine Academy and Old Dominion University.
Along with racing credentials, Zagol is a U.S. Sailing Level 3 Coach, U.S. Sailing Level 1 Instructor Trainer, certified waterfront lifeguard, U.S. Powerboating Instructor, and U.S. Coast Guard Captain.