The goal of Rainbow Races Inc. has always been to make the world a little smaller. To Connect the community, Inspire others to venture to the sea, and Motivate people to challenge themselves.
We are pleased to announce the beginning of the Sailor Spotlight series, telling the stories of LGBTQ sailors from around the world. If you would like to share your story, click the button below.
Age/Name/Years on the water
Charles Szymanski about 15
What was the first boat you ever sailed? What was the experience like?
The first boat I ever sail on was a, I believe, 1974 Irwin 34. It was the most peaceful thing I had done to date. It was a 4th of July cruise and I was just ending things with my husband. So the freeing and peacefulness you get from sailing, and night sailing at that, was nothing short of amazing for me.
What about your first race? What kind of boat did you sail, what was the experience like?
The first race I sailed was the Gold Star Regatta on my boat, a 1968 Islander 29. I was both nervous and scared having never done a race before. I found it exhilarating and adrenaline pumping.
What made you fall in love with sailing?
I fell in love with how free you are on the water. Something about the feeling of wind on your face and the sound of rushing water as you glide through it seemingly effortlessly captured me. I used to love (and still do) sitting on the bow pulpit looking out at the sea as we move through the water.
What are you currently doing within the sport? IE teaching, cruising the world, racing etc. tell us about your current/ planned adventure.
Currently... lol I am running this organization, I’m also on the board for the Jackson Park Yacht Club, and am always bringing new folks out and teaching them the basics.
My next big adventure... I’m hoping to do several lake crossings this summer. I’m working at getting a small flotilla together and cruising to Michigan.
What is/was your favorite boat to sail on, and why?
I love sailing my boat! She’s a head turner everywhere we go. I also like that she’s an old heavy boat so chop doesn’t bother her like a more modern boat her size.
What is your biggest achievement in sailing? This can be anything from buying a boat, to rebuilding the engine to your first major race/cruise.
Oh wow...my biggest achievement in sailing...when my boat found me (because we all know the boats choose the skipper) she was a mess and about to be chopped up. She’s still messy but not because she’s falling apart. I had never done electoral or plumbing or anything really let alone on a boat. So far, I’ve done all new electric, painted her inside out (outside 2x) sanded all bright work (inside and out) replaced the engine, rewired the mast, replaced windows, replaced most lines, installed a stove, new electronics, and this year hopefully I’ll find some decent used sails!
After the boat, I would say my greatest achievement would be founding Rainbow Races Inc. When we first started there were a lot of people that would say “if the regatta happens.” That’s changed to...”what’s the date this year?” It’s tough being the new kid.
What would you like to tell inexperienced/younger sailors or someone on the fence with trying?
I would say... go for it. You never know where life will take you. Respect the sea, and listen to the salts but carve your own path. If you're nervous, come sail with me. I’ll show you the ropes.
What's something you would like to impart on veteran sailors?
You’ve seen a lot. You’ve done a lot. You can still do more. Just because something has always been done one way, doesn’t mean it’s still the best way, or the only way. Talk to younger sailors, pass on your knowledge, they are the future and what will keep this passion we have going.
What do you like to do when ashore and not working on sailing things? IE biking, cooking, scrapbooking, gardening etc.
When not working on the boat (it feels so weird to even think that! LOL) you can find me out with friends, getting drinks, riding my bike (that oddly came with a name... Regatta.) or working in the garden. My favorite place though... is the beach, if I can’t be on the water... I want to be under it snorkeling.
How do you identify? Anything else you would like others to know about you? Website/FB link to share? An interesting fact about you?
I identify as a cis gay man. I use he/him pronouns. Something else about me... I have a rescue macaw that I’ve had for over 10 years now, and I’m single.
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