Kathleen Clark-Wasil has been hearing-impaired since before she could remember.
Her mother had an emergency C-section, so minutes after her birth she was put in an incubator. Doctors said that because she was born prematurely she had significant nerve damage, causing her deafness.
From age 2 to 16, she attended the Mill Neck School for the Deaf and now as an adult wanted to give back.
“Mill Neck will always have a special place in my heart,” said Clark-Wasil, 60, of Rockville Centre, signing with her hands. “I’m already involved. They ask me to do something and I do it. I can’t even find the right words. This [the race] is amazing.”
On Thursday, she and 12 other spectators boarded The Christeen, a 40-foot gaff rigged sloop, built in 1883 for harvesting oysters, to have a front-row seat for the first “Sail the Sound for Deafness,” a charitable sailing regatta on the Long Island Sound in Oyster Bay.
The event, sponsored by the Mill Neck Family of Organizations, allowed spectators to view a yacht race and attend a cocktail party, raising money for the organization.
The regatta raised about $10,000 to help fund the group’s programs, including services for deaf infants to adults, according to Nancy Leghart, director of advancement at the Mill Neck Family of Organizations.
In close to an hour, classic wooden yachts Nautilus, Banzai and Caper finished first, second and third, in the 1½ -half mile race, receiving trophies at the end of the night.
Beginning the race at about 6 p.m., Nautilus, owned by Oakcliff Sailing, finished at 6:58 p.m. with the help of its captain Ron Saccardo, of Oyster Bay.
Banzai, captained by Donald Woodworth, of Oyster Bay, and Caper, captained by Hunt Lawrence, of Oyster Bay, finished neck and neck close to five minutes after the first yacht crossed the finish line.
Patty Cagliostro, a sign language interpreter for the school since 1993, helped spectators on the yacht communicate with the hearing-impaired.
“I grew up in Oyster Bay and the deaf community became my community,” said Cagliostro, of East Moriches. “Volunteering to be an interpreter for this event is my way of giving back to the school and my community.”
Being hearing-impaired all his life couldn’t keep Donald M. Street III from being the sixth generation in his family to sail competitively. After a five-year hiatus from sailing, he steered Nautilus, which grabbed first.
“I always encourage deaf people to come sailing,” said Street, 45, of Oyster Bay. “It’s a fantastic experience.”
Following the regatta, close to 75 people attended a gala soiree at the Mill Neck Manor House, a Tudor Revival mansion overlooking Oyster Bay, for raffles, a silent auction, live entertainment, hors d'oeuvres and cocktails.
Gary Cassidy, an occupational therapist at the Mill Neck School for the Deaf and avid sailor, said the regatta is unique because it includes classic wooden yachts and spectators have the luxury of getting a lesson in sailing and viewing the race up close from a historic landmark.
“It is an opportunity for people to see a race as it was in the early 1900s, it’s a piece of the Gold Coast era,” said Cassidy, 56, of St. James. “Most of the vessels that sail here are literally pieces of history. Many of the people here have never had the opportunity to see something like this and may never have it again unless they come next year.”