Bringing New People Into Sailing
Community sailing programs are going strong all across the U.S. This young man is learning about the quirks of installing rudders at a sailing camp in Sausalito, California. And did you know that there is an annual gathering for people who want to see more of this kind of outreach? The 2004 National Sailing Programs Symposium was impressive for the energy and enthusiasm of the participants and the wealth of information and wisdom that was roundly shared. We don't doubt that the next Symposium will be just as good. The 2005 event is slated for Miami next January 12-16, and to quote the 2004 agenda coordinator Joni Palmer, "This is the place to network, to find people who have answers to shared problems, to learn which wheels have already been invented—and it's the place to come, when you've been at this for a long time, to recharge your batteries."
These events are for anyone involved with junior sailing, Junior Olympics, community sailing, yacht clubs, windsurfing schools, commercial schools, camps, Scout Programs, college/high school programs, sailing coaches, adult programs, adaptive programs, parks & recreation, and YMCA/YWCA programs.
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At the invitation of Dawn Riley, we spent time recently at America True's summer sailing program in Sausalito, California, a true coalition effort with kids drawn from Marin City and its Performing Stars program. Sailing is new to program director Felicia Gaston, but she jumped at the chance. "We're for anything that gets the kids out to new places, doing new things," she said. "I knew on the second day that the kids were into it. When they show up early, you know."
Marin City is close to Clipper Yacht Harbor—for the kids, it's an 18-minute walk each way—but to actually go there and be part of something is a first-time experience.
What did young Solomon like best about racing? "We won!"
What did everybody learn about seals? "They smell!"
A fleet of Catalinas was provided by the Sailing Education Association SEA, which usually uses them for evening adult classes. Dock space (and a backup Whaler) were provided by Clipper Yacht Harbor, and two years worth of funding (along with daily lunches) came from Fish Restaurant owner Bill Foss and his chef and business partner Chad Callahan. The kids don't know it, but they're eating gourmet.
America True has been at this sort of thing for a long while, but the Sausalito program is new. Riley said, "We were brainstorming and worrying about how to make it happen, and the Fosses just said, 'Well, how much do you need?' " An additional program at Hunters Point, on the southern edge of San Francisco, is also in the works.
America True has scholarship funding for kids who might want to go on to sail at the Sausalito Yacht Club's summer youth program, but it's important to get them into the game first, Riley said: "This is a two-week program, and you have to give them that kind of start. If they go straight into something intensive, they won't last."