Yesterday marked the official opening of the Siebel Center — a sailing program that aims to increase diversity and opportunity for youth in the sport of sailing — at Treasure Island Sailing Center, or TISC.
“I always look at sailing participation on a pyramid: We have done a great job at growing the base but we have had more difficulties keeping kids and getting them to the top,” said Carisa Harris Adamson, the chairman and one of the founding members of TISC. “Now that we have a complete pathway, I think it will change things for us as we will be able to retain kids, and a more diverse group of kids will follow along that path.”
Last April, US Sailing announced a donation from the Siebel foundation to create the mission-specific sailing centers throughout the country. TISC, which has been providing affordable, if not free, sailing education to underserved children for over 20 years, was an obvious candidate, and is one of three pilot Siebel Centers, along with Columbia Sailing School in Chicago and DC Sail in Washington. Here in the Bay, Alameda Community Sailing Center and the Golden Gate Yacht Club Youth Sailing Foundation will serve as support centers.
“Alameda Community Sailing Center is quite flattered to be selected as one of the Bay Area’s supporting centers to US Sailing’s Siebel Sailors Program,” said ACSC founder Kame Richards. “The focus of the Siebel program matches perfectly with what ACSC has been doing for the last seven years: introducing sailing to the youth of our community, independent of their financial status. The RS Fevas have been selected as the training boat, and they look like the perfect craft, with the right combination of speed and forgiveness.”
The Optimist racing team, formed this summer at TISC, was trying out the brand-new RS Feva XL dinghies provided by the Thomas and Stacey Siebel Foundation. These performance doublehanded dinghies will be the missing link between Optimists and Flying Juniors in the curriculum currently offered at TISC. Chris Childers, the coach for the region who was recently selected by US Sailing, said he’s “looking forward to teaching on small boats with an asymmetric spinnaker,” and excitedly wonders, “What is going to happen to the next generation of sailors when they start out sailing rocket ships like these?” A total of 24 boats — 12 for TISC and 6 for each of the supporting centers — are being donated to the Bay Area Siebel region. “It’s a fleet!” said Carisa enthusiastically. She is looking forward to races with the other centers, and other dinghy sailors throughout the Bay. Despite its being the first time on such boats for most of today’s sailors, docking was uneventful and perfectly mastered. The new Siebel sailors sported huge smiles after their outing.
Tech guru Tom Siebel and his wife Stacey were on hand to meet the small group of new sailors. Tom grew up sailing on Lake Michigan at Sheridan Shores Sailing School in the ’60s — SSSS will serve as a supporting center in the Chicago region. “Nobody consulted me in this decision, and nobody knew I started to sail there either,” he joked. Two more Siebel Centers will be selected by the end of this year, and another five in 2020. Tom dreams of seeing 25 or more one day: “If it can accelerate in the next few years, there is an opportunity to make change happen at a national scale. I think this is hopefully going to fuel sailing.”
Siebel Centers will try to integrate long-term values to sailing instruction, such as how to take proper care of a boat. More broadly, Childers wants “to present as many different sailing opportunities as [we] can to all the kids,” including keelboat experience, different racing settings and career orientation — with the ultimate goal to make “well-rounded water people.” Proving that they are already well aware of good seamanship practices, the Siebel sailors of the day ended the opening ceremony by christening one of the new boats with sparkling beverages. “Welcome this new fleet at Treasure Island Sailing Center!”