Monday, September 23, 2013

West Coast Tour - Adventures With The Olympic Circle Sailing Club (OCSC)

by Kate Sheahan
West Coast Tour Coordinator

Anthony Sanberg and Onya, courtesy of Alexander Cohen
Perhaps one of the most beautiful legacies is to truly enable someone within their lifetime to push their comfort boundaries and find their full potential.

The America's Cup buzz has certainly brought attention to sailing on San Francisco Bay this summer. Only a half mile from the AC-72 finish line is a place that has taught thousands the art of sailing for more than three decades.

I recently visited perhaps the finest sailing school in the world - San Francisco's OCSC, "The Olympic Circle Sailing Club," which teaches the science, tradition and responsibility of sailing in a holistic way at its six-acre campus. However, sailing is just the threshold to so much more.

Founder, President and visionary, Anthony Sandberg believes, “the OCSC format and junior sailing is the future of the sport by making sailing approachable and accessible to all kinds of people, not just the rich. It has been so successful that I wish others would realize that it should not be a commodity, but a community.”

Aerial view of the OCSC site in Berkeley, CA
Sandberg started the Olympic Circle Sailing Club in 1979 with the goal to revolutionize the sailing-lesson business in the heart of the best sailing in North America. He explains, “I needed to find the right location and it needed to be rigorous. There is just nothing like San Francisco Bay in the world and I wanted to be at the heart of it. I don’t want to have a school that’s good for everybody under all circumstances. We are not right for everybody. We teach on a lee shore and the wind blows 15-25 knots every day, but if you’re good here you can do anything you want.”

OCSC understands that sailing has many expressions and styles, from the single-handed sailor to those sailing with a 25-man crew on a 72-footer. They teach a broad range of courses that allow students to learn skills and then sail on any kind of boat anywhere on earth. The fleet starts with J24s and goes up to 82-feet with intermediate boats at 30’, 36’, 40’ and 50’. OCSC teaches three students per instructor with the rigors of an Ivy League education. If you do opt to become a member of OCSC it opens you to their 50-boat sailing fleet, a Ready-to-Sail crew network and discounted classes, charters and gear.

For new students to the sport, classroom time is actually minimized as it is believed that on-the-water feedback is immediate and best. OCSC’s "classroom" techniques are also used in corporate team-building sessions, whereby a team can discover how to communicate best to work together. For one to accomplish their goals, OCSC believes it takes as long as it takes. Sandberg relates it to learning to fly when he says, “you don’t want to be up in the air wondering if you can get down again."  

Listen as he explains how OCSC pairs an eager community with adventure and humanitarian projects beyond the San Francisco area.

Recently ranked one of the top-100 places to work by Outside magazine, Anthony’s first company rule is that his company exists for the success of the employees. “This needs to be the best place you’ve ever worked. It teaches respect and makes you realize you can become more than you thought you could be. The staff is very hard-working and proud to be good at what they do.” This ethic, no doubt, then inspires quick confidence in their students.

Club Manager Tim Han reiterates OCSC's philosophy that, “we teach people how to sail with care and compassion – like you teach friends and family.” OCSC provides a place for people to sail, but also an incredible, adventuresome experience. As a result, they get students from all over the world. In addition to daily training sessions, a week's list of immersive activities might read: Farrallons sail, night sailing, spinnaker flying, Thailand planning party, bbq, Croatia planning party, weather seminar...

Listen to my interview with Tim as he talks about the power of community, what a "sailing club" experience is like, and how OCSC is collaborating with even traditional Yacht Club members to turn more people into fluent sailors.

Sanberg on an OCSC expedition to Antarctica.
So much more than a sailing school, it is a community. The threshold is an interest in learning to sailing, but the site opens up to a social aspect including movies, lectures, dinners, and parties. “People are desperate for great, authentic connections - not just paying money for a performance on stage, but encountering other extraordinary people,” believes Sandberg. He is a convener through his Wednesday night group sails, and monthly “salons,” which are meant to present and connect really interesting people over topics such architecture, art, travel and philanthropy. Over 100 different non-profits use OCSC for their off-site location. There are also major opportunities for travel. OCSC offers curated sailing adventures to places like Tahiti, Greece and the Caribbean, but they also do extreme adventures like the Mt. Everest Base Camp, Antarctica and Africa. Anthony is designing new trips in Namibia and Botswana this fall.

Listen to interviews with new students as they talk about their first sail, how quickly they have progressed and how they now have the confidence to fly solo.

Find more information at ocscsailing.comFollow the West Coast Tour on Facebook and Twitter at @USSailing as I go back to school this fall with a visit to Club Nautique and the Treasure Island Sailing Center.

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