Friday, October 4, 2013

West Coast Tour - Experiential Learning at the Treasure Island Sailing Center in San Francisco

by Kate Sheahan
West Coast Tour Coordinator

courtesy of FCSF
With a formal endorsement from San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, recognition by Lieutenant Governor of California Gavin Newsom and a recent infusion of funding through the San Francisco America’s Cup Organizing Committee in partnership with the America’s Cup Legacy Fund the Treasure Island Sailing Center have, in essence, been reaffirmed as custodians of the city’s sailing future. 

For the past decade, TISC has been a “non-profit organization whose purpose is to improve the community and the sport of sailing by providing access, facilities, and sailing instruction to people of all socioeconomic backgrounds, skill levels, and physical abilities.” The center offers summer, fall and spring youth camps and clinics for kids as young as six, as well as adult keelboat courses, family and co-able adaptive sailing, in addition to programming for the blind. Stand up paddle boarding, windsurfing, kayaking and private adult, child or family lessons are available as well. 

This past summer, the 12-week summer program hosted 40 daily students and additional youth group orientations ranging from 10 to 100 from the YMCA, Boys and Girls Clubs, and Beacon centers all around the city. The America’s Cup action created a lot of visibility. Kids went on field trips to the village and the American Youth Sailing Force, the local youth America’s Cup team, hung out for Q&As, practice sessions and science experiments in mechanical advantage.
Operations Director Madison Gattis, smiles when she says, “we’re tracking and growing fast and have been able to stick with our 70% scholarship program, offering full and partial funding to the kids based on household income.” Those with a household income of less than $45k are able to apply online for full scholarship and partial for an income of $70k or less. Case-by-case assessments are also welcome. 

Madison goes on to say that, “a lot of kids don’t get a chance to go out on the bay, although they might have lived in SF their whole lives, so we are another step in fostering a love of the bay and an understanding of their environment through community sailing.” The new grant funding will launch the inaugural TISC Sailing in the Schools program this fall to parlay the legacy of the Bay to San Francisco students. Through experiential learning moments, Program Director Chris Childers says the goal is to, “get every 4th grader on the water with lesson plans focused around local icons like the Dungeness crab, renewable energy, ecology, the great San Francisco wind, tides, and the long history of sailing and the city.” 

In addition to the ability to upgrade the fleet to eight RS Ventures and eight J24s, which accommodate 30 SF school children per visit, TISC has just received their brand new classroom building. With the Sailing in the Schools curriculum green-lighted by the mayor’s office, the door is now open for any San Francisco Unified School District teacher to schedule a visit by a full class of students. CEO Jana Steel says the goal is to, “offer a progressive classroom environment, as a change of pace from the traditional format.” She is working to present a cool, innovative feel that is relaxed and encourages the visiting eight and nine-year olds to be inquisitive, and just have fun. This naturally cultivates a sense of stewardship and respect. Currently the Sailing Center serves about 1,500 kids annually in San Francisco. A veteran business developer, Jana has systematic plans to expand the center’s instruction to all 4,260 fourth graders in the San Francisco Public Schools.

Listen to Jana, Madison and Chris talk about fostering a love for the water with experiential learning themes, priorities at the Treasure Island Sailing Center, why it is important to experience the bay, and what is so special about West Coast sailing.


If you would like to make a corporate donation email: or phone: 415-421-2225. Sponsor a sailor and make a donation online at: TISC is a nonprofit community sailing center that is partially supported by their tenant revenue. By storing your boat at the Sailing Center you give the opportunity for underprivileged youth to experience the thrill of sailing. For storage details check out:

Follow the West Coast Tour on Facebook and Twitter at @USSailing as I get out on the water for High School sailing practice with some of the top teams in the country, plus cover the best way to begin the end of the week with Thursday night sailing in the Treasure Island basin.

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