Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Westwind Sailing’s Success: Innovative Opportunities and Partnerships

“We all have something awesome to offer the kids in our community,” said Diane Wenzel, Executive Director of Westwind Sailing, an organization located in San Juan Capistrano, Calif. that is dedicated to providing safe boating and sailing education for the general public. “We’ve built strong relationships with our neighboring clubs and organizations through the years and our passionate staff has worked hard to grow and expand in new communities.”

And Westwind Sailing has certainly expanded.

Westwind Sailing was created in cooperation with the Orange County Sailing and Events Center (OCSEC) in Dana Point, which was developed with the California Coastal Commission Division of Boating and Waterways and the State Tideland Grant funds, specifically for the purpose of providing low cost public access of education and recreational boating. Now, celebrating their 28th year and 40,000 students later, the organization includes a second location at Lake Mission Viejo and prides itself on staying committed to their students.

Westwind Sailing’s mission states: “To provide education in boating and water safety and to teach respect for the aquatic environment; to promote self-esteem and reliance through sailing instruction; and to create an atmosphere that is safe, fun and encourages personal success.”

According to Wenzel, sailing has been the most successful program for the organization, specifically the summer youth camps and classes (students are as young as six-years-old). Overall, 55 percent of students at Westwind Sailing are children and 30 percent are teens.

"We are excited about the US Sailing Reach program and its potential to bring more youth into our sailing program during the school year.”

Westwind Sailing has seen successful with the Reach program in the past. In 2010, the organization partnered with the Dana Point Aquatic Foundation (DFAP) as the service provider for programs in order to acquire funds allowing Westwind Sailing to implement a scholarship program. This served underprivileged youth who may not otherwise have access to sailing programs. Through the US Sailing Reach Program Grant and the California Division of Boating and Waterways Aquatic Center Grant, funding was provided for the first ever Sail into Science course at the OCSEC this past fall. The course is a part of the nationwide Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) initiative, launched by US Sailing. Fifteen students from local nonprofit youth organizations participated, including the Boys and Girls Clubs, and shared theories that they learned while also applying their knowledge first-hand through sailing, kayaking, and paddle boarding.

Wenzel attributes much of Westwind Sailing’s success to the dedicated staff in combination with the partnerships the organization has worked hard to build. She said they network and cross promote with a number of clubs and organizations, including the Mariner Sea Scout program that operates at their Center in Dana Point, the Dana Point Yacht Club, the Dana West Yacht Club, Lake Mission Viejo Yacht Club, and Aventura Sailing Association. Through several of these partnerships, a fun evening of racing takes place called Soda Pop Racing. The races are for anyone from 10 to 40 years old and offer a family-friendly and competitive environment that provides an opportunity for the participants to use their skills and enjoy an evening on the water.

Other partnerships include one with the Kinesiology Department of Saddleback College that resulted in the launch of the adaptive boating program. It’s designed to provide on-the-water therapy and to teach safe boating and sailing to individuals with special needs. Accessible sailing, which is a part of the adaptive program, is dedicated solely to train sailors with physical limitations. This also includes Westwind Sailing’s Wounded Warriors program, designed to give back to service men and women who have overcome mental and physical challenges through offering aquatic sports (with assistance if needed), and a safe, educational environment.

Westwind Sailing consistently seeks new avenues to spread their mission while providing services to their community. The organization has been recognized nationally as well and honored by US Sailing. With plans to continue this outreach, Wenzel says that she would absolutely recommend to other organizations to do the same.

“Not only have we benefited from the exposure, but our partnerships have helped us to build a strong reputation nationally and to be a leader within our community,” she said.

Westwind Sailing received the Ten Years of Hallmark Performance Award for community sailing at US Sailing's National Sailing Program Symposium last January in New Orleans.

by Kara DiCamillo 


  1. Congratulations on the recognition, we are proud to have you as part of our community!
    Sue Senescu, DPYC

  2. Yay! Thanks Sue. We love our partnerships in Dana Point Harbor!

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