October 2007

Arizona Sailing Foundation

AYCís Education Program Is A Success Story

By Mike Ferring

Yes, Parrot Breath, there is sailing in Arizona. What’s more, you can learn to sail here.

The Arizona Yacht Club created the subsidiary Arizona Sailing Foundation (ASF) just over five years ago to bring sailing to more people in the state — and it’s become a great success story. In just over five years, ASF has taught hundreds of people how to sail.

Its junior sailing program has produced champion sailors. And, the national organization, US SAILING, honored ASF as the best new sailing program in the entire country.

ASF offers youth and amateur sports programs, primarily using materials developed by US SAILING. It’s the only organization in Arizona that can deliver a sailing training program with US SAILING certification, establishing a level of quality, experience, and on-the-water sailing instruction unmatched in the state.

Here’s how the mission statement puts it: “The mission of the The Arizona Sailing Foundation, Inc. is to provide fun, safe, community-based education in the art of sailing on a non-discriminatory basis.”

It All Began In ‘02

When ASF began in 2002, it presented a “Start Sailing Right” class to 19 people, using a fleet of six Sunfish and a pair of Lido 14s. Within a year, ASF had a waiting list for fall and spring classes and started increasing class offerings to meet demand.

Now in both spring and fall, it offers three Start Sailing Right classes, two Opti classes, a high-school class, a junior racing class, and an “Introduction to Sailboat Racing”class for adults.

The group has built its boat fleet through donations and purchases to two power safety boats, 10 Optis, nine Sunfish, eight Capri 14.2s, five Lasers, and a 420. Those numbers are augmented by student-owned boats in the advanced junior classes.

Most classes are held at the convenient Tempe Town Lake in the heart of the metropolitan area. The lake offers the benefits of a visible, central, easily accessed location; convenient equipment storage, easy boat launching, and usually friendly (though shifty) sailing conditions.

US SAILING’s Ray Treppa has made multiple trips to the city to train ASF’s corps of volunteer instructors. His first Small Boat Instructor Level I class graduated nine in 2003.

Four years later, there are 31 Small Boat Instructors and six Powerboat Instructors. The certified instructors get help from other uncertified parents of sailing students and yacht club members.

This year ASF hired a part-time Director of Sailing Rob Gibbs to work with the board to oversee instruction and the management of its increasing assets. All other participants are unpaid volunteers who contribute hundreds of hours of time.

Growth Tells The Story

The growth of the program helps tell the story —

Teaching Year                                 Students
2003-2004                                           78
2004-2005                                           97
2005-2006                                           110
2006-2007                                           113
2007-2008 (fall only)                             90   

From this beginning, ASF sees sailing students take several paths. A few say “enough” and decide sailing isn’t for them. Some use SSR as a launching point for more education at professional schools on the West Coast and elsewhere.

And others find the fun and camaraderie of the Arizona Yacht Club a great next step.

The junior program has its own success story. It begins teaching kids to sail when they hit age 8, using a fleet of Optis. As they learn more, they can take more advanced classes and begin competitive sailing.

They’ve come up with a name for the ASF sailing team: Team D.U.S.T. or “Desert Ultimate Sailing Team.” The team has stacked up their boats on trailers and hauled them off to compete in national and world regattas.

They’ve grown in skill to the degree they can now compete effectively. In fact, one ASF junior has qualified for the Opti Worlds!

By keeping costs low through the extensive use of volunteers, ASF has been able to direct most of its revenue into boats and equipment, keeping the organization on a solid financial footing and offering great value for the students.

One of the ways the group pays for programs is by accepting donations of used boats (both power and sail) and reselling them. It’s been approved by the IRS as a nonprofit 501(c)(3), so contributions are tax deductible.

For more information on programs, boat donations, and class signup, check out www.arizonayachtclub.org.