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Awesome Job Alameda Community Sailing Center!

US Sailing recently honored ACSC with The Outstanding Community Sailing Program Award, given annually to a program that has made notable contributions to promote public access sailing. The St Francis Sailing Foundation could not be prouder of grantee ACSC for bringing home this important award. Program director Emily Zugnoni explains the magic behind what they are doing so well.

What aspect of ACSC are you particularly proud of, what do you think you do exceptionally well?
EZ: In 2023, ACSC had 30 instructional staff members, ranging in age from 14 to their mid-20’s, most of whom came through ACSC courses! We have a great staff development program, which begins with volunteer Counselors-In-Training, progressing to US Sailing Powerboat-certified Assistant Instructors, and finally to certified Sailing Instructors. ACSC pays well too! It’s important that we show staff appreciation through competitive wages and incentives for advancement.

During Summer Camp, ACSC puts upwards of 60 children per day on the water. We keep it safe (and fun and educational) by strictly upholding US Sailing safety standards for powerboat to sailboat ratios. Our excellent track record is a testament to our awesome, well-trained, and reliable staff members.

Importantly, what ACSC does best is make sailing FUN! Beginner sailors launch off of a beach in a shallow protected lagoon, which is perfect for confidence building. Then, outside the breakwater is some of the best dinghy sailing in the Bay Area. Multiple world champions come to sail out of ACSC!

What’s new in ACSC’s wheelhouse this year?
EZ: We have some exciting plans on the horizon…ACSC purchased two C420 sailboats, thanks to grant funding from the CA Division of Boating and Waterways, and we look forward to providing new intermediate and advanced classes with them. They’ll also be used to expand our weekend Learn-to-Sail courses for families and adults.

ACSC specializes in fun, non-competitive sailing. This year, we’re excited to expand our “Adventure Sails” from just a camp activity to a larger weekend program. Think about the excitement and community-building of a regatta, just without the racing. We will provide support boats and a course or destination to sail to. All interested sailors are invited to join in, and anyone interested in volunteering is also welcome. Helping with an Adventure Sail is similar to being on a race committee. Destinations could be as close as Crown Beach, or as far as McCovey Cove or Treasure Island.

How do know that ASCS is making a difference in the community it serves?
EZ: In general, we know we’re on the right track when parents of participants from all walks of life let us know how ACSC has helped their children develop confidence, and how that’s reflected throughout all aspects of their lives.

ACSC partners with several organizations who support underserved children and families. My favorite quote from an East Oakland mother is, “Before, her only career goal was the WNBA. Now, my daughter is also thinking about marine biology because she found a new home on the water.”

Through our Scholarship Program, ACSC breaks down the financial barrier to sailing. Annually, we raise and distribute about $50,000 in scholarships. This serves approximately 60 children from low-income households, and from populations traditionally underrepresented in sailing. A fun fact is that one-third of ACSC staff members were previous scholarship recipients.

Most ACSC participants come from non-sailing backgrounds. Without prior access to boats and the water, many never envisioned themselves becoming sailors. ACSC is honored to be able to introduce them to sailing, and in one of the greatest sailing locations in the whole world, San Francisco Bay! Creating accessible and affordable sailing opportunities is key to growing the sport. The St. Francis Sailing Foundation is a generous supporter of the Scholarship Program. Each year, there’s an increase in the number of scholarship requests, so it’s our ongoing task to secure additional funds to meet the ever-growing need in the community.

How are you keeping your older kids in the game & maintaining an interest in sailing?
EZ: Creating lifelong sailors is definitely the goal. To do this, we first work to ensure those initial sailing experiences are positive. If sailors don’t gain the technical skills right away, that’s okay. It’s more important that they develop a connection to sailing and a desire to come back and learn more. If they enjoyed the experience and internalized a “sailor” identity, even if several years go by, they can always return to sailing.

To create positive experiences– ones that aren’t just fun, but also push kids out of their comfort zones, and instill a sense of accomplishment, we focus on the social-emotional aspects of learning. ACSC instructors must be patient, empathetic, and endlessly encouraging. They need to create environments that inspire exploration, bravery, and confidence-building.

Once they’re hooked, ACSC provides sailors with accessible and affordable ways to stay connected to the sport. That can be done through joining the staff, or through low-cost, zero-commitment sailing opportunities like Open Sail. With Open Sail, you don’t need to own (or bear the financial burden of storing) a boat. Sailors of all ages can come to ACSC and go sailing, and even take a friend.

For middle-school sailors who have outgrown prams, but are not ready for FJs, we’re big fans of the RS Fevas, which we received thanks to US Sailing’s Siebel Sailors Program. And for high schoolers who crave something more, we hope the new C420s add a bit more speed and spice. Lastly, we have a strong Laser racing program, Thursday evenings and Sunday afternoons, mostly made up of mature sailors and empty nesters wanting to get back to sailing.



Michelle SladeAwesome Job Alameda Community Sailing Center!