Observations from the Siebel Sailors Program – San Francisco
By Coach Chris Childers, Siebel Sailors Coach
It was like almost any other day of coaching youth sailing… until it wasn’t…
The team of ten sailors had been practicing together for about a year at Treasure Island Sailing Center in the middle of the San Francisco Bay. They ranged from late-elementary to early-middle school age with a strong desire to improve their racing prowess. They started out last fall and sailed some Opti Green Fleet races in local regattas.
When I started coaching them a few weeks ago, it was clear they all had some serious skills for their age. We began practicing some starting sequences and learned more about advanced boat handling and racing tactics. But the other cool thing we got to do is play with our new fleet of RS Fevas; the boats that will become the foundation of Siebel Sailors programming here and around the country.
Over the last few weeks, we put down a foundation of doublehanded sailing skills like jib trim, division of responsibilities, and effectively communicating with each other (they love that one!). We did plenty of race practice, but we also had a blast flying around the cove with our friends. So, when the big day came to showcase their hard work in the Fevas for the Siebel Sailors Program Launch at Treasure Island, we were ready.
Same old, same old: rig the boats, wetsuits on, quick chalk talk. But then came the fun. Sunday, October 20 was the day they’d get to show the country what it’s like sailing over here as a competitive youth athlete. We had reporters, friends from other sailing clubs, but tried not to be intimidated by lots of cameras. The team went out earlier than usual for some sailing in the Fevas on a perfect San Francisco fall afternoon, 65 degrees, 10 knots of wind, and no Fog. These youth really showcased their skill sets with perfect race starts, high level boat handling and some impressive roll tacking examples set by an all-female boat.
Our team got off the water in time for the Launch Ceremony and lined up in front of the stage for the speakers to share their wisdom. Tom Siebel, whose foundation made this program possible, spoke about learning to sail himself long ago in Chicago. He told us how excited he was to be able to bring sailing to so many more people with this endeavor.
I even got to talk a little. I told our sailors to look around at the people here today – the President and CEO of the Chamber of Commerce of San Francisco, the CEO of US Sailing, top coaches from the region, the heavy hitters in the Bay Area marine industry, and plenty of storytellers to send our story to the rest of the country. I told our sailors to be careful who you meet here today and every day because the sailing world has a way of getting smaller and smaller. I told the crowd to look at this team in front of me – these sailors are starting strong and, with the resources provided by this program and by each of their support, the sky is the limit.
Lastly, we got to christen the fleet, according to (youth sailing) tradition with bottles of sparkling cider, well shaken and ready to spray. The President of RS Sailing, Jon Partridge, said this was the first time he’d seen an RS Feva properly christened. While the hype, media attention, impressive leaders in the industry and guests who traveled from far and wide all made this event extra special, the skills of this team and the potential that they demonstrated within the sport is the lasting impression that will stick with all who attended. We’re proud that San Francisco and the West Coast got to launch the first event of celebration for the Siebel Sailors Program.