The Life Sail junior sailing organization finished in last place in the Berger/Stein Series that ran this past weekend. But while other competitors might be making excuses and/or pointing fingers, this crew was perfectly happy with the results, because the reason they were racing last Saturday was more about making the start and crossing the finish than anything else.
Typhoon’s skipper Matt Schulz is the founder of Life Sail, a nonprofit organization whose program is designed to build character in young people through the medium of sailing.
The program targets underprivileged and disadvantaged kids of all ages who stand to benefit from the learning experiences the sport of sailing has to offer.
They look to parents with few prospects or resources and provide an opportunity for their kids to learn about a new world with the hope of inspiring them and guiding them towards a more positive future.
Schulz, who owns a marine surveying company, has been devoting his spare time to helping kids in need for decades. Before he formed Life Sail with partner Jim Frazier, he and his wife Carol gave many hours to stewarding students and donating their time to troubled kids.
In 2003 he formed Life Sail recognizing the invaluable life lessons that could be learned through the experiences associated with sailing. Schulz himself once crossed the Atlantic in a 29-foot sailboat and served in the German navy from 1969 to 1977.
“It’s about using sailing as a tool to build character, learning ownership and responsibility,” said Schulz. “The kids in the program are given their own boat and they’re responsible for it.”
Life Sail has just recently received some funding that went directly into bringing the organization’s 40-foot Olson, Typhoon, up to snuff. They currently have a number of sabots and this larger boat that Schulz plans to use as a vehicle for a variety of unique sailing experiences the kids will benefit from.
He is planning a program this summer that brings youth groups up to the Channel Islands and will also continue to use Typhoon for more racing excursions.
“We want to get the kids interested in sailing and the big boat is just a great tool to do this,” Schulz said. “It’s a non-frightening way to introduce them to the sport.
“We use it as an outreach tool to get kids off the street and have them focus on healthy activities with positive goals in mind.”
Through the process of the Berger/Stein Series Race the children were able to have a weekend enveloped in all that sailing offers.
Unlike other similar programs, Schulz doesn’t invite the kids for a day sail and ask them each to stand at the helm for a few minutes for a photo op.
With this past weekend as an example, he enlisted the youngsters as part of the delivery crew, along with supervising adults, that brought the boat up from Long Beach and, once delivered to Del Rey Yacht Club, they become racing crew and Life Sail’s chaperones would then instill the values of competition upon the fledgling racers.
The boat desperately needs a new main and a last-minute repair made them late for the start, so Typhoon was off to a shaky beginning, but in certain ways these limitations made for more fibrous lessons.
There were four kids on board ranging from nine to 16 years old and they were each given a task that would insure that the boat would successfully make the finish line. In this early stage, Schulz was more concerned about teaching the kids about finishing what they start than the strategies of yacht racing.
If the interest exists, Shultz and crew will have a wealth of lessons to teach as the kids continue learning about the intricacies of the sport.
In both the cruising adventure to Channel Islands and their racing exploits aboard the 40-foot Olson, Schulz is mindful of what’s at stake.
“For us, it’s not about the trip, arriving fast or winning in the race; it’s about the journey, doing the watch, relying on each other and trusting each other, things like that.”
As Life Sail slowly grows, the organizers are proud of the fact that over 800 kids have passed though their doors and learned from their teaching, but are hopeful and energetic about the program getting to the next level.
Schulz is actively pursuing more funding to obtain some Optimists sailboats that would be more suitable than the sabots they currently have. The Optimists provide more room for growth and development.
They also want to send five kids to the California Yacht Club’s youth sailing camp this summer. Their hope is to raise about $5,000 to 6,000 to make these things happen and continue with the unique programs that they have developed and are developing.
For more about Life Sail, www.lifesail.com.