Mission and History
The Peninsula Youth Sailing Foundation (PYSF) is a non-profit 501c (3) organization that was formed in the year 2000. From its inception, PYSF has been dependent on the support of volunteers and donations from the community for its success. Their primary mission is to coach, teach, and nurture youth sailors in the San Francisco Bay Area by providing instruction, coaching, practice, and racing opportunities.
After finishing up a 2012 Olympic Campaign, finishing 5th in the Elliot 6M women’s match racing, Molly O’Bryan Vandemoer was hired as the Director and Head Coach. Since her hire, the foundation has experienced a boom in both participation and overall organization. In her own words, “Before leaving for the Games I knew I was going to need something to keep me busy when I returned. And the PYSF job certainly has done that! The program was in need of a full-time director to help instill consistent organization, practices, and a logical plan for the kids and parents to follow.”
PYSF’s primary sailing area is the Port of Redwood City turning basin, the same home waters of Stanford University. They also have access to open water on South San Francisco Bay, a short 10 minute sail from the basin. Conditions range from 0-5 and very shifty in the winter to 20+ knots nearly every day in the summer. Its South Bay location protects them from the notorious San Francisco summer fog. Most summer days are sunny and 75-85 degrees.
Due to the temperate climate of the Bay Area, PYSF is able to offer programs 12 months a year in 420s, lasers, and Optis. In their year around program, The Foundation currently has 29 kids registered in the high school program, 17 in 420s, 15 in Optis, and 3 in Lasers from ages 8-18. Their Race Teams meet multiple times a week and focus training on long course, boatspeed, and boathandling. The summer is comprised of 4 session that offer everything from learn to sail to advanced racing. PYSF also provides boats for anyone who does not own their own.
(See the schedule here)
In addition to their Junior Racing program, PYSF offers high school sailing to any high school sailor interested. The sailors do not need to be part of an official HS team, and sailing experience is not an absolute requirement. They currently have sailors from over 14 schools. Most schools start sailing Pacific Coast High School Events as Conglomerate Teams, made up of multiple schools. They are allowed a 2-year grace period to get enough sailors to fill an A and B division from the same school. Many local schools have successfully started full sailing teams based off this model. 8th graders are also allowed to practice and compete with PYSF once they complete the Introductory FJ class. To help strengthen the high school program, PYSF just purchased an identical fleet of FJ’s from a college on the East Coast. This will allow them to offer an equal practice platform and host some provided boat events, a rarity on the west coast.
Challenges and Future Plans
In a sense, PYSF has many of the same challenges as all clubs face, participation, funding, etc, but without the structure and sometimes burdensome yacht club politics, they are free to set their own agenda. A main goal for them is to “get sailing to be a consistent part of the kids’ over-scheduled lives.” The year-round sailing climate certainly helps with this but they also have a scholarship program to help families with financial need get kids on the water. When asked how scholarships will help PYSF meet challenges and future plans, Molly responded, “Sailing can be an expensive sport and PYSF wants to make sure that the opportunity to get into a sailboat is available to everyone. Our challenge is to grow the sport and instill a love for it. If awarding a scholarship helps me reach another kid, then it is a win for everyone.” Since August, they have awarded three scholarships and expect to get 2-3 more requests through the summer.
As an Olympic racer herself, it’s no surprise that Molly has made racing a primary focus for The Foundation: “I am here to help implement a feeder program for kids from 8-18 years old that will help get more NorCal sailors into the National sailing scene. I would also like to see the program’s healthy learn-to-sail classes feed into more kids racing from ages 10-13.”
The fact that they are the only junior racing program in South San Francisco Bay should also help their cause. Many kids commute more than an hour each way to get good coaching up in the city. Now many of these kids are able to sail more locally. Some have even started high school teams and have been able to bring new people into the sport. As Molly explains, “Most importantly I want to get these kids the opportunity to see how fun the sport is, gain friends with common likes and hopefully go on to their college teams, join area Yacht Clubs, and become sailors for life.”
For more information on PYSF visit their website: http://www.pysf.us/