By David Kligman
SAN FRANCISCO — The best sailing teams in the world are in the city this week as part of the America’s Cup festivities. But for many children who live in nearby underserved neighborhoods the competition may as well be a world away.
On Thursday (Oct. 4), PG&E helped organize an outing for about 80 schoolchildren to watch catamarans flying across the San Francisco Bay in the America’s Cup World Series. This week’s racing is a prelude to the 34th America’s Cup next summer in San Francisco, the first time in 18 years a U.S. city has hosted the international sporting event.
“Most of these kids have only seen the water from the Bay Bridge,” said Jeanette Dupas, a chaperone whose 6-year-old grandson was part of the field trip. “For him, it’s a real special treat. A lot of these children would never have an opportunity to do something like this. It’s truly a blessing that PG&E is reaching out to the community.”
The youngsters were guests of PG&E and the Treasure Island Sailing Center, a nonprofit organization that provides access and sailing instruction to people of all socioeconomic backgrounds, skill levels and physical abilities. The center also teaches children to swim.
The utility has supported the organization’s youth program since 2006 with annual grants totaling $65,000.
Kevin Berry, managing director of the Treasure Island Sailing Center, said the outing couldn’t have happened without PG&E.
“They do it for the right reasons, is what it feels like,” Berry said. “They’re the ones who came to us with the idea and they’re the ones making it happen.”
About 15 PG&E employee volunteers assisted at the event and handed each child a backpack, T-shirt and a reusable water bottle.
The children stared skyward as the Blue Angels flight team, also in town this week, roared overhead practicing their maneuvers.
Before waiting for the racing to begin, the children practiced what it’s like to hoist a sail. They wrote pledges saying what they’ll do to help save the ocean. They tested their agility and balance by running across the netting of a catamaran.
Representatives of the National Energy Education Development also were on hand to teach the children about wind power and helping them assemble paper versions of anemometers, devices that measure wind speed.
Finally, it was time to see the actual racing and watch the world’s fastest boats—the AC45 wing-sailed catamaran. They lined into a section of bleachers with a view of the Golden Gate Bridge to the left and Alcatraz Island to the right. On each side of the bleachers were sections of spectators quietly waiting for the race to begin. They smiled as the children jumped up and down, pointed at the sailing vessels and chanted “USA! USA!”
Sailing is a costly sport but Berry said he’d like it to be as popular as baseball or football.
“It’s great for the kids,” he said. “Sailing is a great sport and I’ve seen the benefits they get out of it—leadership, being comfortable on the water, teamwork, communication. Most of all it’s fun.”
For PG&E, the ultimate purpose of the outing was to give children an experience they might not otherwise have.
“It opens brand-new doors,” said Stephanie Martin, PG&E’s director of community relations. “It allows them to see a career possibility they may never have thought about or understand what the waterfront’s all about. It provides them an opportunity to experience something really special.”
Email David Kligman at David.Kligman@pge.com.