Sister City Sails
By Olivia Boynton | Photos Courtesy of Sister City Sails
The sister city Youth Sailing Exchange program between Sausalito, California and Cascais, Portugal, is a life-changing cultural experience for its junior sailors. Founded in 2013, and hosted by Sausalito Yacht Club and Clube Navale of Cascais, the program alternates exchanges between the two countries each year and involves 12 youth per cycle. Over each summer break, six junior sailor ambassadors from one of the countries are completely immersed in the other’s culture, staying with host families. The junior sailors gain life skills beyond sail training and racing in this overseas adventure; they learn independence, responsibility, language, and cultural skills, far away from home.
Since the program’s inception, many students have become sailing coaches at the two yacht clubs and formed lifelong friendships with their exchange counterparts. “The program made me want to learn more about other cultures and showed me how valuable other cultures are,” says Andy Strike, a former Youth Sailing Exchange participant. He participated in the program for two years and eventually became a coach at Sausalito Yacht Club before attending college.
The program is the first youth sailing exchange program of any sister cities around the world. In 2016, the program was honored as Best Overall Program for a city of just over 7,000 by the Sister Cities International organization. “It has been a tremendously successful, well-received program and a great opportunity for students,” says Cheryl Popp, volunteer Sister City chair. Staffed completely by volunteers, the Sausalito Youth Sailing Exchange program is funded in part by the Sausalito Yacht Club, the Sausalito Youth Sailing Foundation, and an annual fundraiser that continues the cultural exchange experience, which features an evening of Portuguese Fado music and Portuguese food and drink. The next Fado fundraiser will be held at the historic manor The Pines in Sausalito on May 16, 2020.