Ah, 1979. Carter was President, the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, radios blasted I Will Survive and My Sharona, everyone was talking about Kramer vs. Kramer, and seasoned sailor Anthony Sandberg had a white Dodge van and an idea: sailing was too good to be just the sport of the rich.
So the man with a van borrowed a J/24, rented a shack on Alameda Estuary, and hung a shingle that read “Olympic Circle Sailing Club.” His vision was to teach sailing to students the same way he’d teach his friends. “I knew that if I had just one student, I would take such good care of them, they’d tell their friends. And that’s how we started the club,” Anthony recalls.
Within a year of surviving on canned tuna and baked potatoes, Sandberg moved OCSC to an abandoned warehouse and the club had 100 members, hundreds of students, and a small fleet of Capri 14’s. Aspiring sailors were coming to him with what he recognized as cherished, closely held dreams. And to Anthony, part of respecting those dreams was democratizing what was perceived as an elitist, male-dominated sport: anyone, he reasoned, could sail, and women could skipper.
In 1980, Rich Jepsen joined Anthony in running OCSC, and the two knew that the business needed to move beyond the calm waters of the estuary. One look at a chart of the Bay, and the world’s best place for a sailing school was immediately apparent: Berkeley Marina, which was at the time a garbage dump – a garbage dump a two-minute outboard putter from some of the best sailing in the world, that is.
When Anthony stepped into the shack at the end of the point – now the post-renovation home to our Fleet Service department – he fell through the floor and into the Bay. “Fortunately, it was high tide, otherwise I would have been on the rocks. I said, ‘I’ll take it,’” he remembers.
That was 1980, and OCSC has been teaching, sailing, growing, and having fun ever since. And we’re very much a “we” – a welcoming culture where everyone knows your name and sailing isn’t just a sport, it’s a philosophy of respect and joy.
Now we have a fleet of over 50 yachts ranging from durable 24-footers to ocean going yachts over 60 feet long. We have over 75 employees, including over forty instructors, all of whom are professional sailors, certified instructors, and great people. We’ve taught thousands, and fully half of our students are women.
Lots of things have changed with OCSC Sailing since 1979 – the Dodge van and the Capri 14's have long since been retired, our diet has expanded beyond tuna and potatoes, we no longer sleep on classroom tables. And even better, My Sharona is no longer a top-ten hit.
But one thing hasn't changed: we are passionate, as we've been from the beginning, about teaching sailing to our clients just the same way we'd teach our friends.