In perusing my latest copy of Cruising World magazine, I came across an article about a program called SailFuture that is based in Sarasota, Florida.

The program was started by Michael Long, and his co-founders Mark Hunter and Hunter Thompson. It uses the art and science of sailing to target at-risk youth, an idea that developed after Long, who had spent time in the juvenile system growing up, turned his life around when he learned a new set of skills to focus on. Realizing this, he wondered if he could prevent kids who were at risk from going “off course” using the exact same way.

And so, they reached out to high school children who have an average GPA of .6 and are likely to drop out of school and sparked a passion for the open sea in them. Through sailing, the youth are able to learn responsibility, leadership, strategic decision-making and, most importantly, how to react to unexpected events — everything that represents the perfect embodiment of what is needed to create grounded future leaders.

College students are employed as their mentors, regardless of whether or not they have previous sailing experience, and are paired with teachers to craft an individual academic plan unique to each student. Weekly benchmarks and accountability ensure progress and completion of the academic career.

These mentors are then paired up with students to figure out how to sail a 2-person racing craft together. These crafts are sensitive to the slightest shift in weight distribution and as thus, capsize easily. Communication and teamwork are essential for success. Sailing, therefore, breeds confidence, encouragement, a satisfaction of accomplishment and lifelong friendships.

SailFuture also offers week-long vacation sails, on a sailboat appropriately named as Defy the Odds, as a way to raise money for their program. From the point of view of someone who charters boats often, why spend thousands of dollars on a boat from a private rental company when you can do the same with SailFuture and contribute to making the lives of at-risk youths better?

It’s a win-win situation.

The young people whose lives are being touched by them are growing up in a world that celebrates outcomes, instead of achievement. SailFuture is building grounded future leaders from people who, at a point in their young lives, almost strayed away from the path they were supposed to be on. Programs like SailFuture are there to help them find their way again and who knows — a graduate of their program may, in the future, become the next Bill Gates or the President of the United States.

If you know of an at-risk youth who might benefit from this program or you’re planning a sailing adventure, check out SailFuture at Also, big thanks to Capt. Michael Long, Mark Hunter and Hunter Thompson for your amazing work with our future leaders.

David is an international speaker, executive coach, serial entrepreneur, and shipwreck survivor. He is the bestselling author of Grounded (Little River, 2016) . If you’re interested in David’s expertise in the areas of leadership, finance, and public speaking, please get in touch here.

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