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Maritime Heritage Alliance

Sail Champion


Building the Capacity for Resilience

Empowering Youth



Sail Champion is a nonprofit that brings together sailing, history and community to build the capacity for resilience of youths affected by challenging circumstances.




About SAIL Champion


In 2008, Mr. Henry Barkhausen of Harbor Springs, MI donated the cutter Champion to Maritime Heritage Alliance. Since 2009, the 39 foot Champion has been home to the SAIL Champion program.  S.A.I.L Champion combines sailing, history, and community to empower youth who are affected by challenging circumstances. MHA partners with organizations across the Grand Traverse region, including the juvenile courts systems and foster agencies to identify youth in the region who would benefit from participation in this unique program. Through participation in a five day program aboard Champion youth ages 12-18 work alongside peers, professional crew and therapeutic staff to learn how to sail in a format that teaches teamwork, self awareness and resilience.

Who Is Involved


Participants (boys and girls) in the Sail Champion are youth aged 12-18, who are engaged with supportive services and have a curiosity about sailing the Grand Traverse Bay.   Some youth are or have been involved in the juvenile justice system while others may be involved with the foster care system.  Youth come to us looking for adventure and find relationship and hope.


In past years we have seen youth report:


70% having lost a parent through divorce, abandonment or other reasons

50% having an adult in their home push, grab, slap or throw something at them

44%  lived with someone abusing illegal drugs, alcohol and/or has a household member that has gone to prison

25% reported often feeling nobody in their family loves or cares about them.


Needs Of Youth


The Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University states ‘The capabilities that underlie resilience can be strengthened at any age. “Drawing on this powerful knowledge base, all prevention and intervention programs would benefit from focusing on combinations of the following factors:

(1) Facilitating supportive adult-child relationships;

(2) Building a sense of self-efficacy and perceived control;

(3) Providing opportunities to strengthen adaptive skills and self-regulatory capacities; and

(4) Mobilizing sources of faith, hope, and cultural traditions.”



Program Goal


Sail Champion combines a skills based/challenge format and experiential therapy to nurture caring relationships as a

vehicle for building the emotional resilience of youth in the Grand Traverse region experiencing adversity.


How can you help?


Volunteer to help maintain Champion

Volunteer on Champion with the youth (training and background check required)

Sponsor a group, youth, or other aspect of the program.

Tell other people about Sail Champion

Charter Champion

Donate to Maritime Heritage Alliance's SAIL Champion program  

Contact us, share your ideas


Sponsor Sail Champion



In August 2012, Aaron Dennis and Andy Case of Stone Hut Studios stepped aboard Champion to capture a week of programming.

Maritime Heritage Alliance appreciates all their efforts, generosity, and genius.

View the SAIL Champion video

Maritime Heritage Alliance also thanks those who made this video possible.

  • Child and Family Services of Northwestern Michigan
  • Mental Wellness Counseling
  • Northwestern Michigan College
  • Rotary Charities
  • United Way of Northwest Michigan
  • The Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians
  • Consumers Energy
  • Traverse City Light and Power
Maritime Heritage Alliance
13268 S West Bay Shore Dr
Traverse City, MI 49684