Press Package | Michigan Challenge Traditional Sail Training

Nonprofit History


In 2016 Captain Bryan Smith and Dr. Susan Wainwright formed a new nonprofit, Michigan Challenge Traditional Sail Training. Captain Bryan’s background included teaching sailing, conducting classes for captains’ licenses, and sailing schooners. He has observed in his students and passengers the pride of mastering a new skill and the restorative qualities of relaxing on the water while the wind quietly powers a sleek sailboat across a lake.

One area of Dr. Wainwright’s expertise is adolescent psychotherapy. In her practice, she has observed that when a child loses a parent before age ten the risk for major depression, suicide attempts, substance abuse, anorexia, bulimia, self-cutting, and other serious psychiatric disorders is catastrophically increased. Gold Star Teens, children who have lost a parent in the military, are especially susceptible to these problems and became the focus of the Michigan Challenge’s mission: to provide tuition-free sailing adventures to the youth whose parents made the ultimate sacrifice for our country.

Both Dr. Wainwright and Captain Bryan had been involved in a sailing program for at-risk teens, and they dreamed of an expanded program on a larger boat. After adding three more board members who had also been involved in youth sailing programs, they purchased the 68-foot steel-hulled schooner Perception.

L. Francis Herreschoff

Perception was designed by the famous naval architect L. Francis Herreshoff. She was built in New Zealand by Mike Bentley and launched in 1984.  He sold it to a prominent Massachusetts architect, Jamie Weisman. On her voyage to her new homeport of Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, he and his crew sailed her to Australia, the Galapagos, Brazil, and the Caribbean. Sadly, he passed away in 2015, and his widow, appreciative of Michigan Challenge’s mission, sold Perception to the Board of Directors.

The Board traveled to Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, in the summer of 2017 to purchase Perception, where she was de-rigged and trucked to Traverse City, Michigan, and work began on restoration and upgrades. During the winter and spring of 2018 the team met with veterans’ organizations to locate Gold Star Teens and introduced our sailing program. Our first program was in July of 2018, and we learned as much from the teens as they did from us. It was a very rewarding experience, and were excited to continue programs the

Gold Star Teens in Bay City

summer of 2019. We also hosted a number of free day sails for veterans, gained volunteers and trained crew, and continued the upgrades and refurbishings of our beloved Perception.

In 2019 we ran two more Gold Star Teen programs, appeared at our first Tall Ships Festival where we hosted Gold Star Teens’ families, took veterans out for free sails at Harbor Days in Elk Rapids, and showed off Perception at the Hessel Classic Boat Show in Hessel, Michigan, and will continue to give free sails to veterans.

We were thrown off course by 2020. Although we rigged Perception, the pandemic cancelled our programs for youth. We did do some sail training and gained new volunteers. Our plan for 2021 is to expand our youth programs, in partnership with the Optimist Club, to local youth organizations. Perception is now on the hard in Mackinaw City, where we will paint the hull, varnish the cabin teak,complete some mechanical work, and continue upgrading the interior. We are working on scheduling teen programs, and will be competing in the 2021 Chicago to Mackinac race this summer.



Our Board

Capt. Bryan Smith

Board President, Co-Founder

Captain Bryan Smith

Captain Bryan became interested in sailing in 1975 when a friend bought a sailboat, and he raced it with him. He got his captains’ license in 1994.

He was first mate, and then captain of the Appledore IV for 3 years. The Appledore ran an Outward Bound type program for youth aging out of the foster care system. The program involved sail training, life mapping, and counseling.

Captain Bryan joined MHA in 2002, and has been captain of the schooner Madeline since 2005. He has taken her to Lakes Superior, Huron, Erie, and Michigan.

He was also captain of the armed sloop Welcome, and visited Lake Michigan and Lake Huron in Canada with her.

In 2008 Captain Bryan was instrumental in securing the donation of the gaff-rigged cutter Champion to MHAThe donation carried the stipulation that she be used to benefit youth. Captain Bryan developed the S.A.I.L. Champion program based on the Appledore model.

Captain Bryan started US Captains Training in 1999, which licenses master mariners. He also has worked for Great Lakes Sailing Company since 1990 teaching American Sailing Association sailing classes, and was awarded International Instructor of the Year, based on the comments of his clients in their post-class reviews. In 2015 he was awarded a life saving award from the Elmwood Fire and Rescue Department for actions taken in the saving of a life on Grand Traverse Bay.

Capt. Jason Lombardi

Board Vice President

Captain Jason Lombardi

Jason became interested in sailing the first time he stepped onto the deck of his parents’ sailboat as a child. He spent time in different ports and marinas from Saint Clair to the Mackinac Straits and west to Lake Michigan. Sailing stirred up excitement and adventure in him as a child and continues to do so today.

Jason had an early start in the construction trades with the family business. He painted houses on the side and ran his own outdoor property maintenance business until market and life changes made him take a look at following his passion for sailing and boats and make a career in the maritime trades.

This bought him back to school to study welding and machine tooling, and the preliminary studies for maritime trades. This also brought him to US Captains Training® in 2010 to get his merchant mariners license. His instructor, Captain Bryan Smith, encouraged him to get involved with the Maritime Heritage Alliance, a nonprofit which owns several classic boats and runs the S.A.I.L program for at-risk teens aboard the gaff-rigged topsail cutter Champion. He became mate, then captain of Champion, and became a captain-in-training on Welcome, a replica of a Revolutionary War-era armed sloop.

Jason then accepted a maritime welding job in Wisconsin and was contracted to work on the LCS (Littoral Combat Ships) vessels for the US Navy. He worked in the Marinette Marine Corporation shipyard in Wisconsin on steel hulls and the Austal shipyard in Alabama, welding both steel and aluminum hulls, and pipefitting.

Jason returned home to Traverse City to captain Champion for two seasons and also served as a relief captain on Nauti-Cat, a tourist catamaran. He is currently working at MMC hull welding on the LCS vessels, and has started his own welding and fabrication business specializing in marine applications Keelson Metal Works. With Michigan challenge he hopes to spark interest in a younger generation for the many different maritime trades, and provide a workforce badly needed in the Great Lakes area.

Judy King

Board Treasurer

Judy King

Judy was a social worker and rehabilitation counselor with degrees in social work from Central Michigan University for the State of Michigan for 34 years, helping transition students into employment. Her retirement adventures include cooking on a wood stove for Schooner Manitou guests & crew for one year, and crew/volunteer for Maritime Heritage Alliance for 10 years. There she served as crew and secretary for the Champion S.A.I.L. program, was crew on the schooner Madeline, participated in maintaining Madeline, and was in charge of mentoring new recruits. She is crew on Perception, and serves as trainer and counselor for youth in Perception’s programs.






Barbara Horning

Board Secretary

Barbara Horning

Barb grew up in Lansing. Her dad had a steel fabrication company, and built a 40’ steel gaff-rigged ketch, which was her

introduction to sailing. The family had a cottage in Suttons Bay, where they docked the boat.

Barb graduated from CMU and taught high school English for 32 years in Hastings, MI. After retirement she and her husband Bill built a home on the site of the old family cottage. They both volunteered for several years with Inland Seas Education Association, an organization that teaches Great Lakes science to students aboard the schooner Inland Seas.

They joined Maritime Heritage Alliance in 2007, and volunteered in many capacities on the schooner Madeline. Barb also crewed on the cutter Champion with program for at-risk teens, S.A.I.L. Champion. She is now on the board of Michigan Challenge, serving as secretary.



Captain Bryan Smith– Cell: (231) 642-7656 Email:

Judy King–  Email:

Barbara Horning–  Email:




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Michigan Challenge Traditional Sail Training Logo

Michigan Challenge Logo

Perception under full sail.

Perception Under Full Sail

Gold Star girls raise Perception's sails

Gold Star girls raise Perception's sails

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