Like other youth sports and activities, sailing is meant to be fun, empowering, and social. Sailing offers a unique medium to teach more than just practical skills. Sailing can offer tranquility, adventure, and excitement all in one day. Adversity and challenges along the way provide many opportunities for personal growth and teamwork. Boating and water safety is a key component in every junior sailing program. These lessons are widely applicable to other types of boating and recreation.
Why Learn in a Small Boat?
Jack London once quipped that the "small boat sailor is the real sailor." Small sailboats are very responsive to weight placement, sail trim, and rudder movements. Those who master sailing a small boat develop exceptional feel and awareness. It's no wonder that most of the professional sailors in the America's Cup or Volvo Round the World Race started in 8' Optimist dinghies. The skills learned on a small boat are easily transferable to larger sailboats, while adults who learned on larger boats often find dinghy sailing very challenging.
Where to Sail?
There are about 50 learn to sail programs in Washington and Oregon. Sailing classes are taught by a variety of different organizations. Historically yacht clubs were the hub of youth sailing activities. Today a wide range of organizations are involved in sailing instruction. These range from independent non-profit sailing centers to commercial sailing schools, and even parks and recreation departments. Our geography has endowed us with many wonderful lakes, rivers, and protected harbors that are well suited to sailing instruction.
Community Sailing Centers vs. Yacht Clubs
When it comes to Learn to Sail classes, community sailing centers and yacht clubs have a lot in common. Just like community sailing centers, yacht clubs offer junior sailing classes that are open to the public, though yacht club members may receive a discounted price. Because both employ instructors trained by US Sailing, the activities, curriculum, and quality of instruction between yacht clubs and community based programs is very similar. Your child can have a great experience at either a community sailing center or yacht club program. The key to any outstanding program is that it's safe, fun, and that the students are learning.
Cost and Scholarships
Learning to Sail is not expensive, or at least no more so than any other day camp, recreational class, or club sport activity. Community sailing centers are generally a little more affordable. For a 40-hour course, the cost is typically around $300-400. When you break that down, most programs cost between $7.50-$10.00 per hour of class time. That's cheaper than a baby sitter!
Many community sailing programs and yacht clubs offer scholarships for sailors to attend class. The criteria vary from program to program, but most believe that financial circumstance is no reason to miss out. In support of this, The Sailing Foundation grants scholarships for youth sailors in Washington and Oregon who qualify for the Free/Reduced Lunch Program.