Safe, Informative and Fun Learn-to-Sail Programs Available Up and Down the Island

Mar 23, 2018

The Brant Beach Yacht Club has a particular quote on its website that likely sums up the philosophy of many sailing instructors: “Sailing is a skill, that once learned can be experienced for a lifetime.” And it’s true. Each of the Island’s yacht clubs has among its ranks plenty of sailors who started out as youngsters and continue to enjoy sailing for many decades. In fact, some of the best sailors, who routinely fare well in local, regional and national regattas, are in their 50s and 60s.

So how does a young boy or girl get started on the path to becoming a viable sailor, on the way to many years of enjoyment on the water? Simple – join one of the local clubs’ sailing programs.

Whether you opt for Haven Beach Club, Little Egg Harbor Yacht Club, Spray Beach Yacht Club, Barnegat Light Yacht Club, Surf City Yacht Club or BBYC, each offers a program geared to teaching the fundamentals of sailing.

“The program’s primary goal is to teach the fundamentals of sailing in a safe and fun environment,” states the Haven Beach Club’s website. “Whether your child is of the competitive nature or just wants to sail for fun, he or she will find a place in one of our programs.”

According to information readily available on many of the local clubs’ websites, it’s easy to glean an idea of what young sailors can expect when participating in sailing programs. Some start with children as young as 7 years old, while others start with children 8 and older.

At BLYC, the basic beginner course is Opti 7 – a 2½-hour, twice-per-week course with no boat usage fee – that is designed to be “an introduction to sailing with an emphasis on creating enthusiasm for the optimist pram, its parts and nautical terms. Participants move slowly from working with the boat on land to growing accustomed to the boat in the water, all with an eye to safety, comfort and fun.”

The junior sailing program at LEHYC is one of the longest-running programs on the East Coast, according to its website. Part of its program’s objective is “to teach seamanship, sailing and racing skills, and sportsmanship in a safe and fun environment, enable children to acquire, through the whole experience of the program, life-long values such as sportsmanship, consideration for others, teamwork, and self-worth, and teach children how to sail to the best of their ability and interest.”

One key point many of the local clubs make is that safety is of utmost importance, as it should be. The last thing parents want is to entrust their children to instructors who aren’t teaching safety first and foremost.

And at Surf City Yacht Club, safety is such a high priority that it requires all youth enrolled in its programs to pass a swimming test.

“Surf City Yacht Club offers youth sailing programs for all ages and abilities,” states the SCYC website. “The safety of our youth sailors is paramount. All sailors, regardless of the number of years in the program, are required to pass a safety swim test the first day of the program. Each sailor must wear a USCG-approved, vest-type personal flotation device while on the water. Participants in swimming and sailing will be tested and placed by an instructor. Sailors may stay in a sailing or swimming level for more than one year depending on the student’s level of achievement.”

Of course, with each club, eligibility to participate varies for club members and nonmembers. Some offer nonmember youth to participate in certain programs, while others require club membership in some form. Many of the clubs also offer programs for inexperienced adults as well.

In short, there’s no one model for success when it comes to teaching youngsters how to sail, and not all the clubs’ instructors do it the same way, so it’s best to do your homework and visit a club to get a feel for the operation.

For information on each club, visit their respective websites: LEHYC – lehyc.com; HBC – havenbeachclub.com; BBYC – bbyc.net; BLYC – barnegatlightyachtclub.com; SCYC – scyc-nj.org; SBYC – spraybeachyachtclub.org.

David Biggy

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