by Bicycle Bob
Many areas have specific programs for kids. They’re most commonly located at a yacht club, sailing club, or camp, or through some community program, and are conducted during the summer months. Don’t be put off by the fact that you’re not a club member, a student at the university, or whatever. Most private yacht club junior programs welcome nonmembers. Check out the registration process in the winter months to make sure that the class doesn’t fill up before your child is on the list.
If you find more than one potential program in your area, ask your child to help make the decision. Nine times out of ten, the best class is with her friends. I kept sailing mainly because all my friends sailed. If it’s fun, your child is more likely to stick with it!
Keep the following factors in mind when checking out a youth sailing program:
Schedule: Some programs run for two months, others in biweekly increments. Advanced groups may meet in the afternoon and beginners in the morning. Make sure that you know the number of hours your child will be sailing per day. What about lunch? Hungry kids don’t learn as well as kids on a full stomach.
Type and availability of boats: Find out what type of boat beginners sail. Do you need to own a boat, or does the club provide one? In some programs, if you don’t own the boat, you have to crew. Crewing is fine for intermediate sailing, but beginners need to know how to steer the boat too.
Grouping criteria: Most programs divide students into groups by age, which can create a small problem if your child is starting a few years late like Peter did. Ask the organizers how they solve this problem.
Curriculum: Some programs (especially yacht clubs) may stress racing (which we love) over recreational sailing. This approach is okay, but having a balance is nice, and the best programs have a high fun factor.
Instructors: What is the ratio of instructors to students? What certifications do the instructors have? Often instructors are college students; find out how many have previous teaching experience. A school rehiring an instructor for the next season is a good sign.
Safety: Has the program had any problems in the past? What sort of special equipment, safety procedures, and insurance does it have? What are the age and swimming requirements?
Equipment: What equipment does your child need? Does the school provide life jackets, or must you provide your own?
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