Sailing is one of those activities thats both a recreation and a sport. And there isnt a sport in the world that doesnt somehow, somewhere get defined into competition. Theres even walking competition; as a matter of fact, its been an Olympic event for years.
And while sailing can be both a relaxing day sail on the lake or river or sound or Gulf or Ocean, the temptation is often there, when the other guys sail by you, to trim your sails a little and take off after them. From such laid back one-on-ones come the refinements that have led to the 11 Olympic Classes and, of course, the granddaddy of all international sports competitions - the Americas Cup.
Interestingly enough, most of the top Americas Cup skippers were successful small boat sailors. They started in dinghies, maybe eight or ten foot of boat as youngsters, and found they could handle anything that fate and good fortune tossed their way later.
Which is why almost all the community sailing schools around the nation, as well as yacht clubs, start people off in smaller boats. Many schools, and summer camps, of course, cater to youngsters, but a growing number of Community Sailing programs, from California to Florida, from the State of Washington to the State of Maine, have classes for adults.
And one of the best things about these schools, is that many of them have rental fleets, so once a grown up, or a teenager for all of that, learns to sail to the satisfaction of the school, they can rent boats that are the same or similar to the ones they learned on. This ratchets the comfort level up several notches. And, if a person is thinking about winter chartering or purchasing of a sailboat of their own, this is a way to try several types of boat before investing money.
Community and private sailing schools are open to all comers, and many yacht clubs today are inviting outsiders in to learn to sail. Some schools teach the basics of racing as an advanced course, some move people on to the niceties of cruising.
The best recreational information sources estimate as many as 200,000 people; grown ups and young people; learn to sail or improve their sailing skills each year through a sailing school. And summer camps teach another 95,000 youngsters. For a nationwide list of sailing schools, call 1-800-535-SAIL.
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