An objective guide to finding a great sailing school  

A Sailing School Is Only As Good As Its Instructors

Knowledgable, dedicated, and inspiring instructors are what separates good from great sailing programs, yet determining the quality of a school's instruction is the trickiest part of comparing classes. Here are some simple ways to improve your chances of finding a great instructor.

How Important Is the Instructor

The instructor is the most important aspect of a course. The instructor dictates the pace, approach, and tone of the class -- all of which affect how much you will enjoy yourself and how much you will learn. Furthermore, a large portion of the cost of these sailing schools goes to retaining quality instructors, so you should expect your instructor to contribute significantly to the quality of your experience.

Clearly, the instructor is important. But as you think about what you need to find in an instructor, think of the instructor as being the source of the following aspects of the experience:

  • Explaining the academic material -- Course books are usually standardized, but far from perfectly clear. Only your instructor and other students can help you sort through the content.
  • Imparting confidence -- The instructor should put you at ease while sailing and teach you to control the boat.
  • Providing inspiration and motivation -- Your instructor's love of sailing should be infectious.

Other aspects of a course, such as the thrill of sailing or the fun of the whole experience typically arise without the instructor's help or expertise.

How to Judge a School

Schools typically hire and retain their instructors on a part-time basis, give them some initial training and guidelines, and keep them as employees until students start to complain. As a result, the quality of a school's instructors depends primarily on how well they can attract good people in the first place, and how diligent they are about replacing instructors with bad reviews. A strong review system will also encourage instructors to please the students, which means that they will extend beyond the course material by trying to impart confidence and inspiration.

The table below distinguishes some of the qualities of great schools relative to their lesser counterparts. Rate your potential schools using these dimensions to figure out who will be likely to provide a great teacher:


School with average instructors

School with great instructors

Reputation of the school

The school has enough students to fill weekly classes during sailing season.

A prestigious racing school known throughout the region.

Course content offered

Standard series of courses for sailing enthusiasts.

Race and performance courses along with standard series.

Hiring process

Acquaintances of the school's owner/manager often become instructors.

Ongoing hiring process brings in instructors in a structured manner.

Employee retention

Instructors continue to teach until they receive harsh negative feedback.

Instructors are only invited to stay if they receive positive reviews.

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How to Find Sailing Schools to Consider -- Make sure to start yourself with a solid list of schools to compare before making a decision. The right school for you isn't always the easiest to find.

Typical Content for a US Sailing or ASA Beginner Sailing Course -- Know what your sailing course will entail in terms you can understand.

Best Locations for Your First Sailing School -- Basic facts about the four most prominent sailing areas in the United States.

The Right Length and Schedule for a Sailing School Course -- A discussion of the total course length needed to learn to sail and various course formats.

Every Body Counts: Class Size in Sailing Schools -- The facts about how a larger or smaller class is going to affect your experience in sailing school.

The Final Decision: There Can Be Only One -- A summary of the most important aspects of a sailing course and thoughts on how to make your choice.