People often ask me what they can do to improve their sailing skills faster. My answer: "Get as much active time on the water as possible." The key word here is 'active time'. This does not mean hopping on a cruise boat on a nice sunny evening and motoring around while sipping wine. It means going out in anything the nature throws at you - rain, cold, no wind, high wind and yes, sometimes even a bit of hail! I guess what I am saying is that if you make a commitment to go out for a sail, go even if the weather isn't quite perfect. Keep safety in mind, but don't be afraid to venture out of your comfort zone every now and then. You will enjoy those nice sunny days that much more because your skills will never get 'rusty'.
How to get more active time on the water:
-> Start with Basic and Intermediate Cruising courses to find out if sailing is a sport for you. If you get hooked, keep sailing :)
-> Take a few Sail Trim classes to gain the confidence and get used to the sailing terminology.
->Take advantage of our Drop-In sailing events. This is an inexpensive way to get more time out on the water.
-> Go and try sailing on dinghies. If you want a crash-course on understanding wind, sail trim and boat handling, you need to try to sail a dinghy at least a couple of times. MacSailing at Jericho offers great intro courses. You can also consider joining a dinghy club for a season or two.
-> Get into keel boat or dinghy racing. Racing is not for everyone but it is an absolute best way to improve your skills fast. Why? Because you make a time commitment and you stick with it for a full sailing season. Your commitment to crew on a boat will 'force' you to go out even in conditions beyond your comfort level. You will also be surrounded by people with many years of experience as well as other boats, so if anything goes wrong, help is not very far away. If you take our sailing classes and discover that you want to sail more despite the unpredictable marine environment, I highly recommend that you try to crew on a race boat. It can be a bit intimidating at first, but it is the perfect way to get your 'active time' out on the water and improve your skills fast. Once you become a competent crew, you will be in high demand and will have as many opportunities to go out and sail on beautiful high performance boats as you can handle. Simply Sailing offers some Introduction to Racing courses which you can take before joining a crew pool for the local races. Take a few classes to improve your skills, so you can go and search for a boat to crew on with more confidence in your own skills.
That being said, there is absolutely nothing wrong with being a fair-weather sailor and taking things one step at a time on nice and sunny days. Do whatever feels right, but do get out there and explore the coast from the water at least a few times per year.
Christof is the owner and operator of Simply Sailing. An enthusiastic sailor he loves to share his knowledge with other sailors.
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