Learn how to sail, or enjoy our sailing club, on the only sailboat design ever endorsed by a national sailing school organization such as ASA or US Sailing! Plus, other pedigree platforms. Read on…
Our family has introduced a number of sailboat designs to the school industry over the decades, so we know something about what works for teaching (and what doesn’t). From Basic to Bareboat and beyond, our boats are ideally suited to their assignment – the perfect platforms for you to learn or advance on. They are pedigree designs from renowned naval architects that you’ll want to keep coming back to sail on!
- Beneteau First 21.0. The only sailboat design ever endorsed by a national sailing school association such as ASA, US Sailing, etc.
- Pearson Ensign. Designed by the venerable naval architect Carl Alberg.
- Pearson 26 and 10M/33. From Bill Shaw, of Sparkman & Stephens/Pearson fame.
- …and more!
Here are their common attributes, followed by some specifics for each…
Safety. Face it – boats move around a lot, and they lean sideways too. Our boats have ergonomic layouts that make you more relaxed and comfortable sitting down as well as moving around. Unobstructed bench seats, high booms, walkable non-skid decks, and lifelines around the boat to keep you on it. (Yes, some schools teach learn-to-sail on boats without lifelines!)
Size. Appropriate sizing is critical to developing a feel for sailing and also mastering a general size/class of boat at a given level of training. Once you do, you can step up. If you don’t – you’re stuck in limbo. Our Beneteau 21.0 is the closest thing in the region to what the American Sailing Association, ASA, has traditionally recommended for learn-to-sail instruction:
“…a boat of about 20 feet in length.”
Our Beneteau First 21.0 is 20 feet and change. Not 25; not 30 or even larger. Our cruising course boats, from 26 to 33 feet, are similarly scaled for your best success. (The ASA First 22, or First Trainer, is the same length despite the name, as is the standard production model. All variations on this theme are the same physical hull, keel and twin rudders.)
Balance of properties. We choose boats for balance in every sense of the word – safety, sailing properties, steering, space, ergonomics, suitability for teaching the level contemplated, and preparing you for other boats.
Fun to keep sailing on. This is the critical intangible. Will you want to keep sailing, period – let alone on our boats? The answer is yes.
So… which boats do we have that make the grade?
Start Sailing (learn to sail/ASA 101, Basic Keelboat): the Beneteau First 21.0. and Pearson Ensign.
Pictured above, we started using the “Baby Ben,” as many Europeans call it, in the fall of 1997 when I started the second sailing school in our family’s history. In 2015, ASA caught on and partnered with Beneteau to create a slightly modified version called the ASA First Trainer/22. Same boat – hull (body), keel (pivoting and ballast fin), twin rudders (steering fins). We feel that the Beneteau 21 has the best balance of properties found in sailing school boats today. The ASA First 22 is very close – and we were the only school using its predecessor. Guess we got it right in ’97…
The Beneteau’s twin rudders make a huge difference in your training. They make the boat forgiving of mistakes, yet still presenting enough challenge to quickly make you a skipper. Sailboats usually want to turn on their own. Many boats want to turn aggressively unless you sail them aggressively. Beginners aren’t able to. So, the boat overpowers them and the student freezes up. The Beneteau suggests what it would like to do, but it’s easy to overrule the boat! That allows you to learn more effectively – and then transfer those skills to the nautical equivalent of a bucking bronco, and ‘break’ it. In other words, you’ll be better prepared to sail other boats by first sailing ours.
Far from a gimmick, our twin rudders are found on most of the world’s most serious ocean racers…
- Mini 6.5 Meter. Sailing the Mini Transat, these little 21 footers (yep, same as ours) are raced singlehanded across the Atlantic – with spinnakers. These are basically the same boats as ours but built to withstand true ocean sailing.
- Open 5.70. This high-performance class popular in San Francisco Bay is like a large dinghy with a keel on it. It planes (skims fast over the surface) in moderate breezes. At a quick glance, both this and the Mini 6.5 look like our Beneteau 21.
- Class 40. Very competitive coastal and near-coastal offshore racing class.
- Volvo Ocean 65. Around the world race with professional teams sailing long legs in between landfalls. These machines sail at up to 20 knots (over 20 miles per hour).
- Clipper 70. Around the world race with amateur teams who undergo extensive training before participating. One of our students went on to do this race!
The Ensign class sloop was designed by Carl Alberg in 1962. And, unlike most older one-design classes from decades ago, it’s still going strong. In fact, it’s resurgent! This full-keel boat is very stable, and forgiving. Yet, it performs well in lighter winds, which makes it an ideal training boat for all conditions. It’s a fantastic daysailing boat, and is still raced actively in fleets across the country – including in Sheepshead Bay, where we have our 2nd branch, and in Nyack NY on the Hudson. Huge bench seats with deep backrests make it both comfortable and comforting, regardless of the activity. Several quality sailing schools use this design to teach beginners.
Cruising course boats. We use a variety ranging from 26 to 33 feet for our more advanced courses.
For Start Cruising (ASA 103, Basic Coastal Cruising), the next step up, we use several designs depending on what’s best for the students in any particular schedule, or for variety of engines (outboard and inboard).
Pearson 26. From the esteemed and prolific naval architect and designer William “Bill” Shaw. Featured in the article “PHRF Gems Under $20k,” in Sailing World Magazine, this super-popular design is found all over. We’ve seen a few in the Virgin Islands, in fact! Tiller steered, it’s a an excellent step up from the smaller and lighter Beneteau. With an outboard engine, students can learn how those work and also start doing some docking practice! The P-26 sails very well across the wind spectrum, as do our other Pearson designs.
For Start Bareboating, (ASA 104, Bareboat Cruising), we use somewhat larger wheel steered yachts with inboard diesel engines and other appropriate equipment.
Pearson 10M (33). Also a Bill Shaw design, the 10M is significantly different in feel and handling than the 31, making for the perfect progression within or between courses. She’s significantly ‘stiffer,’ giving a feel of more stability. Yet, with three choices of genoas, students learn way more about sail inventory/choice and trim. Her gigantic #1 genoa flies her along in light winds. We’ve had her out in the low end of gale force on several occasions with her smallest genoa/jib and she eats that up, too. She’s an outstanding platform for docking practice with her 3-cylinder diesel, giving the feel of a typical charter yacht in the BVI or Med.
What else do we sail on?
When we find a good complement to the fleet, we grab it. Example…
International Folkboat, often called a Swedish Folkboat. Ours is from Marieholm of Sweden, the premier and most prolific maker. We’d admired them for years after first seeing a pair in the BVI (British Virgin Islands) at Biras Creek Resort. Then, we encountered one on City Island. Yada yada, blah blah – she’s ours now.
She’s a traditional, classic 26-foot design from Sweden in the late 1940’s. There was a design contest, and the winner of that was told to combine the selection committee’s favorite elements of the top designs under consideration. The designer made some modernizations in the 1960’s, and that’s what we see all over the world today.
Common in Scandinavia, and with a fleet of about 120 in San Francisco Bay, this boat has heavy weather written all over it. They have done circumnavigations. Not of neighboring Hart Island, or even Long Island. The globe. They have frequently crossed the Atlantic, and it’s said that the very capable Contessa 26, made famous by Tania Aebi’s circumnavigation starting at the age of 18, was a knock off of the Folkboat with a little more creature comfort. So, what are we doing with one of these ocean proven boats?
Simple. Fleet variety, and the fact that she actually sails very well in light winds! With her fractional rig, it’s easy to carry a lot of sail without a lot of healing leverage, so her generous sailplan carries her along in the light stuff. The heavy full keel keeps her on her toes as the wind picks up, and with a reef and/or her small jib in play, she can handle much, much more than most sailors can. We know- we’ve had her out in 20-25 a few times and she just says, “is this all you’ve got?”
Plus, she points! (This means she can aim surprisingly close to the wind, a great feature.) And, she’s one of the most popular boats in our fleet now.
Sailing Club. The best training boats are often the best choices for just sailing around and cruising too. Our unmatched fleet variety is at your disposal as a sailing club member, and you’ll be able to skipper whatever you trained on from Basic to Bareboat, 21-33 feet. If you learned somewhere else, we’ll evaluate what you’re able to handle and try to bump you up a notch, too.