Mask up; show up!

We’re not out of COVID country yet, so protect and then play.

IN THAT PIC: Melody, Sunday, October 18, during a Start Cruising course (ASA 103). She did 101 with us this season as well!

It’s been a strange season, but as usual, we improvise, adapt and overcome. In March, we didn’t know if we’d have a sailing season at the Sailing Center! By June, we knew it would be closer to biz as usual on the water, in addition to our innovative and popular “Live 105” courses on Zoom for Coastal Nav (which no one else seems to be running). We figured we just had to play it safe.

We did. We limited class sizes beyond (below?) our normal capacities, further reduced classroom time for learn to sail courses, and mandated masks. Sometimes, people could take them off, but only when it made sense. Most people arrived at the Sailing Center pre-conditioned to wearing their masks all the time. (One or two prospective students were not invited to sign up after expressing a distaste or unwillingness to wear masks.)

Video clip for ya ! Mike and Kelly “deal with the heel” on a windy day…


We got through the season, which is winding down. It ends by early November for us. But, the country, and much of the world, is NOT through the pandemic. Politics aside, numbers don’t lie. People lying in ICU beds in hospitals are not faking it. Many countries are in their second or third waves or spikes, and winter is coming which will almost certainly make the pandemic worse. (And don’t forget the flu!!!) A COVID-19 vaccine is not immediately around the corner, nor is worldwide distribution of it when it arrives. So… wear that mask!

IN THAT PIC: Laura, behind all that mask and hair, joining two lines with a rolling hitch in tandem with Chris’ hands. Start Sailing, ASA 101, in September.

So…. it’s not over ’til it’s over. That sadly applies to the pandemic, but I’ll gladly take that this sailing season isn’t quite over and despite that, and eager anticipation of sliding down snow, we’re already looking forward to the next one!

‘102:’ When 101 Didn’t Add Up For You.

The new Clinic from NY Sailing Center; it fills in the gaps left by the sailing school you went to instead of ours to learn how to sail a boat. Oops…

Years ago, we basically stopped offering rentals to the outside public, and restricted it to our own graduates. Anyone can join our Sailing Club, but before they can skipper one of the boats, they must prove they can handle it. We include one short private lesson for new members to help get them skippering.

Here’s an example: someone who joined our Club, who had 101 training and had other experience. What he didn’t do? Includes but not limited to…

  • Sailing a boat without an engine;
  • Sailing off or back onto a mooring;
  • Singlehanding.

So, in the clip below, you’ll see him doing the singlehanding part. roughly, but safely. We coached him through this after teaching him how to get off a mooring without a motor. When he was ready to come in, we coached him on that. Roll video:

One of our new Sailing Club members practices singlehanding, after a Beta version of our upcoming ‘102’ clinic!

So, why did we stop renting to gen-pop? They were all failing the rental checkout. Most schools had transitioned to courses that were only two days long, and it just isn’t enough. That’s a time-tested fact.

The other day, I chimed in on the ASA Private Instructors’ Forum on Facebook. (ASA is the American Sailing Association, the industry association we belong to for accreditation and certification. All legitimate schools in the US belong to ASA or US Sailing; most are ASA. ) There was a post relevant to this topic. The original poster mentioned that a school he had worked at did their learn-to-sail course in only 2 days, and he felt that 3 days was necessary. An ASA staff member commented, indicating that 3 to 4 days or sessions are typical for a proper learn to sail course. (Half day sessions can be quite productive.) I added this:

The trend toward 2-day courses has devalued the certification. I stopped renting to the general public years ago out of frustration with rental checkouts and wasted time due to this. Students who attended 3-day programs, where each day was spent mostly sailing, usually passed our checkout. NO student who did a 2-day course EVER passed our checkout. We wanted them to succeed and become rental customers. None of them passed muster. 2 days just isn’t enough, especially when the “unofficial” official industry standard is 4 per boat (we do 3 and some other schools do as well). We gave up; we don’t rent to the outside public. They can join our club program, get a free private lesson, sail with others, and be re-assessed.

Captain Stephen Glenn Card, Director and HBIC,* NY Sailing Center.

(*HBIC – Head Bozo in Charge.)

Two other members of the forum ‘liked’ my comment. No one disliked or commented on mine.

At least 2 schools in our region claim to have a 3-day course that is actually only 2 days of instruction. One does a few hours of classroom the night before the weekend of the course (after work; tired; bored after a few minutes). But, they only give 2 days of on-water instruction and sailing. Another does 2 days of mostly on-water, then lets students practice on a 3rd day. But, there’s no instruction going on after their 2-day 101.

So, where’s 102? Doesn’t exist. Not yet; not formally. But we’re going to offer a new clinic: “102: for when their 101 wasn’t enough for you.” This will be a clinic to have fun filling in the gaps left by other schools. It will be at least a day’s worth of time, probably broken up into two shorter sessions on two visits to the Sailing Center. Tuition? Not sure yet. We’ll debut it later this summer.

If you want to do it right the first time, here’s what we provide in 101:

  • 3 full days of instruction, each mostly to entirely on the water.
  • 2 half days of supervised and coached practice. An instructor is around the whole time, and is alongside during sail hoisting and ‘take-off’ before coaching as needed via radio and chase boat for the remainder of the practice. But, the instructor isn’t aboard. Students are sailing without one. This is the logical progression.
  • More time if needed for either instruction or practice. For example, if weather delays eat away too much time from a scheduled course, we simply schedule a free make-up session. If students aren’t feeling confident after the first practice, they can get more instruction for free before doing more practice. (This has NEVER happened.) If they want more supervised practice before renting or joining our Club, that’s fine – they get it. (This happens rarely; less than once per season.)

We also get people who join us for their next course, 103, after not taking 101 with us. They’re rarely ready for 103, and it becomes remedial. They weren’t done with 101!

You can pay a lot less at other schools to take their ASA 101 course. Of course, you get what you pay for. And then you pay more later. Or, you can just get it right the first time with us. Your move!

For more about our Start SailingSM 101 course, navigate your way here…

Olympics Day: on How Many Boats Did I Play?

Our Director reminisces about Olympic sailing class boats he’s raced, and how it helps teach you how to sail and learn to sail better.

Laser dinghy, stand-up style! On Lake Garda, Italy: from Gregorio Moreschi’s Instagram.

I’ve been at this for awhile. I started sailing as a small boy aboard whatever my parents were on, and sometimes boats that just my Dad and I were aboard. We were both relative latecomers to one thing: sailing dinghies. He started WAYYY late, and I started somewhat late (at 15). Some of my fondest memories are of the two of us on separate Dyer Dhows in the Mamaroneck Frostbiting Association winter series. I sailed ‘Dyer Straits;’ he joined the next season on ‘Apocalypse Dhow.’ We had mixed race records, with a modest rate of success (i.e, staying in A Division and taking home some plaques and platter) But we hands-down had the best punny names for our Dyers.

But, I digress. Apparently, yesterday was Olympics Day! I figured it out on my Insta feed. I’ve followed Olympic sailing to some degree for decades. While I never competed at the national or world level, I did compete to one degree or another in three different Olympic classes:

  • Laser
  • Soling
  • Star

Sadly, I can’t find a single photo of me in any of those boats. There’s a great shot of me sitting on the rail of my capsized Laser in between races off City Island one day. In between races, one could sail by the committee boat and ask for a can of Coke. I flipped my boat so I could just relax with my feet on the daggerboard sipping my soda while others wasted energy sailing around for no reason. I won the regatta that day. I lost the photo. But, temporarily; it’s somewhere in family photo records.

Late 1970’s; a Soling converted for sailing instruction. This was when our family owned and operated New York Sailing School. We installed custom bench seats on two of the boats to make instruction and day sailing a little easier. Harsh boat otherwise, but oh, boy – did it sail! Almost all schools eventually switched to more student-friendly designs that were more effective for instruction. Almost. (We ditched them in the early 80’s for this purpose and never looked back.)

The Soling came first, as it was the teaching boat used at our family’s first sailing school (NYSS, or New York Sailing School). Dad sold that school in the winter of 86/87, and I started mine in the fall of 1997 with classes underway in the spring of ’98.

The Soling is a truly elegant, pedigree little yacht. 27 feet of purity and grace and zero creature comforts. It’s a racing machine, straight up. Yet, it’s fun to day sail and a surprisingly good teaching boat. However, the lack of seating, lifelines, etc and the wet nature of the boat really interfered with instruction and learning. So, when Dad found a better alternative, he took that tack away from the fleet of other schools.

I mostly raced Solings at the school. We had a Tuesday night series in the summer. No, not really very competitive – but still, super instructive as it was repetitive short-course racing with tight starting lines and put a premium on tactics and boat handling. And, we used spinnakers. My favorite was a solid black chute with a stark white steer skull in the middle.

Relatively recent action on a Soling: only the skipper stays on or in the boat on a windy day! Not just a venerable Olympic class, the Soling was heavily used by adult sailing school programs across the country if not the world.

The highest level I raced a Soling? The East Coast Championships one fall out of Stamford Connecticut. I was crewing, not skippering. Perennial class champ Hans Fogh of Canada was the skipper to beat that time. We didn’t. Windy couple of days; I spent much of it hiked out over the side in the manner shown in the photo above.

The Soling was an Olympic class for quite awhile. Two veteran American racers who did well in Solings were Dave Perry and John Kostecki; Perry also excelled in the Laser. One of the best sailboat racers in history, Robert Scheidt of Brasil, won 5 Olympic medals combined in the Laser and the Star: 2 gold, 2 silver, and a bronze. Only man to win Olympic medals in both dinghy and keelboat classes. Hmmmmm….

1972 Olympic Gold Medalists: Australian style! Star Class.

Then came the Star. The Stuyvesant Yacht Club on City Island, which was around from the late 1800’s, had a nice fleet of these sloops stored on trailers which they dry sailed by lowering and hoisting on a dedicated lift. I was invited to crew on a couple of occasions for Sunday afternoon racing. We had light winds, so it wasn’t too exciting – but it was fun and tactical. No spinnaker, so easier to shift gears on shifting winds in an instant and focus the whole time and tactics and strategy.

Star white room; typical recent scene for this low-riding, wet and athletic class that has seriously withstood the test of time.

The Star was in the Olympics for some time. It was the 2-person keelboat. One crew hikes over the side when needed; both sailors need to be decently sized to hold that boat down. It’s work. While no longer in the Olympics, the boat is still super competitive and used in series including the Bacardi Cup in Miami and the Star Sailors League Invitational regatta. Dennis Conner of America’s Cup fame was a world champion in the Star before he got involved in the Cup.

Next: the Laser, which came later to the Olympics but was already one of the world’s most widely sailed boats and is now the most. It’s a singlehanded performance dinghy with one sail (cat boat or uni rig), with three choices of sail size.

Olympic medalist Anna Tunnicliffe, from Steven Lippman’s shoot in ESPN’s In the Buff series. Note the cuts; this is an athletic boat to sail competitively.

I started sailing these in the early 1980’s and raced them for a few years in the NYC/Long Island district of the Laser Class Association. I also qualified for the Empire State Games once and drove my Laser atop my Pontiac Ventura Hatchback up to Syracuse. I was only about 118 pounds soaking wet, and raced a full rig – but as we’re in a light wind region here, I got away with it. The one time I actually won a regatta saw 15-20 with some higher gusts, but some of the better racers in that district didn’t attend. But, I sailed hard and beat larger sailors. First race: chose not to jibe on the screaming reach to the jibe mark. I did a ‘chicken jibe:’ I lowered the board, spun around in a tack, and continued. The guy I was basically fighting the whole day for 1st place? He kept it real and jibed. He flipped. I won the regatta by a hair and his capsize spelled the difference.

Medals in the Laser Class, District 8 (NYC/Long Island). From back in the day when our Director actively raced the world’s most popular sailboat. It’s still in the Olympics despite recent challenges by upstart imitator classes.

So, sailing on some Olympic classes paid off. First, it made me a better sailor. Second, it made me better understand how boats relate to teaching beginners and intermediates. Our family started teaching on the Olympic Soling in 1968. Since then, we’ve used three more designs for teaching beginners, in this order:

  • J/24, in late 70’s (immediately abandoned and returned to Solings)
  • Sonar in 1980 or thereabouts, continuing until NYSS sold;
  • Beneteau First 21 with my new school in 1998

I could have gone out and bought a fleet of Solings, Sonars, or especially J/24’s to make a cheap fleet. You get what you pay for. Spare parts for our Beneteau First 21 sloops typically exceed the purchase price of a cheap used J/24 and often that of a Sonar. I leave that for the multitudes of other schools that don’t know or don’t care.

Our Beneteau First 21 sloops have an enviable distinction: they’re the only sailboat design ever endorsed by a national sailing school organization such as ASA or US Sailing. The First 21 is the same boat as the Beneteau 22 and the ASA First 22. What’s the only difference between them? The ASA First 22 had a longer cockpit and smaller cabin. It’s the same exact hull, keel, twin rudders, mast, etc. The only real difference is the cockpit to cabin ratio. The Beneteau models have plenty of room already, so no problem there. Guess we got it right in 1998!

Here’s a couple sailing one back to our moorings on a windy day. This couple has a fair amount of experience: both raced J/24’s in NY Harbor; both sailed J/105’s. He did a Transatlantic! Also grew up cruising Maine. She did two levels of ASA courses in NY Harbor as well as an offshore delivery from Florida to New York.

Guess which Club they belong to now, and what their current favorite boat is? It’s ours – what many European sailors call the Baby Ben…

“At NY Sailing Center, we know a thing or two because we’ve sailed scores of boats, not just a few… including 3 Olympic classes.”

Captain Stephen Glenn Card, Director and HBIC (Head Bozo in Charge).