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Sailing Progression

Sailing is a sport that can be enjoyed in many different ways.

here is one opinion of some methods and paths:

  • Yachts
  • Dinghies
  • Cruising
  • Racing,

so many choices and combinations

Racing against similar boats is certainly one way to develop your skills but sailing simply for the enjoyment is valid too.

Yacht owners are often looking for friendly adults to sail as crew, this can be a permanent or part time and is often a low cost way to get into a boat.
The more knowledge that you have, the more you will be able to pick and choose the best rides.

Dinghies can be for children or adults and is an upfront way to learn the specific skills of sailing,
get them right or get wet with a capsize (noting that capsizes are perfectly normal as boundaries of skills are pushed and can be fun too)

Focusing on dingies and children for a moment ...

When you start to sail, there is much to learn and it can be all a bit confusing.

Learn to sail "Blue Group"


At Avalon the focus is on introducing sailing principles and having fun.

It includes things like how to:

  • know where the wind is coming from
  • recover from a capsize
  • basically set your sails ... fully in when going upwind, fully out when going downwind and halfway in between.
  • balance your boat as the wind increases.
  • steer the boat in a basic direction
  • change directions by tacking.
  • understand that the boat needs to "zig zag" upwind.
  • Wind strength range is about 0~6 (8) knots
  • Allow 3~6 mths in Blue


To fast track the learning

Try to get a crew spot in a gold fleet boat, race and learn.
After a season or 2, you may be able to jump to skipper in novice or Gold fleet.
The more time spent on the water, the better.


Continue building skills in "Red".

buy a boat or team up with someone else
In my experience, sharing the role of skipper rarely works.
Needs to be 1 primary skipper (normally also the boat owner) week after week, and the other does it occassionally.

Red is about building skills.

  • Tacking and gybing,
  • sailing competently upwind
  • balancing the boat effectively, rarely capsize up to 8 knots,
  • tasteing 10 knots occassionally with support.
  • Allow at least a season in Red.

time to move up to "Novice".

If you interested in developing racing skills and starting to consider spinnakers ...
Novice is about

  • understanding the rules
  • Starting basics
  • Balancing the boat in upto 12~15 knots (both children on side and hiking)
  • Looking for gusts and sometimes seeing them.
  • Helps to get into more focused training
  • Allow a season in Novice

Progress to "Gold" Racing ... and never stop ... it has no top end ...

  • developing racing skills and tactics
  • Boat handling in various winds from 0 to 25 knots (30knots if front of fleet)
  • Read, talk and do everything that you can.
  • Finish gold racing when you can't get around the boat fast enough ... say about 75 yrs old!
  • If you want to compete at a world level or Olympics there are more options (not covered here)
  • Avalon is lucky in that we have a number of National and World Champions amongst our parents, the skills are there to learn.


Considerations when teaming up a crew and skipper

  • Size and weight match is good ... MJ's about 50~60 kg, F11's 70~100
  • Generally skipper is larger or equal (not smaller) than crew in MJ & F11.
  • They need to go for a trial sail / race ... to see if they are compatible.
  • Discuss commitment level, eg which regattas are they going to ?, Are they prepared to miss a party on the night before ? What training will you go to ?
  • Agree that looking ahead for 12 months is hard, but vital for potential front end (of fleet) boat.
  • Siblings can sail together ... sometimes it works (really well), sometimes it doesn't, depends on the children (and the parents)


Crew path

  • A new crew can potentially step into a front of fleet boat, but normally it takes a season or two and lots of practice to build and refine good crewing skills.
  • Some people (including some skippers) think that the crew is stupid or doesn't do much ... wrong!
  • Crews are an integral part of any boats success, if they do their job well, it allows the skipper to focus on other things.
  • I recommend crewing for at least a season for everyone, it gives some compassion and understanding as to what the crew does.

Skipper Path

  • Spend a season or two as a crew above (is preferable, but not essential), then, skipper with lots of work takes minimum of 3 years to get seriously competant as a skipper.
  • Add an extra year or 2, if doing Blue and Red first. Unless very committed and seek out role models.


Can I do Both? (Skipper & Crew)

Yes, but ...

  • Doing both, can be a great pathway if the child really enjoys spending the time sailing. eg Skipper an MJ & Crew on a F11.
  • Suggest that if they do both on a Sunday then may need to cut back a bit (or relax the pressure) on the training committments for one or both of the boats.
  • Still need to manage the regattas, as to which ones will you go to?
  • What do the kids want to achieve  ? and how burning is their passion? Will they give up a friends party on the saturday night so that they can be fresh for Sunday ?
  • Are the parents ready and able to step back a bit and "chill" if things are not going to plan?
  • I do NOT recommend doing both in the same season with the same other person in same boat, Too full on and hard for the kids to work out who is making decisions.
    Sharing skipper role in the same boat with same kids, rarely (if ever) works.
  • If child really wants lots of sailing, have they considered other extras ? eg school sailing, other clubs on different days, yachts on other days etc.

Sailing is a game of knowledge,

  • listen to the instructors / coaches and try to do (and remember) what they suggest.
  • Many children are held back by failing to take on suggestions.
  • Your club and its members are here to help each other, including you. Fees are to cover costs, not make a profit.
  • It is all about helping.
  • Children also need to take responsibility for their learning and looking after the boats.
  • If you don't want to learn, no one will force you.

Parents can Help

  • An integral part of children's success is the parents taking an active part. Sailing generally does not "fall onto a Plate" for you.
  • It takes some effort to achieve success.
  • Prior knowledge helps but is not essential. Talking, learning and helping does.
  • If the parent can be an active part of the organising, it makes a huge difference to everyone (including your children as you "learn the ropes"), some roles do not require any prior experience.


some sailing parents can have high expectations of their childrens skills and learning pace,
unfortunately too much pressure can have the opposite effect and turn them off forever.  Tread carefully,  after the line is overstepped, it can be impossible to step back.


What Avalon tries to do

Avalon tries to avoid too much pressure by keeping things fun and engaging more experienced teenagers into the learning process,
it is not perfect but has had some great results.

If you seem to have a problem, talk to other members, maybe we can help each other resolve it. Very likely others will have faced something similar.

Just remember that the adult helpers are all just volunteers, trying to help you and continue to build a great club.

Have fun and learn safely ... sounds like a good idea.

Kingsley Forbes-Smith