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Student Tips



Do all of these, and you will learn to sail very quickly!

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         When you are on the helm *verbalize* out loud what you are doing and intend to do.  Think of it as kind of like a stream of consciousness.  Not only is this a good habit to get into to facilitate fluid communication on the boat, but it also accelerates learning for two reasons:  1) It gives the instructor visibility on your thinking process and allows them to comment on it   2) It's like calling your shot in pool - it forces you to be a more precise sailor - you now have to do what your verbalizing that you intend to do.


·         Ask your instructor if you can work on the skills that you haven't practiced yet.   Here are some suggestions:  rigging, knots (figure 8, bowline, half hitches), leaving the dock, sailing backward, slow sailing, tacking, sail trim, heave to, jibing, capsize recovery, man overboard recovery, sailing in circles, docking, balance, unrigging, right-of-way rules and anchoring.


·         Ask your instructor if you can practice capsizing (ideally before the lesson so everyone can make sure they have wet suits on).  It is important to eliminate the fear of capsizing.  If you are not scared of capsizing you feel more free to push the limits, and that is when some serious learning happens.


·         Keep your head down.  While students are learning the maneuvers aren't always totally controlled and the boom can swing across the boat.  The instructor will do their best to mitigate this, but it's not always possible, so please get in the habit of keeping your head down.


·         When you're not on the tiller - don't just sit there - practice continual weight shifting.  When you're up front on the jib sheets practice continually shifting your weight in the boat to keep it from heeling.  This is a dynamic maneuver.  It's amazing how much stability can be brought to the boat by a crew member who is diligent about continually shifting their weight around.  When the boat is starting to heel so much that it's about to capsize, practice using the hiking straps to get your weight as far outside the hull as possible.  It's amazing how many imminent capsizes are recoverable from aggressive weight shifting.


·         Between lessons, do some reading.  Be sure to do some studying on the technical aspects of sailing.  Here are some good books:  The Blue Book of Sailing by Adam Cort, The Complete Sailor by David Seidman, How to Trim Sails by Peter Schweer, Colgate's Basic Sailing by Steve Colgate, Sailing Skills and Seamanship by US Coast Guard Auxiliary Association. And here are some online resources:  Dinghy Sailing GuideJY GuideRudderless Sailing eBookCal-Sailing Operating Rules and Sailing Lesson Video.


·         Have patience.  Sailing is a complex motor skill that is learned best by repeated, extended practice.  It just takes time.


·         Ask lots of questions.

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