so earlier this summer, my 2 older boys (T2 & Noah) and a friend (Iyush) took 2 weeks of sailing lessons at the Pontiac Yacht Club Junior Sailing program.
Pontiac Yacht Club is home to the largest fleet of Lightning sailboats in the world (60+ registered boats). there are a whole slew of them at the docks, and a bunch more up on the shore on trailers.
my 2 boys had previously sailed with me on my Sunfish, but they had never tried to solo sail. their friend Iyush had never been on a sailboat. on the morning of day 1 – all three boys seemed just a tad nervous, but you could tell they were also excited. I had stopped in to make sure they were checked in okay, but then had to head back to work. later that afternoon, when I picked them up after lessons to head home, all three talked non-stop about how exciting the 1st day had been! (other than the boring “name-game” to learn the other students’ names.)
beginner sailing students at PYC start to learn in an Optimist sailboat. the Optimist (or Opti) is the most popular racing sailboat for juniors, and is a pretty stable and simple boat that is great for children ages 8 to 15 to learn sailing.
the next option as students become more comfortable with sailing is an Open Bic. this sailboat is more dynamic, with an open, self-draining hull – and is a nice step up from the stability of a learning boat like the Optimist but before they move on to a larger racing dinghy like a Laser.
the 2 younger boys – Noah (8 yrs) and Iyush (10 yrs) – both preferred to sail the Optimist, and in fact they ended up sailing together in one for most of the days, although they each did some solo sailing in both the Opti and the Open Bics.
my older son T2 (12 yrs) much preferred the Open Bic, and pretty much sailed that the whole time, other than a short time in the Opti’s on day 1.
when I picked up the boys after the lessons each day, they would all 3 talk almost non-stop for the 25-30 minute drive home about the sailing that day: who sailed what boat, what type of activities they did on the water, how many times each of them capsized, etc. you could tell all 3 boys were having an absolutely great time messing about out on the water. after a few days of lessons, the class was starting to have the students try to learn some of the tips for racing! I remember the boys saying they didn’t do very well with racing at first.
but on the 2nd to last day, the sailing instructors set up a windward-leeward course and the students did their own little mini-regatta, with each type of boat sailing 5 races. T2 raced against 2 or 3 other Open Bics – finishing 1-1-2-3-1, and tied for 1st place in overall points. Noah and Iyush sailed together in an Optimist against 7 other boats, most with just 1 sailor – but even with the 2 of them in the one boat, they finished the five races 3-3-3-4-3, giving them 2nd place overall! not bad for 2 weeks of lessons.
on Friday, I took a longer lunch break from work, and drove up to PYC hoping to take some pictures of the boys actually sailing out on the water as every other day when I got there to pick them up the sailboats were being put away for the day. when I got there, the entire fleet of students was way out on the lake, nowhere close enough for me to take any pictures. but the head of the sailing class radioed out to a coach, who came in quickly, and took me out on the coach boat to watch the boys sailing out on the lake.
it turns out that the wind was picking up quite a bit – and was the strongest it had been in several weeks, with wind speeds in the high teens (mph). the sailing coach and I barely made it out towards the majority of the fleet before we had to stop and help a younger girl who was having trouble sailing in the heavier winds. right about then the sailing instructors told the fleet to head back towards the more sheltered cove near the yacht club – so all the students turned their boats and headed that way.
I was able to snap this nice shot of T2 sailing downwind, with a larger capsized sailboat in the background behind him!
shortly after that, we caught up with Noah and Iyush – who were sitting there calmly waiting for Noah to bail out all the water… apparently they had bow-plowed, with the bow of their Opti dipping under the water as they rode over a large wave, and their boat was full of water. we told them to just keep bailing as they sailed back towards the cove.
after we all got back to the more sheltered cove, the instructors let the students just free sail around the cove for the 15 or 20 minutes before they headed to shore for a lunch break. I was able to snap a bunch of photos during the free sail.
after the 2 weeks, I’m pretty confident all 3 boys had an absolutely amazing time!
they spent a ton of time out on the water in the various boats, and are pretty comfortable sailing solo at this point. overall, I was very impressed with the junior sailing program at PYC and it’s results! I’m pretty sure we’ll consider it again for next summer.