For the Keelboats beginner’s courses sailing schools often use small keelboats that are between 20 and 28 feet long. For adults this is the more comfortable way to learn to sail. You do not have to fear constantly that the boat capsizes. So you can concentrate on sailing and understanding how it works. You get the feedback of the instructor immediately because he is usually on board. You can ask questions and the communication is easy. There are mostly up to 4 students on board including you. The helmsman operates the tiller. One of the crew takes the mainsheet and the rest looks after the jib sheets and the sail trim. The tasks are swapped from time to time with the aim that each student learns every job on the sailboat perfectly. While watching the others you learn a lot and you can focus on one skill. Doing all this in the companionship of the crew is fun. On the other hand keelboats are less responsive than dinghies and you need more strength to pull the sheets for example.
The design of the keelboat beginner’s courses is a little bit different from country to country and they are even not the same in every sailing school. But be sure you will learn to sail everywhere. To ensure a good and safe education the national sailing associations developed schemes and standards for the sailing courses. They issue special certifications that proof your skills. And they certificate the instructors too.
The Royal Yachting Association for example designed a special scheme for beginner’s courses. It is put into use in sailing schools and training centres that are recognised by the RYA in Britain and all over the world. The scheme is comprised of a series of two-day courses so that you can reach a higher level every weekend for example. Or you do all three levels in just one week.
For the first level you do not need any previous knowledge. You learn how to sail in all directions and after two days you should be able to sail in light winds under supervision. The second level bases on the first level. Sometimes it is combined with level one to a 4 or 5 days course. You learn how to rig a boat, how to leave and return to the dock and all the important sailing manoeuvres. In the third level you practice all level 1 and 2 skills to be able to sail in good conditions and make your own decisions. If you completed all levels you can improve your skills in advanced courses like “Day sailing”, “Sailing with spinnakers” or “Performance Sailing”.
Comparable to the RYA courses are the American keelboat courses and certifications. The American Sailing Association (ASA) and their recognised schools offer the “Basic keelboat sailing”. After that you should be able to skipper a keelboat of approximately 20 to 27 feet in length by conditions clearly defined by the ASA. The US Sailing Association offers similar courses called “Basic keelboat”.
Beginner’s sailing courses are offered after work or on weekends. It is also possible that a course is done in one piece and lasts a week. You can join it alone, with a friend, with your partner or with the whole family. Combine the beginner’s sailing course with a holiday. For example in the sunny South, on native coasts or on inland waters. There are a lot of opportunities.
As said before the design of the course in real life might be different to my description. Use the Internet-links at the end of the book for more detailed information. If you do not live in Britain or the US check the conditions of your national sailing association. There are some links at the end of the book too.