Here are some of the more common questions we get from families during the registration process.  If you have other questions or these answers only partly address your concerns, please email David Leary at [email protected].  We are here for you.


Question: My child is new to Stage Harbor and feels too old to start at the Seaman level.  What class would be right for him or her?

Answer: We work with families on a one by one basis who are new to the sailing program – whether as new members or just starting “late” – to find the best and safest class placement.  Our goal is to keep children with their peer group as much as possible, balanced against the need to develop sailing skills to be safe and confident on the water.  For many children, private lessons may play a key role in readiness.  Private lessons can be arranged easily once the summer season begins.  Our Program Director can help you find the right instructor.  More time on the water gets sailors up to speed best and helps them make important connections with friends.  Please email me at [email protected] and we can set up a time to talk.


Question: My child is not particularly interested in racing but enjoys being at the Club and likes laid back sailing. What classes are right for him or her?

Answer: The Sailing School’s program is designed to meet the needs of sailors at all levels and the overall goal is to keep all students engaged with sailing.  To do that, all of the morning classes balance general sailing instruction, fun, adventure, and – as the program progresses – very basic racing skills.  These classes, from Seamen through Skippers, are appropriate for sailors who just want to get out on the water and be with their friends while learning how to sail competently and for sailors who want to get ready to be serious racers. And, all of our afternoon or specialized classes (opti and 420) offer options that focus on racing and options that combine racing and adventure sailing.


Question: Would you consider adding more adventure sail classes?

We think of all sailing is “adventure sail.” Whether racing, leisure sailing, using BICs or stand up paddle boards or just sailing to the beach, tt should all be fun and varied and interesting. All of the morning classes have significant adventure sail components built in and, increasingly, our afternoon classes do as well.  Please see below for more on that.  We are always evaluating the program and will make changes to meet the needs of the students in the program.  We have also found success in keeping peers together in the same classes.


Question: I understand that the morning classes offer general sailing instruction and incorporate fun and adventure components but what about the afternoon (or specialized) classes? Are those mostly for racers?

No! The afternoon (or specialized) classes also take a balanced approach and we encourage all sailors to consider them.  The more time spent on the water (and with friends), the more likely a student will feel happy and confident in the program. All of the opti classes have adventure and fun built in and, new for summer 2018, the 420 program will explicitly incorporate adventure sail into its “junior” afternoon program.   We also offer Monday Adventure Sail class for Mates and Old Mates.


Question: Can you tell me more about those specialized or afternoon classes and how they might balance skill development, racing and fun?

The Optis for Seamen class – meeting just once a week in the morning – is a great and fun way for younger sailors to get more time on the water in addition to the regular Seamen class.  This gentle, introductory class is about having fun and learning how to sail an opti.  Some of the sailors in that class may go on to become serious racers and this class lays that foundation but the class itself is about general instruction and fun.  The Optis for Mates class is an extension of the Optis for Seamen philosophy – meeting 2 days a week – and introduces just a bit more racing technique but in a fun way that we hope will hook the students.  The Optis for Old Mates/Skippers class continues to focus on fun and introduces more advanced race technique but also mixes in a heavy dose of fun.  While the Optis for Old/Mates Skippers class is not just a race class, it does meet the needs of sailors focused on racing.  To give students in the Optis for Mates and in the Optis for Old Mates/Skippers class even more adventure sail time, those students can opt into the Monday afternoon Adventure Sail class. Finally, the afternoon 420 program was redesigned this winter.  It now includes two separate tracks.  The first track, which we call the junior track is available to sailors of all ages and levels and will use BICs, SUPs and 420s to teach older sailors and give them the chance to develop strong sailing and racing skills and have fun on the water with their friends.  The second track is what we call the advanced 420 race team and – as its name would suggest – it is for sailors who want to focus on racing.  This second track is staffed with outstanding coaches who understand that teaching even the most dedicated racers must include variety and fun.  The 420 program also now includes a gentle, one morning a week introductory class to racing for those who are on the cusp of the opti and 420 and interested in learning more in a gentle-wind environment.


Question: I see that the website and your FAQ’s talk a lot about adventure sail and fun, but my child is serious about racing.  How will the program meet his or her needs?

Stage Harbor has always taken racing seriously and intentionally supports the needs of its most focused racers through an active regatta schedule, club racing, intra-club racing and the hiring and training of staff with extensive race experience.  The Opti and 420 racing programs have coaches who are (or have) raced in college at the highest level.  Most Opti sailors are ready to begin thinking about serious racing at the Old Mates and, sometimes, the Mates level.  (And for those who are ready younger, we tailor the program on a one-off basis by working directly with families.)  Opti sailors at the Old Mates level who want to become outstanding racers have the chance to focus on racing 4 afternoons a week.  The coaches divide the class and give the focused racers more race-related drills and activities.  As sailors move from the Opti to the 420, we introduce race and boat handling skills in a new Intro to 420 Racing class on Wednesday mornings.  This gives sailors who are at the Skipper level but who are still racing Optis in the afternoons and in regattas, the chance to move slowly into the 420.  The class takes place in the morning to avoid afternoon high winds which can be more challenging for these new racers.  The afternoon 420 program has two distinct tracks. Both tracks are appropriate for sailors who want to race but the advanced track is designed for the most serious racers.


Question: What happened to the BIC program?

BICS are still a part of life at SHYC! For teens, we combined what was a standalone BIC class into a new junior 420/adventure sail program.  Younger sailors who are not eligible for the 420/adventure sail program can use BICs in the Monday Adventure Sail class. Please check out the website for more information about it.  The original BIC program started as a way to keep older sailors, those who didn’t want to race or felt not yet ready to race 420s, involved and on the water into their teen years.  It was based in part on a program at Vineyard Haven Yacht Club.  As our program matured, we found that its singular focus on the BIC – a great and fun boat but with some limitations – left many sailors without sufficient skill to enjoy pleasure sailing in other boats and, for those interested in moving from the BIC to the 420, insufficient skill to handle the more complex 420.  We hope that mixing the use of BICs with other boats will help bridge some of these gaps.  Other yacht clubs have taken this approach with success.  As this new and evolved program takes shape, we will continue to watch it and make changes to meet the needs of the sailors in our program.


Question: My child has special needs, such as learning differences, anxiety or physical limitations, how can he or she participate in the Sailing School?

The sailing school wants to make sailing as accessible as possible for all children.  Please talk to us about your child’s needs and we will work very hard to tailor an approach that works.  Our staff to student ratio makes a number of options available.  Sailing should feel empowering and our goal is to meet students and families where they are.


Question: My child has participated in the sailing school for a summer or two and is less interested in returning this year.  Do you have any advice?

The most common reasons that students become less enthusiastic about sailing are: (1) some students feel they aren’t “good enough” and that leads them to believe that sailing is “scary” and (2) some students haven’t yet connected with a friend group.  As with all things, please reach out to us about these or other concerns.  The best way to head off a student’s concern about his or her sailing ability is to keep them sailing through gentle encouragement.  Attending as many classes as possible and supplementing them with private lessons is essential in becoming a confident sailor.  Sailing is hard to pick up without time on the water.  For students who have missed classes or who have not been able to be in Chatham as often as they might like or who just haven’t picked up certain skills, talk with us and we can consider appropriate class placement and how you might use private lessons to close any gaps.  And then please stay in contact with our Program Director as the summer progresses.  For students who have not yet connected with friends in the program, let them know that everyone takes time to settle into their friend groups.  As with the development of sailing skills, the more time spent in the program (through classes and­ the lunch program), the more opportunity to connect with peers.  Our directory also allows parents to search by class registration, age and grade level, so finding peers for play dates is easier than ever and can make all the difference.


Question: My child has focused on the challenge of passing the various shore school tests and now finds him or herself in a class without many peers of the same age.  Is this OK?

We understand that each child moves through the program at his or her own pace.  Some move fast and others a bit more leisurely.  With the exception of students who sail significantly outside of our program, we think the program works best from a skill development and friendship building perspective when students don’t rush it.  It might seem fun to pass the shore school tests.  But its not always so much fun to move to a class without your friends.  And, once our students have begun sailing optis on their own, its much more important that they feel happy on the water and connected to the program than it is to move up for the sake of advancement.