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The Level 1 US Sailing Course By Jabbo Gordon

Cover Photo: Kids saiing and playing during the Level 1 Instructor Course at the Venice Youth Boating Association. Photo by Jin Dietric.


very year, US Sailing launches hundreds of instructors throughout the nation to teach the sport they love to others. One of the key courses is Level 1 (small boat), and most of these courses are held in the spring as yacht clubs and community sailing groups prepare for their summer learn-to-sail programs. This past year, for example, US Sailing certified more than 1,100 Level 1 instructors as a result of 110 courses that were conducted around America. Not all of these newly certified instructors are teaching tyros either. Some have been instructing or coaching for years, but for one reason or another, they never received US Sailing certification. Allison Jolly of St. Petersburg, FL, (470 class gold medal winner in the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, Korea, and long-time sailing coach), took the Level 1 course in Sarasota in 2004. Very humble about her

58 January 2008


In a Boston Whaler, sailing course instructor Jabbo Gordon, standing on the left, talks to a group of instructor candidates while Venice Youth Boating Association sailors, acting as guinea pigs for the course, wait in their boats nearby. Photo courtesy Jin Dietrich.

accomplishments, she was the honor graduate. Many prospective sailing instructors happen to be schoolteachers who are looking for summer employment. But most of the candidates are older teenagers who have been involved in sailing for a few years and who are also searching for a summer job. The minimum age is 16 and US Sailing is strict about that. On the other hand, 75-year-old Jim Hoffman of Apollo Beach was the elder statesman of a course in Venice, FL, last August. Interestingly, US Sailing recommends matching up an older sailor with a younger sailor when forming twoperson teams during a course. And the system works, as both the senior and junior teammate will attest. Beth Anderson, captain of the Bitter Ends (Venice’s version of the Florida Women’s Sailing Association) and secretary of the Venice Youth Boating Association, liked the wide variety of ages when she took the course in Venice. “One special thing about taking this course was being in a classroom that mixed high schoolers and college students with much older instructor candidates,” the retired collegiate librarian said. “The sailing knowledge and love of the sport that the youth exhibited showed me in a concrete way the value of youth sailing programs.” “These kids were pretty impressive, and I’d like to think one of the reasons is their youth sailing experience,” she concluded. While most of the courses are held at coastal venues around the country, some are held on inland lakes. A key prerequisite to hosting a course is to have enough boats (preferably double-handed vessels) and adequate classroom facilities. Some instructor trainers prefer to use two-person boats for two reasons. One is that the scoop method of a capsizeand-recovery exercise can be performed more effectively. The other is that often there is an opportunity to observe how well a candidate can sail a double-handed boat by himself or herself. Scheduling a course around regattas and various school exams and tests can be a challenge, especially in the spring when graduation ceremonies add to the mix. Since it is a 40-hour course, it is normally set for four straight days or two consecutive weekends.