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Taking the US SAILING Level 1 Course “I was not expecting it to be as much fun as it was.” By Jabbo Gordon

Rigging up the boats in the Level 1 course Photo by Lynn Paul.


he primary reason most people take US SAILING’s Level 1 (small boat) instructor course is to gain certification so they can be paid to teach other people how to sail. Brian Firth of Sarasota probably said it best when he introduced himself to 11 other members of the 40-hour course that was held at the Venice Yacht Club the last two weekends of April. Besides completing a swim check and learning how to conduct land drills (among several other tasks) on the first day, the dozen instructor candidates had to explain why they were there. “I plan to get a job this summer and hopefully in future summers,” Firth said. “I also hope to get a coaching job when I go to college. “This way I can keep a steady income and keep myself afloat,” he added. In spite of his unintended pun, Firth spoke for the majority of the group, which ranged in age from 16 to one man who will turn 68 in August. One person who is not seeking summer employment is Hugh Moore who is president of the Englewood Sailing Association. He has a job, a big job. “This certification should provide a foundation of credibility in my relationship with the public as well as my colleagues,” he said. “And it should help me become more effective in guiding ESA to become a more professional and effective teaching organization.” Two of the candidates—Samantha “Sami” Tornese of Venice and Peter Eduardo of Sarasota—spoke of starting their own sailing schools some day, and Tornese talked about working with children who have disabilities. Eduardo also has an eye toward building up high school sailing in the area. “I would like to see sailing more prevalent in high schools,” he said. “I believe that one day each high school will have its own bona fide sailing team that competes regionally on a regular basis.”


June 2010


Although most of the class members were high school sailors, not all local high schools have teams. Still two-thirds of the group was still in high school. One of US SAILING’s requirements to take the course is that a student must be at least 16, but even then the national governing body for sailing designates 16- and 17-yearolds as “assistant instructors.” However, Christi Frost, 16, of Nokomis, thinks successful candidates should become certified instructors. “Once a 16-year-old passes the course, they are qualified to be an instructor,” she reasoned. US SAILING’s minimum age to take the course used to be 18, but Southern yacht clubs and sailing associations pushed for lowering the age limit. However, USSA officials maintain that a certified instructor should be an adult and licensed to drive. Insurance coverage is a major concern. Other pre-requisites for taking the course include successful completion of a NASBLA approved safe boating course and an individual membership, not a junior membership, in US SAILING. And only one certification per family membership is allowed, another bone of contention with Frost. While they are not required before the course, current CPR and First Aid cards are mandatory before US SAILING will issue the coveted instructor’s card and silver whistle. So, these 12 individuals met requirements and registered online for the course. They read all the information about it on the US SAILING Web site, found under training, and received a “welcome aboard” letter from their instructor-trainer, giving them the four-day schedule and listing their assignments. Basically, it told them what they could expect. In some cases, it did, and in other cases, it did not. Some, like Tornese, were pleasantly surprised. “I was not expecting it to be as much fun as it was,” she said. “I’m very content with the way it turned out.” Jacob “Jake” Arme of Sarasota and Firth, essentially echoed Tornese’s comments. “I was expecting to sit in a class most of the day,” Arme said. “I enjoyed going outside and actually physically doing most of the exercises.” “I expected it to be more of a long, boring class that all we would do is sit inside a classroom and talk all day,” Firth said. “Instead, we actually got to go out and sail and have some fun with the drills we had to do.” US SAILING encourages its instructor trainers to make many of the sessions a hands-on experience. The