Youth Sailing Program Details and Registration

Stonington Harbor Yacht Club
2018 Youth Sailing Program Information
32 Water Street, Stonington CT 06378 - 860.535.0112

Waterfront and Membership Manager: Katie Canning
Head Sailing Instructor:
Sailing Instructor:
Sailing Instructor:

General Inquiries:  kcanning@shyc.us

The Stonington Harbor Yacht Club provides a junior sailing program for children between of 6-17 years of age. Our program is based on the idea that sailing instruction should be taught in a safe, fun, positively reinforced & relaxed environment. Classes are structured with a balance of classroom instruction, practice on land and water, and often times a fun activity. Stonington Harbor Yacht Club believes that this strategy allows your child to develop a love for sailing that will hopefully last a lifetime. We pride ourselves in providing a program which teaches, coaches, and trains students from the beginner level to advanced and racing level dinghy sailing if they wish. Instructors foster good sportsmanship above all and promote competition & racing through mentoring and instruction in an encouraging atmosphere.

All sailing classes are taught by certified US Sailing Instructors who are First Aid and CPR Certified. The ratio of students to instructors is typically no more than 6 to 1, allowing for individualized & tailored attention for each sailor.

The yacht club has a fleet of 7 optimists and 3 Club 420s which are available to students enrolled in the program. Students are highly encouraged to purchase and bring their own boats to the program.

Registration is considered complete when each of the below items has been received.  No child will be assigned to a class until a complete registration package and payment is received. 

A registration package consists of:

  1. Completed Registration Form(please see sign up links next to desired classes below)
  2. Completed Medical Information / Consent Form  - Print Here
  3. Volunteer Form (We can’t do it without help!) - Print Here
  4. Payment in the form of a check (please make sure child's name and session date are in the memo portion of the check)

Printed forms and payment should be mailed to the below address:

Stonington Harbor Yacht Club
Attention Youth Sailing/Katie Canning
PO Box 87
Stonington, CT  06378

Session 1:  Monday, June 25th           ----       Friday, June 29th

Session 2:  Monday, July 2nd             ----       Friday, July 6th*

Session 3:  Monday, July 9th              ----       Friday, July 13th

Session 4:  Monday, July 16th            ----       Friday, July 20th

Session 5:  Monday, July 23rd            ----       Friday, July 27th

Session 6:  Monday, July 30th             ----       Friday, Aug 3rd

Session 7:  Monday, Aug 6th               ----       Friday, Aug 10th

Session 8:  Monday, Aug 13th              ----      Friday, Aug 17th     

* For Session 2’s shortened week, sailors are welcome to attend any one of our three available Wednesday Evening Intro to Harbor Dinghy Races Clinic dates mentioned below as a make up.


-  Wednesday Evening Intro to Harbor Dinghy Races Clinic 4-Pack: 
6/27, 7/11, 7/18  - Wed. Clinic 1
7/25, 8/1, 8/8, 8/15     - Wed. Clinic 2

-  Kids Cruise Overnighter:   Late July / Early Aug Date TBD

-  Junior Awards Ceremony & Dance:*  Monday August 6th                                               

-  Monday Evening Family Sailing & Cookout*: Every Mon June 25th - Aug 13th

* Junior Awards Ceremony & Dance attendance is encouraged for any sailor currently enrolled in SHYC 2017 youth sailing program.
* SHYC’s Monday Evening Family Sailing & Cookouts are open to all member and guest sailors (and their families) for the week(s) of students’ enrollment in the SHYC youth sailing programs.

Placement: If you have questions with regards to which class selection would best suit  your child, please feel free to contact our Water Front and Membership Manager: Katie Canning for assistance---- we seek to provide a fun save, pressure free environment for your child to grow and develop in!

Students will be assigned to classes according to age, size and ability. Children who are new to the SHYC program are asked to describe their sailing experience on the registration form to assist in appropriate placement. Typically, sailors spend two seasons in each class.  Students may progress at different rates through the program.

Registration packages will be processed in the order received.  Members’ children will have priority in class placements until April 15th, 2017.  Class assignments will be confirmed after the May 15th deadline.  Should it become necessary, a waiting list will be maintained. Please register on time, as classes fill up quickly.

Confirmation of online registration submissions will be forwarded via email.  If you are not contacted, please email kcanning@shyc.us .


Beginner Opti:
Must be able to swim and tread water.
Minimum Age Requirement: 6 years of age

This class is for the novice sailor, who may have very little, to no experience on the water. Students will be paired with an instructor or another student in Optimists. Optimists are meant to be sailed single handedly (solo in the boat). However, in the beginning stages of sailing, it is important to build a level of trust and confidence between the instructor and student and the “buddy system” is often helpful.

This class maintains an emphasis on FUN. Students learn the basic principles of sailing through chalk talks, games and on-the-water demonstrations. Instructors carefully teach students how to overcome fears such as “tipping” & focus on sailing safety. Your child will learn how to capsize and properly right an optimist. Beginner sailors learn parts of the boat, basic knot tying, wind direction, how to steer an Opti, tack & gybe, and learn how to avoid obstructions (--“tiller towards trouble!”). The goal of this class is to have students experiment sailing single handedly, build confidence and have your child feeling curious to learn and sail more.

To Complete the Beginner Opti Registration Form – Click HERE

Intermediate Opti:
Ability to swim, tread water, understand wind direction, rig & de-rig, tack & gybe, steer and trim sails, & basic knots.
Suggested ages: 8-10

The essence and themes for intermediate sailing are independence, & responsibility, and to foster sailing as a recreational sport. Safety skills from the beginner class will be reviewed. Coaches set an objective or focus for students to work on for the day, implementing a fun game or drill to further students’ progression with boat handling skills and to reinforce classroom concepts.

Students are taught the principles of team work, to respect one another, and to take good care of their boat & equipment. While instructors are available to help assist, students are responsible to rig and de-rig on their own and rely more on one another as they grow with the sport. Students in the intermediate class build confidence and are able to relax a bit more as they realize that they are capable of sailing single handedly. Students will learn how to recover from irons, the points of sail, recognize puffs and lulls, sailing language, learn how to adjust boat speed, proper sail trim & sail shape, boat docking, how to read telltales, proper body and weight placement, and are introduced to racing along with basic race and sportsmanship rules (right of way rules & to always avoid collisions no matter what tack an individual is on and who has right of way).

To Complete the Intermediate Opti Registration Form – Click HERE

Advanced Opti:
: Ability to swim and tread water, understand wind direction, rig & de-rig, steer and trim sails, dock successfully, recover from irons, understand speed principles (weight placement & trimming sails for speed), able to read telltales & basic knots.
Suggested ages: 10-15

Students in the Advanced Opti class will continue to improve their sailing skills through boat handling techniques, drills and training. Sailors will also further and progress their skills with exposure to higher winds and racing. While racing is not “forced” upon students, racing drills are used to help achieve and further develop boat handling skills.

Coaches will instruct sailors how to properly trim their sails at various points of sail (up wind, downwind, reaching, pinching etc.) and about proper body position.  Students will begin to also understand how these techniques will help them in lulls, puffs, headers, lifts and currents. Advanced opti racers will also work on drills such as: controlled tacks & gibes, roll tacks, utilizing hiking straps in heavy winds, starting and stopping a boat on a whistle, sailing rudderless and sailing backwards.. Students will also learn how to read a navigation chart.

Instructors will set marks in the triangular race courses and windward/ leeward race courses in order to familiarize students with the typical race setups as well as standard racing sequences for junior racing. Students will also become accustom to more sailing nomenclature.

These types of settings provide a wealth of knowledge for children to learn from one another; students begin to tactically plan how to get from point A to point B and learn from emulating what others are doing in order to sail and race faster.

To Complete the Advanced Opti Registration Form – Click HERE


Intro to 420s
Qualifications: Ability to swim and tread water; appealing to students who have had prior experience in smaller boats or boats of similar size and caliber… Ability to swim and tread water, understand wind direction, rig & de-rig, steer and trim sails, dock successfully, recover from irons, understand speed principles (weight placement & trimming sails for speed), able to read telltales & basic knots.
Suggested ages: 12-17
*Subject to approval; dependent on student size, age & experience*

The Intro to 420 class is a collaboration of students who collectively have had some previous sailing and racing experience, have outgrown Optis, or who are interested in double handed sailing. Students will be paired appropriately, according to their weight, size and sailing experience. Junior sailors also may be paired with instructors. Students who have been placed in this class due to age, size and overall weight and have little to no experience sailing will be assigned to sail with an instructor.

Students in the Intro to 420s Class are able to grasp and learn at an accelerated rate because, conceptually, they have already learned how to sail and are simply transitioning into double handed sailing (in a bigger boat and with a partner). This class teaches junior sailors: how to rig a 420, the importance & variability of sail trim and body weight placement in different wind conditions and utilizing hiking straps in heavier wind settings.  Students will work on controlled tacks and gibes, learn how to sail rudderless, sail backwards and learn how to roll tack in a 420. They will also work on racing techniques and strategies. Students will learn how to set and fly a spinnaker, roll gybe with a spinnaker, & possibly sample trapeze setting, depending on the student’s level of expertise and ability.

Youth sailors will experiment in both the skipper and crew position. It is important that each of the students learn both positions, even if they have predetermined whether they wish to be skipper or crew on a more permanent basis. Learning how to communicate effectively with one another and working as a team is a key component in successfully sailing a 420. The skipper is the leader in a boat; and must exude calm energy, treat crew with. He or she must learn how to show & explain to a crewmate how to complete a task. It is therefore necessary that for a skipper to an effective leader, they must also know integral role that a crew plays. Crew are important because they can detect wind patterns, & changes in a racing environment and communicate these things to a skipper. Teamwork and good sportsmanship are necessary components to sailing.

To Complete the Intro to 420s Registration Form – Click HERE

Advanced/Racing 420
Ability to swim and tread water; appealing to students who love racing and are seeking to improve on overall race and performance and have had previous experience in sailing 420s and local regatta racing.
Suggested ages: 12-17
*Subject to approval; dependent on student size, age & experience*

The 420 Racing class is predominantly focused on fleet and team racing. Sailors have regatta experience and want to fine tune boat handling and racing skills. Instructors will discuss tactics and demonstrate techniques with both visual aids in chalk talks and show strategies via drills on the water. Students then apply newly learned racing strategies on the water and are critiqued by instructors on how they can improve.

Students are motivated to rig fast, get their chalk talks and instructor from coaches, and get down to business on the water.  Coaches typically take notes on the water in practice and in regattas to help individuals improve and tweak and fine tune their performance. While students of various racing backgrounds are welcome to join this group, the class is focused on competitive racing, which includes repetitive drills, hard work and continually challenging one's personal best. The goal is to improve in each race. Racing tactics will be explored for both fleet and team racing in the classroom and on the water.

To Complete the Intro to 420s Registration Form – Click HERE

Wednesday Racing Night Clinics
Ability to swim and tread water; appealing to students who love racing and are seeking to improve on overall race and performance in every racing level, and fundamentally understand how to sail. These clinics are suggested for green, white, blue & red Opti racers and 420 racers.
Suggested ages: 8-17
*Subject to approval *

Wednesday clinics are designed for Intermediate & Advanced Opti and 420 racers! On Wednesday Nights, the ever so popular Stonington Dinghy Club Races take place in the Stonington Harbor. Students interested in racing experience are encouraged to join the fun! Sailors will experience the thrill of racing in comfort and convenience of their own harbor and will have one of their three sailing instructors coaching them. These clinics will be offered for free to those individual sailors signing up for 8 or more sessions of sailing at SHYC. Registration is required. Wednesday Night Clinics may be signed up for individually or can be purchased in bulk for a discounted rate.

To Sign Up for Wednesday Night Clinics – Click HERE

Commonly Asked Sailing Questions:
What is an Optimist or Opti?

An Optimist is an 8 foot pram/ dingy, designed for one sailor. Optis are the perfect training platform for both the beginner and the experienced sailor. The boats are simple, stable and easy to right making them a standard boat for youth instruction. The optimum age for an Opti sailor is between the years of 6-15.

Students earn the basic fundamentals of sailing in an Opti & can advance, fine tune their skill and racing techniques in this boat. They are an affordable and terrific investment for any family. Optimists are in fact, the largest junior racing fleet in the world.  

What are Opti Fleets?
Opti Fleets are categorized by students’ age and ability by the United States Sailing Association. If your child is interested in racing locally in regattas, it is important to know the difference between the fleets that she/he will be racing in. The purpose of dividing ages of sailors into fleets is to provide a fair competition and challenge for all sailors. Sailors may not jump from fleet to fleet and coaches will help to facilitate your child into choosing the appropriate fleet placement based on experience. The four fleets include, green, white, blue and red.

  • Green Fleet:
    For first year novice racing sailors. The purpose of this special fleet of sailors is to provide an encouraging environment for sailors to begin racing. Green fleet sailors race in their own separate and private race course vs. White, Blue and Red Fleet racers. The green fleet is a stepping stone for students to transition in, and instructors are allow to coach students while they are racing on the water. Once a child places in this fleet (receives a medal) they must move on to the appropriately aged fleet. It is important that parents, guardians and coaches uphold the spirit of the green fleet by limiting participation to appropriate sailors. Sailors are NOT allowed to move from fleet to fleet. Once a sailor has participated in a White, Blue or Red Fleet, she/he is not able to jump back into the green fleet. Violating this rule is subject to disqualification and we strive to promote a positive, pleasant and good sportsmanlike environment!

    In all fleets, the determining date is the skipper's age at the end of the current year.
    At most regattas, the red, blue, and white fleets all start at the same time and race on the same course.
  • Green Fleet: For first year novice racing sailors.
  • White Fleet: aged 10 and under
  • Blue Fleet: aged 11 and 12
  • Red Fleet: ages 13, 14, & 15 (Sailors must be 15 or under on December 31st of the current year)

What is a Club 420?
The Club 420 is a high performance, two person dingy that is sailed at yacht clubs, schools, and at national and international levels. This dingy is 4.2 meters long and has a spinnaker and trapeze. Club 420s have a large sail area compared to its overall weight and plane very easily. The typical combined weight requirement for a 420 skipper and crew is about 220 lbs. This boat is a great boat for students to learn double handed sailing and even the most experienced of sailors can challenge one another in this boat.

Club 420s are DIFFERENT from International 420s, because they are heavier and slightly stronger. They also have a more flexible mast than an international 420.

When shopping for a family 420, it is essential for consumers to know the difference between a Club & International 420. Don’t get stuck with a boat that you cannot locally sail in!!! International 420s are recognized worldwide by the International Sailing Federation, while Club 420s are not. International and Club 420s rarely can be sailed in the same events--- so it’s important to know that you are buying the right boat to fit your needs! 

A full refund will be honored if a cancellation is received 30 days or more prior to the student's first scheduled session. If a cancellation is received less than 30 days in advance, we reserve the right to withhold $100 from the amount of the refund if we are unable to fill the vacancy created by this cancellation.

The Junior Sailing Program cannot operate without volunteers to help with an assortment of tasks including: coordinating on regatta days, towing boats to regattas, carpooling, cookout & awards’ night assistance.  Be involved – this is the best recipe for helping to develop happy, competent young sailors. Please indicate your preferences on the printable Volunteer Opportunities PDF form.


Click HERE for a printer friendly version of this SHYC Junior Sailing Program Information.