Your sailing instructor can make or break your experience. The following guidelines have been compiled to help you ask the right questions when choosing you sailing school.
Make sure the instructors at your sailing school of choice hold certifications from notable associations e.g. American Sailing Association or International Yacht Training. Ensure they are qualified for the level they are teaching. Many instructors have their skippers licences but not their instructors' exams. It is worth checking so you can be assured your instructor has passed the necessary exams.
2. A mix of classroom and hands-on instruction
You can’t learn how to sail if you never get on the water, but you also need time on land to review concepts and ask detailed questions. A good instructor will have built in study time and have classroom facilities if they are needed.
Your instructor should be a confident and competent sailor, who should put you at ease while sailing. A good instructor will be calm in any situation and always in control while they teach you. They will be able to calm nervous or less confident students and patiently encourage every wave of the way.
They will also be happy to repeat newly acquired information and skills to all level of students. A great instructor knows sometimes people need to hear fresh information a few times to help them remember.
This does't mean they can touch their toes, a great instructor knows that students learn in different ways, e.g. through spoken word, reading or simply by doing. A great instructor will be flexible in their approach and teaching style and be able to adapt accordingly.
Flexibility is also so important when it comes to Mother Nature! She often has different plans. Your lesson plans (and your instructor) needs to be able to adjust accordingly, often at short notice.
6. A good engineer
Every captain is happy when their jib and main sail are full and they have good winds, however every good instructor should be able to coach their students on any maintenance along the way - a very important part of any sailing course.
7. Course variety
A good instructor won’t just teach the basics. You should expect well-versed instructors and course options that include everything from recreational sailing and navigation to passage making, on both monohulls and catamarans, (if that is what the school offers). The depth and breadth of an instructor's expertise says a lot about their dedication and passion for sailing.
Before you choose a sailing school, see what previous graduates have to say about their experience. If the instructors are new to the school, check out reviews at their last school too.
Students safety is paramount! Every student should feel safe while with their instructor.
10. Providing inspiration and motivation!
Your instructor's love of sailing (and life) should be infectious. Sailing is fun and students should be allowed to enjoy the experience, especially if it is also their vacation.
The best school and instructors will be happy to share lots of information with you before you make any decisions. Don't be afraid to ask questions.
Good luck with your sailing adventures, live your dream!