Set Sail

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NEW Sarah Hirsch-credit Courtesy of Orange Coast College
Sarah Hirsch, director of Orange Coast College’s Waterfront Campus in Newport Beach | Photo by Orange Coast College

Take to the water and let the wind propel you in a hands-on class that covers boating basics.

By Sharael Kolberg


We’ve all seen sailboats of various sizes with colorful sails gliding across the water in Newport Bay. With the right gust of wind, the sailors tack, gybe and make their way back and forth along the harbor, passing by lively Lido Isle and Balboa Island, and skimming the shores of bustling Balboa Peninsula. If you’ve ever wished you were on board one of those boats, but don’t yet have the skills, you’re in luck.

The School of Sailing & Seamanship, operated by Orange Coast College, offers year-round sailing classes to the public at its Waterfront Campus in Newport Beach. Students learn basic sailing skills through dockside lectures that cover everything from sailing theory and points of sail to tacking, gybing, knots, docking and safety skills. Hands-on learning takes place on Lido 14 dinghies. We caught up with Waterfront Campus Director Sarah Hirsch, an experienced sailor, to find out more about the program for those who want to learn the ropes.


What makes sailing so much fun?

Sarah Hirsch: People want to be outside and try something new. The OCC Waterfront Campus provides access to the harbor. It allows people to take that first step onto the water and participate as sailors. We help people learn to sail for the first time.


What do participants need in order to take classes with The School of Sailing & Seamanship?

SH: For the Beginning Sailing class, you need to be at least 14 years old. You do need to know how to swim, have physical stamina, good balance and be capable of moving about safely in the boat. Life jackets are required.


What should someone expect in the beginner’s class?

SH: Students will work with an instructor who has a lot of experience teaching sailing. Classes are taught outside on the dock. There is an orientation, lecture of sailing theory, safety information [and] instructions about how to get the boat on and off the dock. Life jackets are worn on the dock and boat. Students are … [partnered] with two to three [other] students per boat.


Why is Newport Beach a great place to learn?

SH: There is a long history of sailing in Newport Beach that brings a pride in seamanship and the sailing legacy here. We want to continue the tradition of having sailboats on the water, compared to other watercraft. It’s interesting to sail around the man-made islands [and] fun to sightsee—[the area has many] other boats and amazing homes. Plus, the wind and weather are fairly predictable. We can sail almost every day and rarely cancel classes due to weather.


What other resources are offered at the OCC Waterfront Campus?

SH: In addition to the Sailing Center, we also have a professional maritime program, mariner continuing education and [an] intercollegiate rowing center. We also have a beautiful nautical library with maritime reference books and charts.


Portside Products

Get ready to take to the waves with these on-the-water essentials.

Prevent your hands from getting rope burn while still keeping a firm grip thanks to Gill’s SHORT FINGER DECKHAND GLOVES, which offer simple yet effective protection, $25.95, at The School of Sailing & Seamanship. (949-645-9412;
Avoid sunburn while out on the water in the MEN’S PFG TERMINAL TACKLE LONG SLEEVE SHIRT by Columbia—the apparel provides extra protection with Omni-Shade UPF 50 fabric that also boasts moisture-wicking properties to keep you cool and dry, $40, at Dick’s Sporting Goods, Fashion Island. (949-640-1107;
Clear vision is essential for sailing, so keep your eyes focused and protected from both the glare and the elements with the Maui Jim WORLD CUP POLARIZED SUNGLASSES, $262, with advance order at Macy’s, Fashion Island. (949-640-8333;
Closed-toe shoes with a non-marking sole are a must when out on the boat, so consider the Sperry WOMEN’S 7 SEAS 3-EYE SNEAKER, which is made from hydrophobic materials that resist water and dry quickly—plus it has enhanced traction to prevent slipping on both wet and dry surfaces, $89.99, at West Marine.(949-673-9700;
The wide brim of the sailing school-branded NO FLY ZONE HAT by Burlington will help keep the sun off your face and neck while its adjustable lanyard ensures that it won’t blow off in the wind, $39.95, at The School of Sailing & Seamanship. (949-645-9412;
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