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.