How To Choose The Right Sailing Instructor

How To Choose The Right Sailing Instructor | Life of Sailing

Last Updated by

Daniel Wade

August 16, 2023

Key Takeaways

  • Choosing a sailing instructor requires a bit of research and determining your budget
  • Sailing instructors must be certified from entities like the American Sailing Association
  • A good sailing school will have everything needed to teach you the basics of sailing
  • Your sailing experience can give you an edge in the classroom over other sailors
  • The school may use larger boats in comparison to your boat to help teach classes

Sailing instructors have a huge responsibility when teaching anyone to sail. One very important aspect for you is how to choose the right sailing instructor?

Choosing the right sailing instructors involves the right sailing schools, communication skills, and hands-on instruction. The teaching experience you will receive for US sailing must also be a certified instructor from a reputable entity like the American Sailing Association.

In my years of sailing experience, it is crucial to have sailing lessons from an ASA instructor. It also requires that you find the sailing class that best fits your needs, as there are plenty of courses that are meant for different levels of learning.


Table of contents

Finding the Best Sailing Instructor

A good sailing school will have instructors in place that will teach you all the key aspects of sailing. The location that they teach at must be accredited so that students can earn their certification.

Beginners should have a general idea of how a sailboat works in advance before starting so that they have an understanding of the sailing world. Keep in mind that you will need to do your research to find the sailing instructor and course that best suits your sailing needs.

Details of Desired Course

There are different levels of sailing instruction that you should consider based on your needs or experience. For example, most new sailors will opt for the Basic Keelboat course or even Smaller Boat sailing. These will vary based on your experience and what you hope to achieve in your training.

School Reputation

Not every big name school near the coast is going to provide the best sailing lessons. Instead, you should aim to look up reviews of schools that are of interest to see what other people are saying about the program.

Oftentimes, these schools will be able to market their services and reach a large audience. This does not mean they are perfect at what they do and the reviews will usually speak for themselves. The reputation of the school will likely reveal how good the instructor will be, who should also be certified.

Hands-On Experience

Is the sailing school that you have in mind near the water? Do you have to drive a long way just to be on the water?

One key part of taking sailing lessons is being able to apply sailing theory in real time. You want to receive first hand experience in boat handling and earn feedback when needed from a qualified professional. You can read from a book and watch videos all day, but doing the tasks yourself will be one of the biggest reasons you should be taking the class.

Experience of Instructor

All sailing instructors need a minimum of three years experience of sailing in order to apply to be a sailing instructor. With that being said, you want someone that has enough experience sailing but can also convey to students the proper ways to sail and remain safe.

If you have the availability to speak with the sailing instructor, you should. This will gauge how well the person knows sailing, if they have patience, and how communicable they will be in the time you take in their class. You want to be comfortable in their teaching skills and to rely on them when you need support during your training.

The best sailing instructors also make the experience fun and not too serious. They are able to communicate potential problems and how to think on your feet when you are by yourself.


Depending on your sailing goals, your budget might come into play on the desired class you are wanting to take. A sailing course and earning certifications will both cost time and money, which are all different prices and are subject to the school you choose.

According to ASA, there are not any set prices for any of the schools and they get to adjust their fees based on the market or what they are providing. For example, a school in Manhattan offers basic sailing for $590 to start, but a school in Warick offers a similar class that costs $1099 to start. Each school will vary based on what they are offering.

Why Are Sailing Instructors Important?

Sailing instructors are pivotal to the success of the courses you wish to take. A good sailing instructor will help dictate the tone of the presentation and how well the students retain vital knowledge.

The person teaching the class does not have to be life-changing, but it would be great if you are able to recommend them highly afterwards. This will only boost their credentials and help the next student that comes along for training.

Teaching the Material

If you are learning how to sail or wanting more experience in different areas of sailing, you will need someone qualified to teach you. Sailing instructors have to be good teachers because not everything you are going to read in a book is going to make sense. If the sailing instructor is able to relay information back to you in a way that you will remember, that is the ultimate goal.

Giving You Confidence

When was the last time you went to a public setting and experienced a worker who absolutely loved their job? Not only does a sailing instructor have to be a good teacher, but they must love what they do. A good sailing instructor should be able to strengthen your knowledge in sailing and allow you to succeed in any situation.

The sailing instructor must be able to show passion for sailing that is derived from their own personal experiences. This amount of confidence that they have in their teaching will rub off on you, making you feel more comfortable at the helm.

Showing First-Aid and Boat Care

There are going to be situations in your life that you either have wished you had the proper training or were glad you had the knowledge. In addition to learning how to sail, you will also be taught the basics of how to conduct first-aid and how to properly take care of your boat.

Understanding Radar and Weather Issues

There are certain classes that can help guide you in learning more about proper radar use and for keeping an eye on the weather. If you are taking such classes, the sailing instructor must be able to explain somewhat complicated matters from the radar side of things, because not everyone knows how to properly use navigational tools.

For weather, these are important maritime skills that everyone should know if planning on longer voyages or even harsh weather moments offshore. You will need an experienced sailor that knows what they are talking about and can help you operate in tough conditions.

Keeping Schools Consistent

One school’s policy might be different from another based on location and the amount of qualified teachers that they have on tap. A good sailing school will be able to retain the best teachers and not just rotate through.

Many, unfortunately, hire part-time sailing instructors that are just looking for a paycheck because they have the experience and qualification. This is why proper research and getting to know your local sailing instructor is key to your success while attending the school.

What to Look for in a Sailing Instructor?

Many different skills are necessary to become a successful sailing instructor at a good sailing school. Not only do sailing instructors have the benefit of doing what they love, but they must have the ability to give their expertise in a thoughtful process. The teaching experience is not for everyone, so make sure to find instructors that carry a handful of these traits.


You want to be with a sailing instructor that is organized and has their ducks in a row. These individuals are good at responding to your requests or questions while keeping the teaching experience organized.

Good Problem Solvers

These instructors have to be able to think on their feet and handle a variety of situations. If they are successful in doing that, they can teach you similar actions while sailing.

Quality Leaders

Who does everyone turn to for advice or questions about sailing? A good sailing instructor is the person that has to have the most knowledge and can lead a group of people.

Perfect Communication

If an instructor has difficulty communicating with other people, they are not going to be able to teach a class or even just a handful of people. They must be able to thoughtfully communicate with others to convey the right message about sailing.

Technical Competence

There are other areas of sailing that will require some basic technological knowledge, such as understanding navigational charts or predicting weather patterns. If the instructor fails to properly use basic technology on modern boats, you may want to go elsewhere.

How To Choose The Right Sailing Instructor
Daniel Wade

Daniel Wade

I've personally had thousands of questions about sailing and sailboats over the years. As I learn and experience sailing, and the community, I share the answers that work and make sense to me, here on Life of Sailing.

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