Introduction to Dinghy Sailing

The ASC’s four-day Introduction to Dinghy Sailing class is designed for beginners and assumes no prior sailing experience. We teach one track for adults and teens 13 and older and another youth class for kids aged 8 to 12. The youth class overlaps with the adult course, allowing whole families to participate in our program.

Register for a Class

Click below to register for either of our 2024 Introduction to Sailing classes and don’t forget that you need an ASC membership before registering. If the class you’d like to attend is full, we’re happy to add you to the class waiting list and let you know if a spot opens up.


July 11th–14th


July 11th–14th


July 18th–21st


July 18th–21st

Topics and Background Reading

Participants in our intro classes will learn all the following:

  • Basic sailing vocabulary, including the names of all the “parts and pieces” of a boat
  • How to sail a dinghy on all points of sail (reaching, running, and upwind sailing)
  • Core sailing maneuvers, including tacking, jibing, and rocking a sailboat forward when there isn’t any wind
  • How to right a capsized boat safely
  • Correct rigging, put-away, and hoist-use procedures for the club boats. Adults and teens will focus on Lido 14s, the Buccaneer 18, and the Catalina 16.5, while youth sailors will learn to rig Lasers and Optimists.
  • Essential sailing knots, including the double figure eight, the double half-hitch, the bowline, and the cleat knot
  • Basic right-of-way rules
  • Introduction to the rules and basic tactics of sailboat racing

Before taking this class, we recommend reading Learning to Sail: The Annapolis Sailing School Guide for All Ages. This reading exercise isn’t a hard requirement, but it’ll give you some theoretical grounding for many of the hands-on activities in the class. You can often pick up a local copy at Title Wave Books, and it’s also available to order from Amazon.

Class Schedule

The following is a rough schedule for our Introduction to Dinghy Sailing Sailing classes. We’ll do our best to adhere to some version of this plan. But we sometimes have to adjust since we don’t have control over the weather and the wind.

Class ends officially at 6:00 p.m. on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. But most students opt to camp at the club throughout the class. After class, students and instructors often cook dinner together, and if the weather permits, instructors will take students out on the ASC’s lovingly restored Ensign 22 for a sunset sail.

Day one (Thursday), 1:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.

Class starts later on Thursday, so our instructors have time to prepare boats and materials on Thursday morning. This also gives students plenty of time to arrive and set up tents or RVs if they’re staying at the ASC for the duration of the class.

We’ll start the class at 1:00 p.m. with introductions and then take a brief walking tour of the club. After that, we’ll jump right into hands-on rigging the boats we need for class, and along the way, we will learn the names of all the “parts and pieces” of a sailing dingy. Once we’ve rigged all the boats, we’ll launch them and do the dreaded (but fun!) capsize drill.

Once everybody has had a chance to dry off and recover from the capsize session, we’ll have a brief classroom session to cover basic theory, the mechanics of sailing, and basic sailing maneuvers (tacking and jibing). Following that, we’ll do some “dry land” practice with the tiller, and then we will finish the day with a brief Q&A session and then learn to derig and put away all the boats.

Day two (Friday) 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.

We’ll spend as much time on the water as the wind allows during the second day. We’ll begin the day by getting the boats rigged and launched. From there, we’ll do a brief classroom review and then head to the lake for our first drill! (We’ll be beam reaching and tacking around two marks.)

Once everybody is (mostly) comfortable, we’ll head back for some class time, introducing the techniques and principles involved in sailing upwind and downwind.

When everybody’s brain is full, we’ll take a lunch break, and after that, we’ll hit the water and get some practice with upwind and downwind sailing. Since this is typically the most challenging part of sailing for beginners, we’ll spend the rest of the day getting comfortable with this. We’ll end the day with a Q&A session and then get the boats put away.

Day three (Saturday) 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.

We’ll continue to spend as much time on the water as the wind allows during our third day. We’ll begin the day by getting the boats rigged and launched, and from there, we’ll hit the water to start work on more challenging drills, including tack-on-the-whistle, jibe-on-the-whistle, and follow the leader.

After our on-water practice, we’ll do a short classroom debrief in the clubhouse and then take a lunch break. Following lunch, we’ll work on some more advanced sailing topics, including:

  • Right-of-way
  • Safe docking procedures
  • Sailing with telltales
  • Sailing a boat in extreme conditions (too much wind, too little wind) As usual, we’ll end the day with a Q&A session and then get the boats put away.

Day four (Sunday) 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

We’ll begin our final day of class by rigging boats and jumping right in with some advanced drills. After that, we’ll come in and spend time learning the basics of sailboat racing! Our goal is to give students the necessary knowledge to participate in ASC regattas. During the afternoon, we’ll practice some low-key racing drills and then run a few fun class races!

As with the other days, we’ll finish up with a Q&A session and then get the boats put away. We will end class about an hour earlier than the other days, so students have time to get home and rest before the workweek!

Youth Class Special Notes

The overall youth class schedule is similar to the agenda for the adult class, with the same start and end times are the same. However, we modify the format to work more effectively with younger learners. Some alterations include:

  • Comparatively, more hands-on time and less classroom theory time
  • Lots of on-water games
  • More frequent and shorter practice sessions
  • Time for unstructured play

Note that we require parents to be on-premises during our youth classes. So, they can either take the adult class or relax and enjoy time on the ASC grounds.