Junior Sailing Program




We are still planning to operate our junior program this summer, but we know it will need to be done in a modified way. This may include staggered drop off times, small groups, and social distancing. Once we have more specifics from the state we will be emailing parents. 

For parents and sailors looking for an alternative to opti, there is a new class of single-handed boats called an open Skiff or O’Bic. PYC does not own any, but if you would be interested in purchasing one, you can sail it at our program as long as we have six or more. Please contact the Junior Program Officer or the Program Director for more information.

Portland Yacht Club’s Junior Sailing Program is open to both PYC members’ children and non-PYC member youth.  The PYC Junior Sailing Program’s mission is to teach sailing in a safe, educational and fun environment.  We aim to instill a life long love for sailing in youth participants.  The program supports both serious competitors and recreational sailors all skill levels.It is focused on building sailing skills, promoting sportsmanship, fostering teamwork and strengthening respect for oneself and others.

Registration form, class fees and policies available here.


Session I: June 22 – July 03 Monday to Friday Two weeks
Session II: July 06- July 17 Monday to Friday Two weeks
Session III: July 20- July 31 Monday to Friday Two weeks
Session IV: August 3-14 Monday to Friday Two weeks
Minnows Mornings August 17-21 Monday to Friday One week
Minnows Afternoon August 17-21 Monday to Friday One week
Travel Race Team June 22-August 14 Monday to Friday Entire season
Cow Island Overnight August 11-12    
Adventure with Stem Session 1 and 2 Monday to Friday Two weeks
Adventure Only Session 3 and 4 Monday to Friday Two weeks

Feeling comfortable on the water is a fundamental part of safe sailing.  All junior sailors, regardless of age or number of years in the Program, are required to take a swim drill.  The drill includes swimming in a bathing suit and shoes along the length of the junior float (50 ft), treading water for 30 seconds, and putting on a life jacket in the water. (Sailors in the Minnows Program will wear life jackets in a modified drill.)  There is a swim ladder that children can use to climb out of the water.  If children struggle, they may retake the drill and coaches will offer support as needed.  The drill will take place on the first day of each session, so please plan accordingly:  pack a towel, a dry bathing suit, and a second pair of shoes. If this test would be a challenge for your sailor, please contact Program Director Chris Morin to discuss the situation (207) 899-2864. 

Click Here for a link to The Director’s photos of the 2019 season
Minnows (Ages 6 -7), Half-day Sessions: Morning OR Afternoon

Prerequisite: Modified swim drill.  This one-week, half-day program is added on at the end of the summer as an opportunity for young sailors to test the waters.  Children will become familiar with the docks, boats and water as they are exposed to the sport in a fun environment.  Children will learn to sail in the Club’s Pram dinghies, in pairs, close to shore.  The option is a morning or afternoon session for 5 days. The morning session runs from 9am to 12 noon. The afternoon session is from 1pm to 4pm.

Pram Beginner AM (Ages 7-8), Half-day, Mornings

Prerequisite: Swim drill. This introductory-level class is for younger children who are new to sailing and want to learn in a fun environment. Capsize recovery and comfort on the water will be emphasized. Children will sail dinghies (Prams & Optis) close to shore and in pairs. They will learn parts of the boat, basic knots, and seamanship. This half-day class runs from 9am to 12 noon.

Pram Beginner PM (Ages 7-8) Half-day, Afternoons

Prerequisite: Swim drill. This introductory level class is a new addition to our program. The class is designed for children ages 9 and above who are new to the sport of sailing and want to learn in a fun environment with other students who are close in age and ability level. Capsize recovery and comfort on the water will be emphasized. The kids will sail close to shore and learn parts of the boat, basic knots, and seamanship. This half day class runs from 1pm to 4pm.

Opti Beginner/Novice (Ages 9 -11) Full-day

Prerequisite: Has completed a Pram Beginner Session; (except for sailors, age 11+ who are exempt from the prerequisite and swim drill.)

The OPTI Beginner course is for youth sailors with little or no prior single-handed sailing experience, and includes those who have taken the course last season. Typical ages: 9-10 year-olds. This full-day program runs from 9am to 4pm. Class Overview: Portland Yacht Club maintains a strong emphasis on fun sailing and sailing-related games throughout the duration of the course.  Children learn to sail in safe, single-handed, Optimist dinghies. The Opti Beginner course offers a fun learning environment while nurturing important life skills: responsibility, independence, confidence, teamwork and sportsmanship. Skills taught: Getting comfortable in an Opti, addressing common fears such as heeling and capsizing, and focusing on safety and control. Learning the parts of the boat, the sailing nomenclature, and learning to rig and de-rig a boat. Tying knots: figure eight, square knot and bowline.  Finding the wind direction, then feeling and seeing wind on the water. Steering using a tiller to avoid obstructions. Right of way rules (starboard/port, leeward boat rules). Learning how to independently capsize and right a boat in light wind.


Opti Intermediate/Advanced (Ages 10 -12) Full-day

Prerequisite: Successfully completed Optimist Novice or equivalent or previous coach’s recommendation; (except for sailors age 11+ who are exempt from the prerequisite and swim drill.)  This full-day program runs from 9am to 4pm. Typical ages: 10-12 year-olds.  Sailors will continue to improve their boat-handling skills and learn advance techniques such as simple tactical planning and decision making skills. Boating safety and fun are emphasized while nurturing important life skills: responsibility, independence, confidence, teamwork and sportsmanship. Skills Taught: Proper sail trim and body positioning to maintain control at all points of sail (upwind, downwind, reaching) – Tack and gybe from/to any point of sail in control – Sailing in crowded situations, and sailing around a triangular course – Right of way rules (starboard/port, windward/leeward, from behind, keep clear while maneuvering, avoid collisions)

Opti Green Fleet (Ages 9-12) Full-day

Prerequisite: For sailors who successfully completed Optimist II or equivalent or have a previous coach’s recommendation; are interested in racing and have completed a swim drill.

This full-day program runs from 9am to 4pm.  Typical ages: 10-12 year-olds.  Class Overview: Portland Yacht Club’s OPTI GREEN FLEET is for sailors who have completed Opti III and are motivated to start learning to race. Sailors in this class continue to advance their rigging and boat- handling techniques.  They are encouraged to compete in local and regional regattas in the Green Fleet or Championship Fleet (Red, White or Blue).  In addition to sailing skills, the course teaches important life skills: responsibility, independence, confidence, teamwork and sportsmanship.  Sailing Skills Taught: – Introduction to racing – Understand weight placement and sailing in different wind and wave conditions – Determine the favored end of the start line – Understand concepts of clean air and wind shadows – Understand basic race courses, starting sequence, and basic racing nomenclature

420 (Ages 10-17) Full-day

Prerequisite: Opti Green Fleet and swim drill.  

This full-day program runs from 9am to 4pm) Class Overview: For sailors who would like to continue sailing but in a larger boat, with another person.  Portland Yacht Club’s 420 class is meant for sailors who are new and/or familiar to the 420 sailboat. The 420 class is typically (but not necessarily) comprised of sailors who have some prior sailing experience, either in Optis or Keelboats, but who are looking for an introduction to a double-handed boat. The focus of this class is to familiarize sailors with the 420 and to understand the basics of a double-handed boat, including an introduction to trapezing, spinnakers and understanding sail trim and weight-placement.  Sailing Skills Taught: – Understanding rigging and parts of a 420 – Understanding teamwork and communication within a high-performance boat – Understanding how to start and stop a 420 – Tacking and gybing


Travel Race Team with 420 and Opti Fleets, Full-day

PYCs Race Team is meant for junior sailors who have a desire to race on the local and regional levels. There will be a 420 Fleet and and an Opti Fleet. Coaches and parents, together, will discuss which Fleet is most appropriate for their sailor and that is based in part, on age, weight and goals. Sailors on the team typically travel to regattas within New England during the summer and push each other to compete on a high level. There is a strong emphasis on independence as sailors are expected to prepare for regattas largely on their own. Here are some of the objectives:

Encourage and demand sportsmanship, fair play and  Corinthian mind sets

Foster love of the sport of sailing and have fun!

Fine Tune Racing Skills

Compete on a regional and National level

Typical Age Range: 13 – 18 year olds

Skills Taught:

Advanced starting techniques and racing tactics

Understanding starting and stopping a boat; covering and wind-shadows

Advanced understanding of racing rules

The Travel Race Teams have benefitted from volunteer parent participation. If your child is on the team, and you would like to volunteer, please contact: Sarah Caven, PYC Junior Sailing Program Officer: syounganp@yahoo.com.

Adventure with STEM Activities (Ages 11-17) Sessions 1 and 2, Full-day

We offer (two) 2- week, full-day classes which runs 9am to 4pm, Rain or Shine.  STEM Course: Science, Technology, Engineering, Math. This dynamic course is taught by an enthusiastic and dedicated college biology student with US Sailing Level One Certification. Participants sail in the Club’s J/24 keel boats and also explore by motor boat. Excursions and adventures are related to STEM topics and associated with ocean sciences. Have you ever wondered what a nudibranch looks like, and where you might find one at PYC? Or perhaps you’ve wanted to know more about how Casco Bay ended up with so many islands, making it such a special place to live for all it’s wildlife and humans?  This class will answer all these questions and many, many more by providing the perfect chance for youth to improve their sailing and seamanship skills, while also learning everything about the ocean, especially our beloved Casco Bay!  The class will remain a traditional sailing class for one half of the day, with a marine science component during the other half, focusing mainly on the subjects of marine biology and oceanography. 

Adventure (Ages 12-17) Sessions 3 and 4, Full-day

Prerequisite: Swim drill required. Full-day program (9am to 4pm).  This unique course offers an in-depth introduction to 420 and keelboat sailing for teenagers in our junior program. Participants  learn seamanship and sailing in a fun,  cooperative learning environment on board PYC’s 420s and J/24 keelboats. Instruction includes rigging, steering, sail trim, tacking, jibing, docking, knots, parts of the boat, anchoring and basic navigation. Students will also learn general boating safety and capsize recovery. Teamwork and communication between crew is emphasized. Each day will be a new and exciting opportunity for the sailors to explore Casco Bay. 

Cow Island Overnight (Ages 9 and Up)



What sailboats are used?

The Junior Sailing Program uses Prams, Optis, 420s and J/24 Keelboats for instruction.  The Pram and the Optimist dinghy called Opti” are similar – they are both small, stable boats designed for one person.  However, we do begin the younger sailors in pairs in one boat.  

The 420 is a larger boat with two sails (mainsail and a jib) and is designed for two people.  Students should be 100lbs+ and/or 5ft+ in order to move up.  The 420 is a popular boat, commonly raced at the high school and collegiate level.  The J/24 Keelboat is designed for about 6 sailors; an instructor is onboard with sailors.

When is my child ready to move from Optis into 420s?

A sailor would be ready to move from Optis to 420s when they are, at least 10 yrs old, comfortable on the water, weigh more than 50lbs, exceptions can be made with approval

What should kids bring to sailing?

Everyone is responsible for bringing his or her own lifejacket.  Click here for the full list.

What footwear is acceptable?

Closed toed shoes including old sneakers, canvas shoes, crocks, keens and more.   Kids often like to bring flip-flops to change into on the lawn and deck.  Shoes must be warn at all times.

How can I view photos of my child?

Photos will be displayed on the PYC web site, Facebook page, e-newsletters and end of season awards banquet. Contact Chris Morin for additional information.

Are parents allowed to come watch the sailing lessons?

PYC will do it’s best to arrange for parents to watch their children sail. Contact Chris Morin if interested.

What classes are suitable for kids with no prior sailing experience?

Kids who are new to the sport of sailing should begin with either the Minnows, Beginner or Adventure class depending on age and size.


Sarah Caven, Junior Sailing Program Officer: junior.officer@pycme.net