For nearly 60 years, Little Traverse Sailors has offered a learn to sail program for youth from ages eight to eighteen on the waterfront in Harbor Springs, Michigan.
Our widely-known program is designed to build skills and a lifelong interest in the sport of sailing in a fun, safe, and supportive environment. About 350 young people take part in the learn to sail program each summer; graduates of the program have gone on to become worldwide leaders in the sport, including America’s Cup sailors, World and National Champions, Collegiate All-Americans, and more. But far more importantly, the experiences at Little Traverse Sailors have inspired generations of sailors to keep sailing for a lifetime: whether to race, cruise, explore, or simply to “mess about in boats.” Everything we do at LTS is geared towards making our learn to sail program a place where high quality teaching, personal achievement, individual satisfaction, and boundless enjoyment makes memories that will last a lifetime.
Our learn to sail program is structured to progress students through a series of “ranks” that represent increasing skills and experience. Sailors work with our instructors and coaches to complete checklists of skills to advance to the next level. The skills for each level are calibrated to build on-the-water confidence and techniquies, as well as off-the-water knowledge (such as knots, rules of the road, and safety information).
Ranks and Skillsheets
New sailors start as a “Seaman Third Class”, and work on their corresponding skillsheet. In most cases sailors can advance to Seaman Second Class by the end of their first week of sailing, though the time required will vary (and the levels get much harder as they advance). Our program includes seven levels; from bottom to top they are:
- Seaman Third Class
- Seaman Second Class
- Seaman First Class
- Mate Third Class
- Mate Second Class
- Mate First Class
Once a sailor passes skipper, he or she may want to continue to perfect and develop skills in the learn to sail program, or may want to join the Race Team and test their skills against some of the top junior sailors in the Midwest.
We run from 10:00am to 4:00pm each weekday. Sailors can take all day sessions (recommended) or AM-only (10:00 – 12:45) or PM-only (1:15-4:00).
10:00-10:10am – Brief AM Parents’ Orientation Meeting [on the lawn]
1:15-1:25pm – Brief PM Parents’ Orientation Meeting [on the lawn]
6:00pm – Dinghy Racing for Lasers and 420’s
10:00am-12:45pm and 1:15pm-4:00pm – Point Day! For more information about Point Day see our Parents Information Page.
12:00pm-1:00pm – Lunch and Learn Series. Run by LTS and hosted by LTYC. Come enjoy lunch on the LTYC Porch and learn about a wide variety of sailing topics.
5:00pm-7:00pm – Bug Races! Come down to LTS and enjoy fun and informal youth racing in Bugs just off the LTYC Dock. All Races are open to any sailor who is enrolled in LTS during Summer 2016.
4:00pm-7:00pm – J70 Adult Learn-to-Race program. For more information on our Adult Learn-to-Race Program see our Adult Learn-to-Race Page.
6:00pm – Dinghy Racing for Lasers and 420’s
12:30pm AM Session Awards Ceremony
3:45pm PM Session Awards Ceremony
Sailors will be divided into groups based on their rank and skills. There will be a brief on-shore “chalk talk” for each group, led by one or more of our instructors. Depending on the day and the group, the chalk talk may cover a new sailing topic, safety, introduce a drill, knots, rules of the road, etc.
After the chalk talk, sailors are assigned a boat from the fleet and rig (put the sails on the boat and hoist them). Instructors assist sailors with rigging and ensure the boats are rigged properly. Then the sailors launch the boats and go sailing in their groups.
While sailing in small groups, with sailors of similar skill levels, sailors work closely with instructors on skills specific for their needs. To teach new skills instructors lead sailors through a wide variety of drills, exercises, and free sailing.
Just a few of the fun and exciting drills used in instruction are:
- Follow the Leader:
- Lead by students in a sailboat or a staff member in a coach boat, sailors have to sail while staying in a single file line and follow the course set by the leader. Sailors must control their boat’s course, speed, and position to maintain the line. In the guise of leading and following their friends and fellow sailors, students are challenge to grow all aspects of their sailing skills in a fun and entertaining environment.
- Tennis Ball Tag:
- A favorite light wind activity of students, sailors must sail and maneuver their boats in close proximity to each other while trying to retrieve tennis balls and score points. Points are scored by throwing a tennis ball and having it hit another boats sail. Sailors work on right of way and boat-handling to successfully sail close enough to hit another boat’s sail with a tennis ball.
- Red Light, Green Light:
- While sailing students stop and start their boats as instructors call out Red Light or Green Light. Sailors learn how to control the speed of their boats on all points of sail and learn to safety stop their boat, a very important aspect of seamanship.
- Scavenger Hunt:
- A challenge for a sailor’s skill as well as mind that gives sailors a clue to solve. Once solved, the clue that gives the location of the next clue in the hunt. Sailors must then sail to the next clue to continue on the hunt for the final clue!
- Bug Rely Races:
- Sailors are grouped into small teams and each team is given one Bug. A small race is set with a start and finish point at the dock. Each team member must sail the course and the first team to have every team-member sail the course wins!
- Simon Says:
- A sailors take on the classic childhood game that challenges sailors to perform the sailing skills described or not described by an instructor.
- Rigging Competitions:
- A test of how quickly sailors can correctly rig or put away their boats. Being able to quickly rig or put away a sailboat is an important skill of seamanship and it also allows the sailors to spend the most amount of time sailing each day!
- Buoy courses:
- A wide variety of buoy courses are used to teach sailors different skills. From basic courses teaching the points of sail to advanced courses teaching high level boat-handling, buoys become a sailors friend!
- Free Sailing:
- The ability to sail freely while feeling comfortable and confident is the foundation of building a lifelong passion for sailing. Sailors are encourage to sail where they want and to explore the freedom they can experience while sailing.
After a fun day on the water sailing, sailors return to the waterfront to put their boats away. Classes wrap up with a quick debrief of the important lessons from the day and sailors are given any important information for the next day of class.