Wednesday Curriculum

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Class 1 Curriculum


Give a brief introduction to the sailing program (in the Shore School: 5 minutes).

  • Brief History of sailing at MIT
  • How the lessons will work
  • What to wear
  • Other Pavilion activities:
    • Lynx Catboats
    • Windsurfing
    • Lasers
    • Fireflies
    • Moonlight Sails
    • Harbor Trips
    • X Dimension
  • Website
    • Calendar of upcoming events

Policies and Procedures

Go over the rules and procedures of the sailing program (in the shore school: 10-15 minutes)

  • How to get a sailing card
  • How ratings work
    • Swim Rating
    • Provisional Rating
    • Helmsman Rating
    • Ratings for other boats
  • Life jackets must be worn at all times in boats
  • Guest Policy
    • All persons in small boats must know how to swim
    • Each MIT boat must have at least one person with a sailing card
  • Sailing boundaries
    • Don't go under bridges
    • Keep the dock in sight
    • Only land at the MIT dock
    • Avoid shallows near Esplanade
    • Avoid yacht club, community boating.
  • Signals
    • Lowering of the red flag or turning on of dock lights is the recall signal
    • If you need help, lower your sail
  • Capsizing
    • Stay with the boat!
    • You can try to right the boat or wait for help
    • How to right the boat
  • No smoking at the Pavilion or in boats
  • No alcohol except at certain pre-registered events. See the website for more info.

Basics of Sailing

Go over the basics of how to sail a sailboat (in the shore school: 10-15 minutes)


  • Steer with tiller: point the boat where you want to go
  • Sit opposite the sail on the upwind side of the boat
  • Pay attention to the boat's heading to steer a straight course
  • Pay attention to wind direction: cannot sail less than 45 degrees into wind
  • How to determine direction of wind
  • How to get out of irons

Sail Trim

  • Let the sail out until it luffs, then pull in just far enough to stop luffing
  • Pull the sail all the way in when sailing upwind
  • Let the sail out when sailing downwind.
  • In gusts, ease out to prevent capsizing

Boat Trim

  • Skipper must sit to be able to steer properly: sit on the side
  • Crew must move around to keep boat level


  • Turn upwind until bow crosses through the eye of the wind
  • Remember to duck as boom moves across the boat
  • Skipper must switch sides (always sits on the windward side)
  • If you tack too slowly, you'll get stuck in irons


  • Turn downwind until stern crosses through the eye of the wind
  • Boom can have much more force than during a tack, so remember to duck
  • Beware of sailing by-the-lee when sailing downwind

Tour of Pavilion


  • Point out the locations of different boats
    • Techs
    • Lasers
    • Windsurfers
    • Fireflies
    • FJs
    • Lynx Catboats
  • Point out the red flag on top of the Pavilion (burgee)
  • Point out the shop
  • Point out the day lockers
  • Bikes go on west roof
  • East roof can be rented for parties


  • Point out two unisex restrooms
  • Location and use of sailing cards
  • Check with dock staff before taking out boats
  • Location and use of lock box (silence cell phones before putting in box!)
  • String to use for glasses

Sailing & Rigging Demonstration

Rigging a Tech Dinghy

  • Point out locations of life jacket, rudders, sails, & bailers
  • Put all four items in a boat
  • Tie head of sail to halyard with stunsail tack bend
  • Attach clew to boom
  • Only raise the sail a foot or so on the dock
  • Put boat in water, tie up with bowline
  • Don life jacket and step in boat
  • Lower centerboat
  • Attach rudder
  • Raise sail -- make sure it is fully hoisted
  • Adjust downhaul
  • Tension outhaul to a hand's width
  • Vang disabled (attached to boom near mast)

Sailing Demonstration

  • Proper position in the boat of skipper
  • Do not use tiller extension!
  • Check for traffic before launching
  • Push off, steer away from dock, trim sail
  • Always land pointed into the wind (check flag, observe other boats)
  • Exit the boat near the wires and tie up

Reefing Demonstration

  • Demonstrate how to reef the sail
  • Use of dogbone
  • Use of sail envelope

Derigging Demonstration

  • Lower sail, remove rudder, raise centerboard, attach centerboard bungee
  • Pull boat out and finish unrigging
  • Point out the jam cleat at the top of the mast (halyard can become jammed)
  • Store the rudder, sails, and reefing gear in the proper place


  • Finish off class with demonstration of knots in the Shore School
    • Bowline
    • Stunsail Tack Bend
    • Mooring Cleat Hitch

Class 2 Curriculum

Rig boats

  • Check with students when they arrive at the Pavilion:
    • Have they taken Class 1? (If not, send them to Shore School)
    • Do they have a partner? Pair them up
  • Two people per boat, have them get sails, rudders, & life jackets and start rigging
  • It helps to have a number of people on the dock to assist with rigging

Lecture and Demonstration

When most of the boats are rigged, gather students together and go over important points:

  • Proper position for skipper and crew
  • Tiller must be able to move all the way side-to-side
  • Do not use tiller extension
  • Never drop the tiller
  • Crew controls the sheet:
    • Trim directly from the boom
    • Remember to let it out in gusts
    • Let it all the way out when landing
  • Remember to switch sides of boat when tacking: skipper always opposite the sail
  • Crew must shift weight to keep boat balanced
  • Give plenty of room to other boats
  • Always land pointed into the wind
  • Instructor will demonstrate launch, tacks, jibes, and landing.
    • It helps to have another instructor on the dock to describe the demonstration
  • Describe the course the students are going to sail


  • Demonstrate reefing
  • Have all the students put in one or two reefs (depending on the conditions)


  • Before class, set up a single buoy about 10 boat lengths from the dock, for a beam reach
  • Three instructors will assist:
    • One instructor upwind on the dock to help launch
    • One instructor in a motorboat to assist on the water
    • One instructor downwind on the dock to assist with landing
  • Students launch one at a time:
    • Skipper gets in first
    • Crew pushes off
  • Students sail to the buoy and perform a tack around it
  • Students sail back to the dock and land near the third instructor
  • Third instructor may wish to use a megaphone to be able to assist landing in a calm voice
  • Students will get out of their boats, and walk back to the start
  • Dock instructors will control the number of boats on the water
    • Allow fewer boats out at a time in windy conditions
    • Slow down launching of boats if some students are having difficulty
  • Dock instructors can also provide pointers to students while they are waiting to launch
  • Students should alternate skipper vs. crew each time