Camp Instructor Handbook

CSC Sail Camp Instructor Handbook


This manual is intended as a detailed guide for the CSC Sail Camp Sailing Instructors (SI) and Teaching Assistants (TA).  It includes notes on the responsibilities and daily activities of the job, as well as expanding on Camp policies to be followed.

The Sailing Instructor and Teaching Assistant work directly with the campers and report to the Head Instructor in all matters.  There will be times, however, when they will be assigned to help the Shore Director with other activities such as games or clean-up.

Remember that while the students are our responsibility, their parents are our clients.  Since the students will be reporting on your performance directly to parents each evening, it is critical that you set a good example at all times.  If you should experience any difficulties or negative feedback from parents, either directly or through the campers, you should engage the HI or SD immediately to resolve the issue.  Do not confront the parents directly or alone, and do not let these things linger.  They are generally an indication of something larger rather than something small that will go away with time.  Remember you are part of a team and it is the team’s responsibility to be aware of these problems and to solve them together.

As always, being responsible for other people’s children places significant emphasis on safety and security.  In an age of litigation, kidnapping by aggrieved spouses, and mass shootings CSC places a great deal of responsibility on the staff to maintain a vigilant perimeter around the students.  The official gateway to the outside world is through the daily drop-off and pick-up procedures.  Although this is primarily the responsibility of the Shore Director, all staff should be familiar with the basic procedures and be able to fill in at any time.

The primary intent of the Camp is to provide instruction in sailing, but shore activities are also a key component to the overall Camp experience.  Light wind conditions are typical of Fort Loudoun Lake.  This makes the role of the SI/TA even more difficult as you will have to work around continually changing conditions.

Maintenance of sailboats and safety boats has been a perennial problem.  Natural wear and tear is different from abuse and damage.  Maintain a log of both kinds of repairs.

Problem students should be sent to the clubhouse for a “time-out” with the Shore Director for discipline.  This should be treated as a Disciplinary Action and written up in an Incident Report for parental notification.  Please review discipline procedure in the Policy Manual for your reference.  Do not allow a “time-out” to become unsupervised play time.

Similarly, Instructors and TAs are subject to Disciplinary Action by the Head Instructor, Shore Director or Camp Director.  Failure to live up to expectations (such as following camp policies, conducting yourself in an appropriate manner, adequately supervising your fleet, teaching the material properly) may lead to corrective actions up to and including dismissal from Camp.

Daily Routine

If the wind is good, the typical schedule is:

  • 8:30-9:00 camper sign-in (staff meeting)
  • 9:00-12:00 sailing instruction with mid-morning snack
  • 12:00-1 :00 lunch and free play
  • 1:00-4:00 sailing instruction with mid-afternoon snack
  • 4:00-5:00 review (camper debrief) and optional afternoon activities
  • 5:00-5:30 camper sign-out (staff debrief)

Instruction Periods

Instruction periods run from 9am-12pm and 1pm-4pm.  Instructors are not allowed in the instructor lounge during these times except to retrieve equipment.  Assemble your Fleet and check the head count.  Also check for sunscreen, hydration, PFD, shoes, hat, sunglasses etc.  Brief your Fleet on the upcoming program and then execute your Lesson Plan.  If your Lesson Plan calls for on-water activities, it is an efficient practice to have the TA lay out marks while you explain the drill or assist with rigging.  This provides a target for your campers as they first set out from the dock and keeps your Fleet within a reasonable range for observation.

Effective on-water instruction requires careful planning and execution.  Campers should be aware of the plan before setting out.  Explain new drills and have the campers walk through them with land drills and games before heading out.  Changes to the plan while on the water should be minimal and simple so as to avoid confusion.  Communicating complex changes across an entire fleet above the noise of the outboard, wind, sails and other campers is time consuming and nearly impossible.  Arrange general hand and sound signals in advance.  Examples include hand signals for sheet in/out or tiller in/out, plus sound signals for control position or come within hail.  Always try to stay upwind while delivering verbal instructions.

While conducting on-water drills you must always maintain a constant control over your Fleet.  This includes continuously maintaining order and a head count.  Continuously circle the Fleet and visit each boat in turn to provide encouragement and instruction.  Sitting idle while campers “free sail” or rafting up with other Instructors is not appropriate.  While “free sail” may be an acceptable alternative to an organized drill, the Instructor must still retain control and observation over the Fleet and provide continuous instruction.  Similarly, if a particular boat requires a staff member on board, this should be the job of the TA rather than the Instructor.  The Instructor is responsible for the safety of the entire Fleet.  This cannot be achieved from an individual camper’s boat and cannot be delegated to the TA.  Red fleet is limited to 1 free sail per week.

If you need to fall back on your no-wind alternatives, these should ALL be sailing related activities planned by the Instructor and TA.  Work with the HI to include STEM module activities.  This should fit into your week long objectives for the Fleet and even be a part of your Lesson Plan.  The SD should know what your plans are and is there to provide materials and coordinate the activities if they are camp-wide.  Work closely with the SD for ideas and plans, but do not leave this entirely up to the SD as has been done in past years.

Fleets will come in or radio for snacks sometime in the middle of each instruction period.  If ashore, plan on having snacks on the patio for restroom convenience but keep it short.  Let the SD know if you prefer to have them delivered to the dock.

Lesson Plans

Lesson plans are more than just paperwork.  They help the instructor focus on a goal, they help set timetables, they help the instructor explain the drills to the campers, they serve as a record of accomplishment (or not).  They should be written out in advance, approved by the Head Instructor, and checked off as either completed or not at the end of the day.  Including a list of students who attended (or missing) can also help verify training records if required.

Start the week with the goal of teaching the core curriculum at the appropriate level for your fleet.  This is what US Sailing refers to as “scope and sequence”.  Use Level 1 skills for beginners (Opti, Fusion, Orange Fleet) and Level 2 skills for returning campers (O’Pen, Red Fleet).  Add Level 3 skills for rising TAs.

Opening Activities

When you arrive in the morning (8:45), assist Shore Director with opening activities until more staff arrive.  Briefly inspect sailing and safety equipment.

Attend staff meeting in the Bunker.  Review equipment status and its possible impact on plans.  Review weather forecast and submit your Lesson Plans for approval.  Review backup plans.  Check for any changes in special needs for affected students.  Pick up your radio and quickly assemble your Fleet.  TAs should be included in the Staff Meeting or supervising their Fleet during sign-in as required.  A morning Flag Ceremony may be used to call the campers together and signal the start of the day’s activities.


Campers bring their own lunch, but lunch is provided for staff.  This is a break period for Instructors and TAs.  Consult the duty roster to see who is assigned to supervise the campers during lunch.  If you are supervising, your presence must be felt as a controlling factor.  Do not allow lunch time to drag on too long.  Campers seem to spend less time eating than Instructors so that they can get in on other games.  As a result, they tend to leave a lot of trash.  Before the students resume Fleet activities, have them pick up their trash.  There is a push broom and mop in double door closet in main clubhouse room.

Afternoon Activities

Fleets should not be returning to shore before 4pm.  Younger Fleets (Optis) may return earlier because their attention span and good behavior reach their limits sooner on a long hot day.  At any time, and especially during good weather, Instructors may opt-out of any planned shore activities in order to keep their fleet on the water longer.  Regardless of when you return to shore, you should spend time to review the day’s activities and progress with campers and prepare for tomorrow.  However, this is NOT the end of the staff day.  Campers are still the responsibility of their Instructors, although the Instructors may be required to elsewhere to deal with maintenance or record keeping.  After cleaning up the docks and rigging areas, campers are free to engage in shore activities.

Optional camp-wide shore activities may be planned and should be communicated in advance.  The SD is there to prepare materials and coordinate these activities, not to execute them alone.  The SD has other duties (typically with parents and camper pickup) that will prevent them from running activities full time.  Instructors are expected to engage in these activities as part of the supervision of their Fleet and as a contribution to the Camp spirit.

The HI will devise and post a duty roster to deal with maintenance, record keeping or games as necessary.  Lifeguards are required for any free-swim activities (no life jackets required).  Use this time to update the HI/SD on any matters that need to be reported to parents when they start to arrive at 5:00.

Closing Activities

At 5:00 all campers are sent up to clubhouse to wait for their parents.  This is the time for staff to tie up loose ends with parents.  Specifically:  late payments, discipline or accident reports, feedback or complaints.  Remind parents about special events and timelines:  Prirate Day, Boat Show and Awards Dinner on Friday.  The SD will have info sheets set out on a clip board for parents to sign up.

A short staff debrief meeting should be held.  Review the day’s progress relative to the Lesson Plans (did you teach what you planned?) and the overall curriculum objectives (are we teaching them everything we told their parents we would?).  Turn in your lesson plan to the HI.  If there is no lesson plan then nothing was taught.  No plan – no pay.  This is the responsibility of the senior instructor for each Fleet.  Discuss any problems with equipment, students, other staff or volunteers.  Outline tomorrow’s weather forecast and the implications for preparations.

Address any remaining items on the duty roster (sailing equipment inspection, RIBs, gas, trash, camper supervision, camper assessments, incident reports, etc).  Then all SI/TA check in with the SD for last minute clean up tasks before leaving.

Monday Activities

Camper Orientation
Monday morning is the first day of camp for most campers.  An orientation session is planned as the first Camp activity.  The Head Instructor will start with a welcome and introductions, along with basic safety rules.  The campers will be divided into their Fleets and introduce their SI and TA.  The SI will then take over their group for T-shirts, the group photo, initial get-to know-you games and swim test.

Teeshirts will be given out after the morning orientation and break up into fleets.  Shirts will be delivered to each Fleet as they conduct their get-to-know-you games.

Group Photo
A volunteer will handle taking the photo.  This needs to be done on Monday as soon as all fleets have their shirts on and before the swim test.  We take the group photo with all wearing the T-shirt while assembled by the flagpole.  After photos, Fleets will disperse again for instruction and swim test.  Additional photos will be taken throughout camp and posted on a website for download.

Swim Test
A swim test will be administered to all campers after the group photo.  A lifeguard must be present throughout, since this involves swimming without a life jacket.  Campers will swim singly or in pairs along the length of the swim dock and back, then tread water and put on their life jackets.  This is often stressful and therefore usually the first indication of a new camper’s personality so be observant.  In addition to demonstrating a camper’s ability, it affords the camper the experience of swimming fully dressed.  Shoes are often a surprise drag on performance.  Use this to underscore the need for proper footwear to your campers.

Lesson One
Like the swim test, safety rules and capsize recovery are mandatory lessons early on the first day.  Make sure that all campers are introduced to these before they go sailing each week.  Review the Safety Manual for rules that must be included in this lesson.  In addition to this, the first day’s lesson plan must include rigging and a thorough orientation of the boat such as ducking the boom.  This is an extension of the first day’s orientation activities and is likewise a critical piece of any liability defense, especially for novices.  Returning campers should be tested to see how much they have retained and to illustrate areas that will need to be addressed throughout the week.  The same sort of test should be administered to first-time campers at the end of the week to see if they learned enough to graduate to the next level for next year.

Friday Activities

Friday afternoon is set aside for parents to come and visit the club, observe their campers demonstrate their new skills and take some pictures.  Each fleet will organize a demonstration of a particular skill (sailing between marks, races, etc.) starting around 3:30pm.  Campers will return to the dock starting at 4:30 for derigging.  The Awards Dinner will begin at 5pm.

The Camp Director acts as MC for the evening.  After welcome and introductions, the CD will turn events over to the HI for presentation of awards.  Instructors will prepare awards in advance.  These consist of paper certificates with an imaginative award name for each camper that reflects something about their personality or performance at camp.  For example, the Sponge Award to the camper who absorbs the most information.  Sets of themed awards are always popular and reflect the Instructor’s personality and imagination as well.

The Friday afternoon should be devoted to completing paperwork and assigning awards.  This includes camper reviews, US Sailing Red Books, expenses, incident or accident reports, and evaluations.  Rate all of your campers on a scale of 1-5 and turn in the result to the HI.

Clean up.  Help adults and campers clean up after these events.  Trash needs to be emptied, and new bags put in place (but not before the cleanup is complete).  Floors swept, dishes washed, counters cleaned, and old food disposed of.  Remember to leave the clubhouse as clean as possible.  Lock all doors and be sure main gate is shut when you leave.


This curriculum has been broken into segments that can more easily be accomplished within a one-week time frame, especially at beginner levels.  The overriding objective is to instill a love and admiration of sailing while maintaining a safe environment.  In addition to the technical and nomenclature objectives, the basic sailing objectives can be summarized as follows:

  • Level 1:  Intro to sailing (capsize, can make helm and sail adjustments under direction)
  • Level 2:  Can sail all points of sail making proper helm and sail adjustments on their own
  • Level 3:  Can sail a complex course at all points of sail with proper technique at all times, with an introduction to racing (sportsmanship, definitions, roll tacks, starts)
  • Level 4:  Intermediate racing (strategies, tactics, roundings, room)
  • Level 5:  Advanced racing (sail theory, spinnaker, race management)

A one-week sail camp is very short.  It should be easy to use this guide to set an entire week’s worth of lesson plans to cover the material, with plenty of backup plans.  But remember that this is a recommended progression and not a straight jacket.  The instructor is presumed to be able to judge the skill level and interest of their fleet and adjust the course material to match this.  It is assumed that within any given group, individual campers will demonstrate knowledge and skills both above and below the nominal level.  As an instructor, your first objective should be to consolidate this knowledge and feed their desire for more, then impart new information without overwhelming them.

At beginner levels, the emphasis should be placed on doing rather than identifying.  Camp is short and it is far better for a camper to leave camp with a sense of satisfaction at having done something rather than merely learned a bunch of facts.  This will hopefully encourage them to come back for more.  At intermediate levels, try to consolidate basic skills without becoming boring or redundant.  Racing should be introduced as a way to measure personal progress (speed around the course, repeatable precise execution, learning from comparing to others) rather than necessarily as inter-personal competition.  At the advanced levels, a greater percentage of the material is academic than strictly practical.  Try to keep an even balance, using well considered lesson plans to integrate theory and practice.

Refer to the skill sheet for detailed skills associated with each level.  Refer to the US Sailing Skill Up app for premade lesson plans, drills, shore activities and video resources.

Instructors have reported that skill levels vary considerably within a Fleet, especially when a Fleet is based purely on age and head count.  This makes it difficult to teach since everyone has to start with the basics.  To improve this situation, the use of written tests and on-water skill testing based on the established curriculum is being introduced as a means of equalizing skill levels.  Exams for Optis are optional and are assumed to be at Level 1 standards.  Yellow and Orange Fleets will be tested at the end of the week for Level 1 competence.  Blue and Red Fleets will be tested for Level 1 retention at the start of the week, then Level 2 at the end of the week.  Instructors will have to track and record individual camper abilities on the water in order to assign pass/fail ratings.  Select graduating campers will be assigned to Black Fleet for Level 3+ training.  Yellow/Blue and Orange/Red Fleets cannot be combined under this system.

Level 1 should be attainable within a single week for the average camper.  Level 2 may take several additional weeks of camp to cover all items.  Level 3 and higher should take several years of overall experience.

At the more advanced levels, there will inevitably be one or two sailors who excel beyond the rest of the fleet.  Use this to your advantage.  Place them in positions of authority to help teach the weaker campers.  When racing, introduce the concept of Team Racing early on.  Use the better sailors as team captains.  Have them demonstrate more advanced techniques that control not only their own boat, but their competition’s boat and their understanding of the rules.  This will also allow weaker sailors to gain a sense of participation and success even if they themselves are at the back of the fleet.  Schedule mock (or real) protest hearings as part of your shore activities for no-wind days.

Progression Outlines

The curriculum for each level is fairly short and straight forward.  It should be easy to further subdivide it into five days of instruction.  Not everything can be accomplished within that time, so the instructor must pick and choose what is important.  This may change once the skill set of each new group is determined.  This may also change depending on the weather, so it is good to have multiple ways to teach the same lesson.  Don’t be afraid of teaching the same thing twice if you think they have forgotten, or if they demonstrate insufficient skill.

Upon completion of Level 1, the student should be unafraid of the boat or capsizing.  They should be able to rig the boat, safely leave the dock, demonstrate the basic points of sail making adjustments to sail and helm under direction, return to the dock and properly derig the boat, all in winds up to 5kts.  Demonstrate basic obstacle avoidance (tiller-towards-trouble) and rules of the road (power/sail).

On completion of Level 2, the student should be able to demonstrate the points of sail, making adjustments to the helm and sails on their own.  Greatest emphasis should be placed on mechanics: holding a steady upwind course, tiller pass behind, seating and balance, man overboard recovery, all in winds up to 10kts.  Introduced to basic rules of the road for avoidance (port/stbd, windward/leeward) although not necessarily in a racing context.

On completion of Level 3, the student should be entirely self-reliant and able to demonstrate all points of sail with proficiency in winds up to 15kts.  Racing will be introduced with starting sequences, consistent roll tacks and the concept of Corinthian sportsmanship.  Demonstrate advanced rules for avoidance (mark rounding) and understand basic sail theory and rig tuning.  They should be able to identify the skills they are demonstrating and correct mistakes they may be making.  Introduce other boating skills for TAs (outboards, towing, trailering).

On completion of Level 4, the student should be able to execute all maneuvers learned previously within a competitive fleet.  Should be able to formulate strategies to maximize their speed around the course and apply the standard racing rules in tactical interactions with other boats.  At this level, the student should be a confident, though probably unseasoned, racing skipper or crew on most (non-foiling) boat types under 30ft.

On completion of Level 5, the student should be able to fly spinnaker, and have an understanding of race management, boat design and sail manufacture.

A checklist of skills is provided below.  Instructors are encouraged to create copies for each camper and check off their progress as you observe them through your Lesson Plans.  Some skills are practical and must be observed on the water.  Others are knowledge based and may be assessed with games, drawings or tests.

Skill Sets

Use Level 1 for Green/White/Yellow/Orange Fleets.

Use Level 2 for Blue/Red Fleets.

Use Level 3+ to evaluate rising TAs.

Level 1Beginner Learn-to-Sail
Camp rulesKnowledge of Camp rules
PFDDemonstrate proper use of PFD
Enter boatDemonstrate proper balance when entering boat
CapsizeCapsize procedure, scoop method, able to self-rescue
WindIdentify wind indicators and wind direction accurately
KnotsFigure 8, cleat, square, coil and secure
Rig/derigProperly rig/derig all equipment and secure boat
DepartureProperly prepare making allowance for wind, safely enter boat, set sail
SteeringBasic control; constant contact; reasonably steady course; TTT
Tack/gybeTurn in right direction
TrimSail trim sufficient to make way on all headings
Safety positionProper heading, sails luffing, complete stop
DockingGently return, full stop near dock
WeatherDemonstrate basic weather precautions; sunscreen, storm approach
SailsProperly fold/roll sails and store
Rules of the roadDemonstrate tiller-towards-trouble
Rules of the roadManual/sail/power, barges over all
CoursesReaching oval and figure 8 (reaches only)
NomenclatureHull, bow, stern, port, stbd, mast, boom, sprit, gooseneck, rudder, tiller, sheets, daggerboard, halyd, battens, vang, points of sail
Level 2Intermediate Learn-to-Sail
KnotsBowline, round turn & 2 half hitches, sheet bend, clove hitch
Rules of the roadStbd/port, Leeward/windward, ahead/astern (RRS 10-14)
SteeringSmooth control; maintain steady course upwind w minimal luffing
Tack/gybeSmooth turn; stop on new heading; proper tiller pass; avoid irons
TrimSail trim correct for all headings, telltales flying properly
BalanceProper seating and weight distribution in/out, fore/aft
BackingAble to sail backwards 50yds
IronsRecognition and reaction, backing sails, end on prescribed tack
Man overboardReturn to a point from upwind and downwind course, full stop
DockingDepart and return with wind at any angle
Sailing AreaDemonstrate knowledge of sailing area including local hazards
CoursesShallow and steep diamond, some upwind
NomenclatureSail head, tack, clew, luff, leach, foot, beating, windward, leeward, forestay, shrouds, spreaders, transom, pintle, gudgeon, universal

Level 3
Advanced Learn-to-Sail/Beginner Racing
KnotsRolling hitch, line heave 50ft
TeamworkRoles, communication, balance, sail controls (upwind and wing/wing)
Boat HandlingDemonstrate consistent coordinated execution of all maneuvers (roll tacks, S-gybes, roundings, accel/decelerations) including proper balance and trim
SteeringMaintain tight course upwind on telltales; pinching and footing
TrimDemonstrate knowledge and proper use of cunningham, outhaul, vang, traveller
BalanceSail without rudder 50yds
CoursesTriangle, box, windward-leeward, Gold Cup, Harry-A, gates
Rules of the roadSportsmanship, starting sequences, racing definitions.
NomenclatureBackstay, diamonds, hounds, rudder cheeks, thwart, freeboard, gunwale, gaff/lateen/sloop sails, sloop/ketch/yawl sail plans, pram/scow/catamaran/skiff hulls
NomenclatureRacing definitions, sail draft, lift/header
TheoryAdvanced sail theory (vector physics), angle of attack, draft depth, twist, polars, sail manufacture techniques, rig tuning
SeamanshipTune standing rigging from a tuning guide
SeamanshipPrepare a boat for trailering
SeamanshipDemonstrate proper outboard safety and operation; outboard motor parts
SeamanshipDemonstrate proper on water towing techniques
SeamanshipFamiliarity with rigging details of all sail camp boats
Level 4Intermediate Racing
Rules of the roadRoom, mark roundings, RRS 15-20, protests
Boat HandlingDemonstrate proper gears during start from a luffing stop; layline judgment
Starting theoryStart sequence; sight lines; favored end, advantages to stbd and port tack approaches
Starting practicalDemonstrate luffing start, timed stbd tack, crossing within 10 sec
StrategyRecognize favored side of course, account for tides/currents
TacticsDemonstrate application of basic right-of-way rules
Strategy theoryVMG, persistent vs oscillating shifts
Strategy practicalWindward mark approach, leeward mark approach
Tactics theory & practicalShifts, covering, splitting, blanketing, pinning, inside overlaps, pinching, footing, tack or cross
NomenclatureMark zone, pinwheel, wind shadow, velocity shifts
Alternative racingOne-design vs mixed fleet tactics, team racing, match racing
Level 5Advanced Racing
Rules of the roadRace management rules
Boat HandlingSpinnaker handling (set, fly, gybe, douse) as both helm and crew
Strategy theoryRecognize trade-offs between strategic VMG and tactical position
Strategy practicalPick pressure vs heading
Tactics practicalDemonstrate close cover, blanket, lee-bow
SeamanshipDemonstrate basic understanding of boat design and sail manufacture


We attempt to make a wide variety of resources available to the instructors to make it easier for them to do their jobs.  This includes everything from boats and classrooms to making volunteers available to handle distracting background chores.  In addition, numerous forms of training materials are available.  Make sure that you know where these are and have copies with you in your instructor bag as necessary.  Many of these are now available online.  In particular, this summary of the skill sets is available for easy reference. If you need a quick lesson to fill time, check the skill sets for your group and see what you haven’t covered yet. If you can’t find something, ask!

  • Skills check lists for each camper
  • Lesson plans from previous sessions
  • Learn Sailing Write books from US Sailing
  • Level 1 Instructor Manuals from US Sailing
  • Level 2 Instructor Manuals from US Sailing
  • Sailing Drills Made Easy
  • Racing Rules of Sailing
  • Diagrams and parts games for all boat types
  • Knot diagrams and boards
  • Model boats
  • Opti Coaching Seminar notes
  • YouTube videos
  • US Sailing Skill Up app

No Wind Days

These are quite challenging and all too common.  You need to have many “tricks/activities” up your sleeve.  These should ALL be sailing related and may include classroom time, games (Jeopardy) and even crafts (build a boat).  Review the US Sailing Skill Up app for land-based games and drills.  Coordinate with the HI regarding STEM module activities. This list of activities is also available for quick reference online.

Understand the difference between no-wind activities (sailing related) and games (non-sailing related).  Note too that you are not allowed to “dump” the students on the SD at any time.  You are still responsible for instructing students during the normal instruction periods.  Have a variety of sailing and marine related instructional material ready for all age groups.  Minimize generic “day care” games.  Older students may be put to work on minor repair and maintenance issues.  More advanced students may be taught sail theory, spinnaker or trapeze.

Keep an eye out for students going beyond the safety perimeter.  Competition has gotten out of hand in past with pirating of boats and boat parts.  This is not permitted.  Competition can come into play with games and activities and perhaps keeping a running score of who “wins”.

If it is clear from the start that the entire day will have no wind, the Head Instructor may implement camp-wide activities that are designed to enhance the camp experience.  For example, the following boat exchange may be used to broaden the campers’ experience of other boats.

Opti Fleets move to 420.  Teach rigging, new part names, capsize games (how many green fleet does it take to right a 420?), drawing games (draw Opti beside 420 and name parts NOT on the other).

Red Fleet moves to Opti/Fusion.  Teach sail controls (re-examine them to compare sloop/gaff rigs now that you know more about what they do to sail shape), teach awareness of physical limitations (can you still fit into an Opti, ease of capsize recovery, compare to your memory of sailing them, how do you think Green Fleet feels about 420s).  While thinking about physical limitations, come up with theoretical changes to sail camp for handicap instruction and present ideas to panel (HI, SD, CD) for critique.  On a second day, check out fully rigged Thistle/Lightning for additional sail controls.

Black Fleet moves to Thistle/Lightning (two of the toughest one-design fleets in NA).  Teach how to read a rigging guide, use a Loos gauge, step a mast, set up complex running rigging, differences in stability (round vs hard chine), capsize recovery (not self-bailing, time how long it takes to bail).  Possibly do Thistle one day, then Lightning the next on their own.

In addition to fleet-wide activities, here is a collection of no wind activities for individual fleets.

  • Have campers teach a lesson.
  • Hold mock protests on racing rules.
  • Have campers make International Code Flags and send messages.
  • Have the campers play salesperson.  Get them to convince you to buy their boat.
  • Inventory the boat equipment.
  • Take two current songs and have the fleet make up new lyrics related to sailing.
  • Have the campers make up a scavenger hunt.
  • Alphabet game – I’m going sailing and on my boat I’m bringing an Anchor, a Batten, etc.
  • Have campers make a shaped mainsail using scrap material or paper.
  • Have campers draw their boat and name as many parts as they can.
  • Clean the safety boats and introduce the campers to outboard safety and operations.
  • Go on a safety walk around the camp and report to the Head Instructor.
  • Have an Instructor Impersonation day.
  • Have campers make a mural of the lake, harbor, docks, hazards, etc.
  • Have campers make a collage – the ten best things about sailing.
  • Rigging races.

Other games while on the water, all within a restricted area.

  • Ball tag:  Using a large inflatable ball, the ball must hit the sail of another boat to tag them.  If it misses the sail, the original boat is still “it”.
  • Ticking bomb:  Variation on ball tag.  Set a time limit.  The one with the ball when the time expires is blown up (capsizes).
  • Fight pollution:  Using half-filled, half-inflated water balloons as pollution, boats must pick up as many balloons as possible in a given time.
  • Dumping ground:  Each boat starts with a collection of floating objects (ping pong balls) which they must deposit one at a time in a floating bucket.  They cannot use the same bucket twice in a row.  Count the remaining balls at the end of the time limit.

Staff Behavior

Staff should act and behave as a single cohesive team.  It is extremely important that campers and parents sense no tension between staff members.  Do not argue with or make derisive comments about another instructor or staff member in front of students, or parents.  Make sure any joking between instructors cannot be interpreted as an argument.  Differences of opinion should be raised at staff meetings.

From the moment you meet them as their instructor, make your interest in them clear.  Go out and greet each camper, make sure you learn their names quickly.  Introduce each camper to ALL the other campers in the morning (and throughout the week if need be).

It is important to make the campers feel comfortable and safe at camp.  Help them connect to the other campers.  Aim for each camper making a friend when they go home on the first day.  Smile a lot – it sends a message of welcome and friendship.  Make eye contact.  If your campers are small, find ways to speak with them at eye level.  Enthusiasm is contagious.  BE ENTHUSIASTIC!

Figure out a method to get your campers attention and be sure they know it.  Be consistent.

Do NOT yell at campers in anger or frustration.  NO abusive or vulgar language is tolerated in camp.  Avoid using “shut-up” to campers.  Set a good example for campers.  Expect respect from them because you give them respect but remember most children cannot be as considerate of you as you can be toward them.  They are not grown up as you are.

Be friendly to campers but remember that you are not their friend – you are paid to be their mentor.

Learn how to focus on their needs, not yours.  If you make a mistake in dealing with a camper, explain and apologize.  Try to make it right.

Avoid sarcasm with children.  They will believe you are serious.

Be aware of students who ask permission from different Instructors until they get a “yes” answer.

Be prepared for campers who use convenient excuses or copy other campers’ excuses to malinger.  Such complaints should not be rewarded with free play time at the craft table.  Your mother never let you stay home to watch TV just because you said you were sick.  She smothered you with concern until you agreed you were all better.

Show acceptance of people with different backgrounds from you.

Never embarrass any camper.

Be aware of your audience at all times.  Do not discuss personal matters within earshot of students or parents.  Do not discuss evening plans in front of students.  Children today are aware of sexual abuse and harassment.  Be sure your expressions of affection are APPROPRIATE for the children and they don’t lead to confusing feelings.  Staff must NOT discuss their own dating and sexual relations in front of or with campers.  If your “love interest” is also working at camp, there are to be NO PUBLIC DISPLAYS of this affection.  NO sexually suggestive language or actions around or with campers.

Encourage your campers to be responsible.  Be a good example.  Be a ROLE MODEL.

Staff as Role Models

Being a Sailing Instructor and Teaching Assistant is more than teaching students to sail.  You are acting as a camp counselor and representative of Concord Yacht Club and Concord Sailing Center.  This is NOT a spectator sport.  You are expected to be involved, interact, play hard and have FUN.

Be aware at all times that your actions, manners and vocabulary will be imitated either intentionally or unintentionally by campers.  In addition, how you act will be interpreted as the proper way for a sailor to behave.  This includes the way you dress, speak, interact with other staff members, and respect authority as well as the way that you sail.  Do not mess around with other staff in front of the students.  You are expected to act like an adult for the week.

You must follow your own rules and the rules of the camp.  If campers see you or hear you talk about actions that go against the camp rules and the atmosphere we aspire to project in this camp, they will assume it is OK and will follow your lead.  Remember you are constantly under their scrutiny.  Do not underestimate your influence as a role model.  This has a powerful effect on your campers and the whole camp.

Everything you DO and SAY around the campers is absorbed by them.  You may not see their reactions or hear their comments.  But these students go home and share their experiences with family and friends.  Following is just one example we have seen in the years of Sail Camp.

In 2005 campers saw TAs playing with the lighters in instructor bag used for sealing the ends of lines.  These TAs were setting other things afire, photographs, build a boats and “playing” with the lighters.  How did the Camp Director find out about this?  A parent talked about their 8 year old boy and his friends setting stuff on fire in their driveway that night.  She had never had this problem before and wondered where he “learned” to do this.  The boy replied that they do it at Sail Camp!

You may think you are setting one kind of example with your instructions, but your actions and behavior may send another.  For example, you expect the campers to respect their equipment and the CYC grounds.  Yet, you let your snack trash blow away, or walk by debris and ignore it.  You casually throw your equipment on shore, not carefully removing it to place in the proper storage area.  You leave your instructional materials out after the camp day has ended.

These actions send a different message from the expectations we tell our campers.  As well, how you treat the CAMPERS and fellow STAFF members will send messages to the campers about how they can treat others.  Pay attention to your body language.  If you stand away from your campers, position yourself “above” them or off to the side of your fleet, do not stand with your Fleet during ceremonies, or participate with them in games, you are showing you are not part of their group.  This will encourage them to do the same.

On the other hand, enthusiasm is contagious.  Campers are often unsure of themselves and self conscious.  They will look to you for reassurance.  Part of your job is to provide this.  If a camper feels “stupid” playing a game or singing a chant, they will look around to see what the other campers and instructors are doing.  When they see you actively participating, not afraid of singing loudly and off key or laughing and playing games, they will join in.  It can be hard to maintain your enthusiasm.  If you get bored or uninspired, BE CREATIVE.  Try a different approach.  That simple change can be stimulating enough to get you going.  Talk with other staff members and Head Instructor for suggestions.  Brainstorm on ways to stay enthused.  There are books and other resources in the office area.

PLAN YOUR WEEK ACTIVITIES IN ADVANCE.  Don’t come in Monday morning thinking you’ll figure the week out as you go.  As well, plan for NO WIND DAYS.  They will happen.  You will just have to find ways to instruct your campers without wind.

“Pirating” is not an acceptable team building activity.  Previous camps have used this as an acceptable no-wind activity, but it is no longer tolerated.  Do not mess with the boats of any Fleet and do not encourage your students to do so.  This causes damage to the boats and can upset some students.  Disciplinary action should be taken by both Instructors if it occurs.  Do not allow campers to retaliate on their own and escalate the problem.  Let them know that the other Instructor is disciplining the other participant and that they should stay out of it.  See the Disciplinary section of the Staff Policy Manual for details.

Each week of camp you are here for the students.  It is your job to teach them about sailing, and keep them entertained, safe and content.  The better your success in this area, the more satisfaction you will receive in this job.  Consequently, you assure the continuation of this program as these campers are glad they came and will return and encourage their friends to come to camp.


Bullying has become an epidemic with modern youth, and not just electronically through social media.  Deteriorating standards for socially acceptable behavior are reinforced through a variety of popular entertainments and youth pick up on this quickly.  There is, however, a backlash tendency to categorize any rude behavior as bullying in order to justify retaliation.  Instructors should be aware of the difference and be able to respond appropriately to any sort of incident between campers.

Rude – This is a comment or behavior that inadvertently hurts some.  This is a lack of sensitivity that’s not unexpected in youth who are still developing their social skills.  The campers should be gently brought together for apologies to be offered and accepted.  This is where Staff behavior can provide an appropriate guide and role model.

Mean – This is a single comment or behavior that is intentionally meant to hurt someone.  Often this is motivated by a need to express anger or to prop up their self-esteem with their friends by marginalizing someone else.  This should be swiftly and sharply addressed as unacceptable.  Demand an apology and watch for possible recurrence.

Bullying – This is a continued pattern of behavior intentionally meant to hurt someone.  It may be verbal, physical or social (shunning, hazing, rumor spreading).  Again, the motivations are typically an expression of anger or lack of self-esteem.  Although they may be directed at another camper, the other camper is rarely the underlying cause – nor is anything else at camp.  In addition to a verbal rebuke, an incident report is required and the parents must be notified because the problem lies outside of camp in the camper’s personal life.  If the problem persists, the camper will be expelled from camp.

Using TAs and Volunteers

Each Sailing Instructor (SI) will be assigned Teaching Assistant (TA) and various parent volunteers according to availability.  The instructor will be responsible for his or her TA, volunteers, and students.  Remember that as a senior instructor, you are not only a role model for the campers but for the junior staff as well.  For them, you should take on the role of mentor, leading by example in the proper methods of teaching and controlling a class.  The TAs have attended the orientation session to familiarize themselves with the program and with teaching children.  The TAs are potential instructors, so please use them as much as possible.  Each TA should conduct at least one class per week.  Note that TAs are there for the benefit of the campers and are not to be used by the SI to simply avoid unpleasant tasks.

Please DO use the parent volunteers for any of the following tasks:

  • snack and lunch time supervision,
  • assisting with snack preparation and delivery,
  • launching and catching boats (very important in windy conditions and with beginners),
  • boat maintenance and repair,
  • running errands such as for gasoline,
  • removal of dangerous items in the water (sticks, floating debris etc)

Teaching assistants can help with these items and additionally:

  • set marks
  • check rigged boats before leaving the dock (although the instructor needs to verify)
  • assist with driving/maintenance of safety boats
  • assist with land drills or demonstrations
  • assist with rigging/rigging checks
  • sail with a beginner or tired sailor
  • give a short lecture with advance notice

Marine Radios

Each fleet will be assigned a VHF radio or Walkie-Talkie.  Radios must be charged every night in order to perform properly all day.  The senior instructor in each fleet will be assigned a numbered radio.  The loss or damage of this equipment will be penalized by a $50 deduction from the next paycheck.

The VHF Marine Radio Service is intended for use by boaters to provide essential communications related to the safety and operation of their vessels.  It is a restricted-use service and it is monitored by the Federal Communications Commission and the U.S. Coast Guard.  Misuse of the channels is a violation of Federal laws and the violator is subject to severe penalties.  These are public airways and are accessible to anyone.  Imagine an internet chat room monitored by the Federal Government for content.  Be polite.  Remember that parent volunteers monitor the Clubhouse radio.  Proper use will protect you and the Club from citations and fines.

In actuality, CSC uses Walkie-Talkies rather than VHF radios.  There is no over-riding legislation in place regulating the use of these devices the way there is for VHF.  There is also usually no need to switch between a listening and a talking frequency.  They do, however, still use public airways, parent volunteers are still listening and the same civility is expected.


Where possible, SI/TA should get the HI or SD to make any necessary purchases.  Refer to the Expense Claim policy notes for further information and forms.

Paychecks will be distributed by the Head Instructor on Friday afternoons after all paperwork and clean up procedures be completed after the Awards Ceremony.

Other Recommendations

The following recommendations have been made in an attempt either to address chronic complaints about Sail Camp from CYC Members, or to inspire new ideas among instructors.

The physical condition of the boats is no longer a point of derision by Club Members thanks to much money and many years of careful maintenance.  We need to keep up our equipment standards for many reasons including functionality, safety, appearance and overall appeal.  Damage to boats in the form of wear and tear is inevitable.  Collisions with other boats and docks are not normal.  And though it may be inevitable at beginner levels, there are several techniques we need to employ to improve the situation.

  • Make campers more aware of the potential for damage to boats.
  • Encourage campers to report damaged or missing parts.
  • Discourage horse play on the water with campers trying to capsize each other.
  • Teach TTT and rules of the road early on (part of Lesson One).
  • Use volunteers to catch boats at the dock.  Radio in ahead of time to prep them.
  • Teach proper docking procedures for multiple wind angles.  Include backing the sail to slow upwind docking or dropping the sail to drift to a downwind dock.  Reinforce this with on water games that force campers to turn from a reach into the wind and stop at a mark.
  • Conduct a walk through with the Fleet before releasing the campers to shore activities.

The safety boats and outboard maintenance is a chronic complaint amongst instructors.  The use of CYC boats is also a sore point with Club Members.  To prevent this, we will minimize the use of the pontoon RC Boat, restricting it to the Head Instructor only.  Inflatables (RIBs) will be used as much as possible.  The following procedures should be observed for all outboard operations.

  • No horseplay, bowriding or hot-dogging in the safety boats.
  • Make sure the engine, hose and tank match.
  • Use the kill switch at all times.
  • Report any performance issues immediately.
  • Fuel cans will be for pure gas only.  No outboards use mixed fuel.  Do not add oil to the fuel tank.
  • Use a funnel for all refueling.
  • Towing can be problematic.  This is a factor of light RIBs and not underpowered outboards (the same size outboard can tow 6 dinghies and push my 6000-lb keelboat at the same time).
  • Use a towing bridle where possible.  Towing from a central point in the boat provides better control than towing from the ends.  Do not tie off tow lines to the inflated sections of the RIB.
  • Do not attempt to tow at high speeds.  Call for assistance if speed is necessary for safety.
  • Before stowing engines for the season, run them dry (run motor then disconnect fuel supply until it stops).  This will minimize build up in the engine.

Teaching Tips

There are thousands of textbooks on teaching theory and methods.  You should have encountered many of these techniques in your Level 1 seminar.  A few of the more relevant topics are covered again here.

Discipline:  Given the general carefree atmosphere of camp, discipline is often lax.  But you must be able to instantly assert it in an emergency or a classroom.  There are a variety of tricks for handling classrooms of campers that may be helpful to instructors.  Think back to the high school teachers you admired most.  Chances are they were always friendly, it was always fun, but there was never any doubt as to who was in charge.  This is the sort of atmosphere you should be aiming for.  Within this framework, discipline can be maintained in a variety of ways without resorting to Captain Blye’s handbook.

Establish your dominance early on but do it with subtlety rather than force.  This is more difficult if the age difference between you and your campers is small.  Your confidence and knowledge of the topic are the best first steps to achieving this.  Demonstrate your control by executing a well-planned Lesson Plan on day 1.  These are easy topics and preparation can be done days or even weeks in advance.  Force should be applied sparingly and should be limited to a sharp command or reproach to bring a camper back into line.

Presentation Style:  Keep classes interesting by varying your approach – lecture style, leading questions, interactive discussion, games/puzzles/quizzes.  Each has their own pros/cons.  Lecture style is good for one-way communication of facts, offers good control over the content, but gets boring quickly.  Leading questions is a process whereby, one after another, questions are asked where only one logical answer can be given until the students reach the conclusion you want them to.  This is good for interactive behavior but requires a quick mind to counter unexpected answers that don’t go where you want them to.  Interactive discussion is a more free-form approach to learning and is a good way to spend a lot of time before the next event.  This is good for complex topics like racing rules scenarios where everyone can get involved.  Hold a mock protest.  Games and puzzles can be good to fill long periods, and can be a quiet time as well, but they require considerable planning ahead of time to be very effective.

When you ask questions of the campers, you can ask the group (“does anyone know…”) or individuals (“Bobby, what is …”).  They can be factual questions (one-word answers) or open ended (requires an explanation).  Use these to control, encourage and reward individual campers, to bring them back into focus when they’re daydreaming, to lengthen short classes, or to reinforce previous topics.

Repetition:  Don’t be afraid to ask the same question several times if it appears that it hasn’t sunk in or if it is critical.  If repeating a lesson for effect or reinforcement, try doing it without speaking.  Play charades where the campers have to fill in the words and the diagrams.  For problem solving exercises (puzzles) consider breaking the fleet into small groups or teams.

When preparing for water drills, multiple short drills may be more effective than continuously beating on a single task.  Run through the sequence on shore several times.  Have the campers repeat from memory or turn it into a rhyming chant (anyone seen The Dirty Dozen?).

Keep your lessons varied, repeating classroom information in land and water drills using multiple methods.  People tend to remember:

  • 10% of what they read
  • 20% of what they hear
  • 30% of what they see
  • 40% of what they see and hear
  • 70% of what they say as they talk
  • 90% of what they say as they do it

Think of how much you would remember if you had just read about a tiller-pass-behind from a book.  Then imagine how much you would remember if you had to talk about each step as you did it in a demonstration.  Review the list of resources available to you for further inspiration.

If the camper hasn’t learned, the instructor hasn’t taught.