Why sailing is the best hobby you can pursue – at any age

By Tony Collins, CFP®, AIF®, Associate Wealth Advisor

I’ve been extremely blessed to be in and around sailboats practically my entire life. I’m just as comfortable behind the wheel of a sailboat as I am driving a car. In fact, last time I calculated, I’ve spent about the same amount of time doing both. I never take sailing for granted. Whether I’m cruising or racing, I often joke that our adventures are good for my soul.

But seriously: My insatiable waterlust is cured, at least temporarily, by the rolling waves, blowing wind, and spray on the deck. Through our shared interest, I have made friends and had unforgettable experiences that I will carry for the rest of my life.

No, it’s not just for the elite

The sport of sailing carries the negative stigma that it’s only for the elite—an exclusive activity for those with deep pockets. I’m writing to dispel that notion and describe why and how I think you should consider getting involved.

The first step to sailing is, well, learning how to sail. Local yacht clubs and the larger-scale governing body US Sailing offer educational programs nationwide. They are extremely beginner friendly, with the main goal being to introduce the basics. To build on the basics, additional programs will add more and more complexity and training. Safety is always #1 and a large focus of programs at any level. Check with your local yacht clubs to find the program best suited for you.

Boat ownership is not the only path

While boat ownership is a logical next step for many, it’s not the only path. There are countless rental and charter programs, like Marina Sailing. There are also boat owners who are looking for additional hands for cruises. Yacht clubs typically have open bulletin boards and resources to link owners with people willing to cruise with them.

Racing: While cruising around the harbor or even to Catalina makes for a fun time, I have a competitive fire. Fortunately, many others share that fire. Almost every single weekend, year-round, there are intense and exciting sailboat races, or regattas, hosted by yacht clubs like Long Beach Yacht Club.

During the summer months, the clubs host what are known as “beer can” races on weeknights. These races typically require an extensive crew—definitely more than what’s required for a day sail. Again, there are always boats looking for help, and many understand there’s a learning curve. Requirements vary by program, but most expenses are shouldered by the boat owner. Building relationships with local teams and becoming a “regular” is an extremely cost-effective way to get involved.

Junior Sailing: Most yacht clubs operate year-round junior sailing programs. I can think of no better summer camp to send your kids to than a summer sailing camp. It’s not always about the racing—not at first at least. As I mentioned earlier, safety is one of the first things the kids will learn and practice. They will learn the skills and gain the confidence required to pilot their own small boat.

As they progress, more complicated sailing skills are taught, and racing is often thrown into the mix. Clubs host junior sailing regattas just like they do for the adults on the big boats. As the kids get older, they will eventually look to join their high school’s sailing team (yes, they exist!) and enter in organized high school competition.

College Sailing: I could write pages and pages on my college sailing experiences. Bottom line, many schools fund college varsity sailing teams and treat them like they would a traditional sport. There are very few out-of-pocket expenses at most schools, and they typically accept sailors at all levels.

In closing, I do think sailing is one of the best hobbies to pursue at any age. I will always be grateful to my parents for sending me to sailing camp as a child. I have close friends to this day whom I learned to sail with. There’s no age at which it’s “too late” to get started, and the sport is extremely welcoming to newcomers. If you’re interested in hearing more, or maybe already sail and want to connect, please reach out!

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