Learn to Sail Program

The Wallagoot Lake Boat Club offers free training for members, most Saturday mornings. Bookings are essential; so we can arrange an appropriate tutor, boat and plan to meet your training needs.

We cater to all levels, from those who have never sailed before to racers looking to improve their skills.

We have limited capacity for our sailing school, so please don’t join as a sailing school member without checking with our secretary first.

A checklist of skills that a sailor might progress through follows:

Basic Skills

Before setting sail

1. Describe the appropriate gear and clothing need.
2. Identifies hazards involved in sailing OTB boats.
3. Outlines how to stay safe when sailing
4. Identifies wind on the water
5. Can identify wind direction using sails, tell tails, and face
6. Can explain – sailing toward/up and away/down wind
7. Is able to tie knots: figure 8, reef, bowline, sheet bend.
8. Recalls the names of boat parts.
9. Lists the sequence of steps involved in rigging a boat.

On the water

10. Is able to launch and land a sailing dinghy safely.
11. Uses microphone tiller extension grip to steer a boat.
12. Identifies the points of sail, including the no go zone.
13. Recalls the port and starboard rule.
14. Can start and stop a boat by steering or sail control.
15. Is able to position the boat in a heave to or safety position.
16. Recalls the main steps of tacking.
17. Can crew a boat with a skipper through a tack.
18. Is able to tack.
19. Recalls the main steps of gybing.
20. Is able to gybe.
21. Recalls the causes of capsizing. Outlines ways of preventing capsizing.
22. Recalls the steps involved when capsized.
23. Recovers on water a capsized boat.
24. Sails a triangular course safely to include a reach, run and work.

Advanced sailing racing skills

Boat tuning

25. Mast rake; to generate weather helm & lift to windwards, prevent nosediving (multihulls), not too excessive
26. Stay tension: allow/generate mast bend, maintain rake, not let mast fall off
27. Sail height: as specified or for maximum efficiency
28. Sail controls: mainsheet, outhaul, downhaul and vang all easily adjusted
29. Foils: centerboard and rudder blade without damage, high polish finish
30. Hull finish: polish or 1200 wet & dry
31. Rudder: rake for minimum steering effort, able to raise and lower
32. Batten tension: no wrinkles
33. Tell-tales: 3 sets + leech ribbons


34. Able to hold stationery position
35. Tack from near-stopped motion
36. Reverse and position boat
37. Accelerate from stopped & change gears
38. Timed run at start line
39. Rules at the start

Going to windwards

40. Sail trim for upwind; outhaul to flatten bottom of sail
41. Downhaul to flatten upper section of sail (check leech ribbons)
42. Vang to control twist (check upper tell-tales)
43. Jib set right distance from centerline
44. Jib pulled on tight enough
45. Mainsheet control; for speed, height and balance (Bethwaite’s fast handling technique)
46. Steering control; responding to gusts and shifts (checking tell-tales)
47. Pinching for height (slower, unless it saves a tack)
48. Don’t push the tiller; relax and let boat turn on its own
49. Pull on tiller as going up waves / chop
50. Tacking; smooth efficient movement
51. Roll tacking
52. Rules going to windwards

Bouy rounding

53. Aim above the mark
54. Adjust sails for next leg before rounding
55. Smooth, fast turn
56. Rules at bouy roundings


57. Sail trim for reaches: release outhaul for maximum power
58. Release downhaul for full curve at top (ignore leech ribbons)
59. Release vang to allow twist (refer to upper tell-tales)
60. Jib set out; use barber-haulers and/or whisker pole


61. Roll-gybes, maintaining speed through the gybe, maintain control in strong winds


62. Sail trim for downwind (varies with types of boat):
63. Downhaul and outhaul tight to maximize sail area
64. Vang off to allow sail to twist to 90o to wind
65. Jib set out / goosewinged, use whisker pole
66. Centeboard up to reduce drag
67. Heel boat to reduce steering effort; steer by heeling boat instead of rudder


68. Know all of the Racing Rules of Sailing

Start-line strategies:

69. Clear air; don’t let faster boats be on windward side, or be low enough to be free of their dirty air
70. Favoured end of the line; run the line and decide which direction is more downwind
71. Look ahead for holes / pressure
72. Plan how far you want to go before tacking
73. Boat end if want to tack to favoured side after start
74. Park on line to protect space, or run at line for speed

Windward leg strategies

75. Wind shifts: Time how long it takes for each wind shift, measure how far it swings each time. Decide if it’s worth tacking on every shift
76. Check forecast and look up at clouds; is a big shift coming? Be on the side that the wind will come from
77. Clouds; wind comes down and out from clouds; try to sail towards the side of a cloud
78. Topography; lifts run along shorelines. Wind is funneled and stronger in some places; sail a long straight line across the course before the start to find where it changes
79. Laylines; work out how many degrees you tack through when going to windwards. 90o ? Or less? Look over your shoulder and predict where you will go when you tack. Aim above buoy when tacking at layline.
80. Rules advantage; plan to cross paths when on starboard tack
81. Avoid crossing paths when on port tack
81. Get inside right of way at buoys
82. Covering: stay to windward of opponents to take their wind
83. Stay between opponents and buoy to protect lead

Reach leg strategies

84. Sail high to overtake, try to maintain speed and bear off when possible
85. Sail low to avoid congestion; come in fast at the other end
86. Protect your air
87. Surf opponent’s waves
88. Aim to be inside at next mark

Downwind strategies

89. Minimise distance travelled; achieve best “velocity made good”
90. Zig-zagging downwind; angles change with wind speed; go deeper in light winds
91. Surf opponents waves
92. Swing to a reach for overtaking