Learn to Sail

Sign up for our spring sailing class! Every spring we offer beginners a chance to learn sailing in small boats. There are only two places in Alaska that offer a course like this - Big Lake and Juneau!


For Sailing Class enrollment consideration please do the following:

Sailing Class Information


The ASC Beginning Sailing Classes are intended for people who are just learning to sail and have no previous experience or, for those who are returning to sailing after an absence and would like to brush up on their skills.  Singles, couples, seniors and families are all welcome to attend. This is a low-pressure class with a focus on fun and practical experience gained from hands-on exercises.


Participants who successfully complete the class become full members of the Alaska Sailing Club and are welcome to participate in our exciting schedule of summer events. The ASC is a non-profit 501(c)(3) dedicated to sailing education, so your education doesn't end when you complete the class. We have a very active membership that is willing to help you continue to build your skills for years to come and as you improve you'll be able to help future class participants. It's worth noting that most of our membership learned to sail on Big Lake in these classes!


We have classes available in both June and July.



Spring Dingy Class (June)

Class Date: Please see our Calendar page for June

Location: Alaska Sailing Club Site, Mile 8.2 South Big Lake Road, Big Lake AK


The spring dinghy class consists of an intensive two-and-a-half day session at the Alaska Sailing Club. Longtime ASC instructors Cathy and Geoff Wright teach and it's always a ton of fun. We teach the class using a variety of boats including Vanguard Laser 4.7s and Nickels Buccaneer 18s for older teens and adults and Optimists for younger sailors. 



Summer Keelboat Class (July)

Class Date: Please see our Calendar page for July

Location: Alaska Sailing Club Site, Mile 8.2 South Big Lake Road, Big Lake, AK


The summer keelboat class consists of a weekend session at the Alaska Sailing Club. This is a smaller class and is taught using the ASC's freshly restored Ensign 21. This class is taught by a hearty band of ASC keelboat sailors and is a great option for folks who are looking for a more casual option and don't like to get wet!


All students are invited to camp at the ASC during the class. After class we usually have an unofficial class potluck dinner and (weather permitting) an evening sail.



Which class? Dinghy or Keelboat?

So which class should you take?  Well, as with most things in life it depends...
The dinghy track provides a more "primal" sailing experience. As compared to keelboats,  dinghies are more reactive and there's a lot less technical stuff to think about, but sailing them is a more physical endeavor. You need to "hike out" to keep the boat from capsizing, and when the boat (almost inevitably) does capsize you have to right it and get back in. Dinghy sailing is fast, fun, a bit physical, sometimes wet and occasionally a bit scary (although perfectly safe) when you're just learning.


You don't need to be an extraordinary athlete in order to have fun and be safe sailing dinghies. However, you do need to have some minimal swimming ability (any stroke, including the dog paddle is fine) along with enough upper body strength to right a capsized boat. 


Keelboats are more complex than dinghies and have a lot more parts and pieces. They're also slower, more relaxed and  drier. They can't capsize and it's unlikely  that you'll fall in the water when you're sailing one. On a keelboat, you're further away from the  water and it's a bit harder to get the "feel" of the lake and the wind. (Although not getting the "feel" of the lake isn't always such a bad thing!)


Both are lots of fun, and you really can't go wrong either way. If you're looking for something a bit faster and more exciting and aren't afraid to get wet, the dinghy track is probably your best bet. And if that sounds a little too physical the keelboat track might be more your thing. You also might consider the keelboat track if you're already a dinghy sailor and want to start to learn a bit more about keelboat sailing. But either way, you'll certainly have fun and learn a lot, so don't sweat the choice too much. Oh, and kids are strongly encouraged to take the dinghy class since it's a lot more active and easier for those with a short attention span!



Minimum Requirements

In order to take part in the ASC Beginning Sailing Class, you need to meet the following minimum requirements:

  • You must be at least 12 years of age. If you are younger than 12, acceptance in the sailing class will be approved by the class instructor on a case by case basis.
  • You must be willing to help your fellow class members. Sailing is a cooperative activity and we all need to work together to pull off a great class.
  • You need to purchase or borrow and then read the class textbook, available on Amazon here - Learning to Sail: The Annapolis Sailing School Guide for All Ages.  You should read this book before you come to class.
  • You must be willing to wear a life jacket at all times when you're on the docks or a boat. Children thirteen and under must have a life jacket on at all times while at the ASC. We take our life jacket rules *very* seriously and participants who don't comply will be asked to leave the class.
  • Dinghy class only: You must be able to pass the swim test. This test consists of a 50 meter swim in Big Lake followed by 60 seconds of treading water. You will be wearing a life jacket during this test.
  • Dinghy class only: You must be able to capsize and right a Vanguard Laser dinghy unassisted. This isn't a major athletic feat, but it does require a bit of upper body strength this might be a challenge for some older folks.


Recommended Gear

We recommend the following gear for the ASC Beginning Sailing Class.


  • A comfortable life jacket. If you don't have one, the ASC will provide one for you, but if you're going to make a summer out of sailing, you'll definitely want a good, comfortable PFD (personal floatation device). 
  • Sunscreen. A bad burn will ruin your weekend, so bring some sunscreen!
  • A bathing suit. Capsizing is part of sailing, so bring a bathing suit. You're going to get wet!
  • Warm clothes and good rain gear. Big Lake can be cold and wet just like the rest of Alaska.
  • A wetsuit. This isn't a requirement, but it's a good idea—especially if you're not a strong swimmer. Big Lake is cold, especially early in the season and a wetsuit is a great piece of safety gear.
  • A tent. While not required, the class is even more fun when you spend the night between sessions!


Instructor Contact Information

If you have any questions or concerns regarding the gear or class, please feel free to contact
one of our sailing instructors at sailingcoach@alaskasailingclub.com