5-Day Beginner Optimist Camp Orientation

Beginner Optimist Camp Orientation


The goal of the 5-Day Beginner Optimist Camp is to have fun and learn basic boat handling skills in light to moderate conditions. By the end of the week sailors should be able to sail an upwind Figure-8 course and a shallow triangle. Excellent performance would be completing a windward leeward course, consistently sailing close haul, and tacking with proper form.

The sailor should know the difference between a tack and a jibe, be able to launch and trailer the optimist, and know how to be towed by the coach boat. Sailor should be able to capsize and right the boat in light to moderate conditions with sails on the boat. Sailors should be able to complete a tack and complete a controlled jibe.

Sailing is a lifelong sport and we never stop learning to be better sailors. One week of boat handling camp is a great start on that journey. Repeating beginner camp is totally normal and we practice these same skills each week during regular sailing practice.

What To Bring

  • Refillable Water Bottle: bring your water bottle. A non-disposable refillable water bottles is required for sailing camp. Coach boat will have a 5-Gallon cooler of ice water for refilling waters during practice.
  • Life Jacket: Please bring your own comfortable vest style life preserver that does not chafe or rub and you feel comfortable wearing for the whole day of camp.
  • Water shoes: Please wear comfortable water shoes or sailing booties to protect your toes in the boat and your feet from oyster shells. No open toe shoes. No Flip Flops. Converse or vans are okay. Crocs are not the best.
  • Board Shorts: Girls and boys should plan to wear board shorts or quick drying clothes. Wearing swim bottoms for girls can become an uncomfortable distraction as sailors move and hike out in a sailboats.
  • Rash Guards: long sleeve rash guards are recommended. At sailing camp, we swim in clothes and shoes. Rash guards help us keep the sun off and prevent rubbing rashes in salt water.
  • Sunglasses/Hat: Bright sun makes it hard to keep your eyes on your tell tales, sails, and coach. Please wear sunglasses and/or hats that have straps and won’t easily get lost when capsizing.
  • Snack/Lunch: Sailing is athletic. Sailors get very hungry. Please pack healthy snack and lunch. Sugary snacks and treats will not benefit you on the water.

What To Expect

  • Sailing is hard: It can be scary. Learning to do something hard builds confidence. Overcoming panic feelings and operating under pressure is an invaluable life skill. Be amazed by your sailor’s progress. Ask your sailor about his/her personal goals. Praise your sailor for setting personal goals and working towards them. Acknowledge that sailing is hard and encourage your sailor!
  • Sunscreen is a sailor’s responsibility: Coach can’t manage sunscreen. Coach’s focus is water safety and sail training.
  • Your sailor will get hungry: Coach doesn’t have extra food or snacks. Lunches/snack/water bottle will be checked at drop off by the coaches.
  • Coach will leave the dock: Coach will stay on schedule and leave the dock even if I am late. If I am late to sailing practice I may get left dockside and miss sailing camp altogether.
  • Attendance is Key: Participation in activities is mandatory. Each day of learning builds on previous lessons. I should try to attend each and every day of sailing camp. My team relies on me to come to camp for the benefit of the whole team regardless of whether I sail Opti or 420.
  • We race to be safer sailors: We race sailboats even if competition isn’t our thing. Regattas level up our skills under pressure in a controlled and safe environment. Racing makes us safer and more skilled sailors.
  • Listen to Coach: Following coaching commands is a safety requirement. Listen for whistles, watch for hand signals, participate in drills, and hear commands from your coach while you are sailing and while you are on land. Coaching commands are meant to keep you safe and having fun.

Daily Schedule

9:00 am: Fifteen to twenty minute chalk talk discussion time. Transition into land drill / sailing drill.

9:30 am: Half hour walking through an on-land version of the sailing drill we will do on the water. The goal of this time is so that the coach can make sure the sailors know what to do when we get out on the water and that they understand the whistle signals and the hand signals.

10:00 am: Two hours of sailing drills and practice; short snack and water breaks while on the water

12:00 pm: Half an hour lunch break. Sometimes we will come in for lunch, other times we will have lunch in the coach boat on the water. Please pack food in ziplocs inside of a lunch bag with a handle that can be secured in an opti or the coach boat. Coach will bring lunches onto the coach boat but not necessarily in a cooler.

12:30 pm: Fun Time! Sailing, swimming, and boating shenanigans designed by the coach to reinforce the skills we are learn today through games and play.

2:00 pm: Return to the sailing center and put away sailboats, sails, and clean up.

2:30 pm: Debrief with coach

3:00 pm: Parent pick up

Activity Plan

Day 1Day 2Day 3Day 4Day 5
MorningBoat Parts and Steering Straight
– bow, stern, centerboard, rudder
– boom, mast, sprit, mainsheet
– tiller, tiller extension

Land Drill
– musical chairs with circling boat
– music stops; name boat part closest to you

Sailing Drill – level 1
– capsize/right the boat with no sail
– shallow water; no sails; coaches pushing boat
– sailor steers straight on reach between coaches
Sailing Drill – level 2
– capsize/right with sails
– capsize/right the boat with no sail
– shallow water; with sails in very protected space
– sailor steers straight on reach between coaches
– coaches prevent boat from going too far
Safety Position & Tacking
– review wind awareness and safety position
– learn proper tacking posture and steps
– getting out of irons

Land Drill
– walk through tack steps on land
– walk through tack steps in a boat on dolly
– walk through follow the leader figure 8 upwind tacking course on land

Sailing Drill
– learn to approach coach boat in safety position
– learn to raft up to the coach boat
– learn to have lunch and snack on the water
Tacking & Jibing
– review steps of a tack
– introduce the differences when you jibe
– introduce broad reach vs. run and downwind sailing concepts

Land Drill
– walk through steps of jibe in boat on land
– walk through figure 8 downwind jibing course on land

Sailing Drill
– figure 8 downwind jibing
Jibing & Close Haul
– review jibing & Tacking
– introduce close haul and upwind progress
Land Drill
– walk through windward / leeward course
– illustrate zig zagging up the course

Sailing Drill
– shallow triangle
– coach increases triangle depth on each rotation until sailors each sustain close haul and sail two tacks to upwind mark
Drill 2
– follow the leader through windward leeward course
Close Haul & Sailing Startline
– review close haul sailing
– introduce sailing up and down start line and start sequence whistles
AfternoonWind Awareness & Safety Position
– wind indicators
– judging the wind direction
– upwind vs. downwind
— upwind = all the way in
— downwind = all the way out
– judging wind speed
– safety position: close haul with sails all the way out
Land Drill
– walk within a square course
– stop; point upwind
– walk within a square course
– stop; point downwind
Sailing Drill **
– sail within square course; marks provide the boundary
– stop in safety position; point upwind
– walk within a square course
– stop in safety position; point downwind
** if the entire group gets through level 2 during morning we will move onto this sailing drill. Otherwise, we will continue sailing drill from the morning.
Sailing Shenanigans
– cannon ball contest – jumping off the coach or committee boat
– swimming hunt for gold (tennis balls) during 3-minute start sequence
– sailing hunt for gold (tennis balls) during 3-minute start sequence

Come in at 2pm
Clean up / Trailer
2:30 pm Debrief
Sailing Shenanigans
round robin stop and race tournament
– stop & swim relay races
– stop & sail relay race to mark; beam reach course

Come in at 2pm
Clean up / Trailer
2:30 pm Debrief
Sailing Shenanigans
– Tennis Ball Tag
– Jumping, swimming, playing on coach boat
– Follow Jr coach through short Winward Leeward Course

Come in at 2pm
Clean up / Trailer
2:30 pm Debrief
Parent Exhibition
– follow the leader through a triangle course
– short scrimmage through Windward Leeward if the sailors are ready.
**Coaches may improvise or alter the plan based on how the sailors are responding to the activity and the current wind conditions

Skill Assessment

At the end of camp, your coach will give your sailor a progress report that includes a pass/fail assessment of basic boat handling skills in light to moderate conditions.

Optimist Boat Handling SkillsLight Conditions
0-8 kn
gusting to 10
Moderate Conditions
8-12 kn
gusting to 15
Pass Swim Test:
Swim 50 yards from dock; tread water 3 minutes; return to the dock
Wind Awareness:
Identify the direction and speed of wind: light, moderate, heavy, no go; identify puffs and gusts on the water.
Boat Parts:
Identify bow, stern, centerboard, rudder, tiller, tiller extension, mast, boom, mast step, centerboard box
Basic Knots:
Square Knot, Bowline, Figure 8, Double Overhanded Stopper, Clove Hitch, Half Hitch, Cleat hitch
Rigging / De-rigging:
Rigs boat in 12 minutes; De-Rigs, stores, and washes down boat and sails in 15 minutes;
Launching / Trailering:
Launch boat from dolly on ramp; put rudder on boat in water; assists other sailors during launch; Removes centerboard and rudder before trailering; assists others with dollies after sailing
Capsize Recovery:
In overhead water with sails on the boat sailor can right boat; get back into the boat, and bail the water while remaining in calm and in control
Safety Position:
Keeps boat in safety position and remains and in control
Points of Sail:
Illustrate and verbalize the points of sail and the sail trim / body posture at each point of sail. Knows definition of tack and jibe. Knows starboard tack vs. port tack.
Sailing Commands:
Understands the coach’s commands, whistle signals, and hand signals for most common commands: safety position; head up; head down; trim in; ease out; come to coach boat; head in for the day;
Sailing on a Reach:
Calm and in control while sailing on a reach
Sailing Downwind:
Calm and in control sailing downwind
Sailing Upwind:
Calm and in control sailing downwind
Illustrate, verbalize, and perform the proper steps to an Optimist tack
Illustrate, verbalize, and perform the proper steps to an Optimist jibe
Beginner Optimist Gateway Skills