Top Ten Reasons to Learn to Sail at NESS

Why learn to sail? Sailing is one of the most empowering activities, especially for children. Being out on the water, in a boat, sometimes all by oneself, with no parents around, enhances personal growth and development like few other sports. It teaches independence, self-confidence, and resourcefulness while conquering fears and learning a life sport.

Why learn to sail at NESS? While many places teach sailing, there are often barriers to learning and enjoying the sport: yacht club membership requirements, own-your-own-boat requirements, antiquated or poorly set-up boats, limited class options, large class sizes, small and out-of-the-way sailing areas, not to mention high program costs. NESS overcomes these barriers to offer high quality programs where children and adults can learn to sail in a fun, safe, laidback environment. NESS's newly renovated Sailing Center also provides a practical learning space for students of all ages to learn the techniques of sailing before they get out on the water. Read more about the NESS Sailing Center here.

Need to know more? Read on or visit our Sailing Program page and take a look at our offerings.

Top Ten Reasons to Learn to Sail at NESS!

1. We're an Outstanding Community Sailing Program
NESS was the first Community Sailing Center in Connecticut to be accredited by US Sailing, the governing body of the sport of sailing in the United States. NESS is proud to be one of the original nine organizations in the country to receive this designation as well as being recognized as the Outstanding Community Sailing Program in the nation for 2013.

2. We have low student:teacher ratios
NESS sailing classes average six students per instructor, with many classes, particularly beginner classes for younger sailors, as low as three or four students per instructor. Small class size means more individualized instruction, which translates into faster learning. It also means students do not get lost in a large class, and they actually feel part of the NESS family, thinking of NESS as their home away from home.

3. Our instructors are awesome and award-winning!
NESS’s instructors are the real reason students keep coming back year after year, and its sailing staff is particularly talented. Read more about our sailing instructors below or visit:

  • Mark Zagol, NESS's Sailing Program Director, has years of experience teaching and coaching at all levels of the sport, including nine years at the collegiate level, most recently at the US Coast Guard Academy. In addition to being one of the best coaches in the country, he’s an accomplished sailor, having won three national titles, recognized twice as a collegiate All American sailor, and the reigning 505 North American champion. In 2015, Mark also received US Sailing's Outstanding Program Director Award. 
  • Nick Ewenson, NESS's Assistant Sailing Director, was a sailing coach for the College of Charleston and University of Rhode Island, where he helped lead the teams to five national championships. He also won the ICSA Team Racing National Championship in 2004.
  • Taylor Martin, NESS's Adult Sailing Director, was the coach of his university sailing team, and currently teaches sailing programs to adults at NESS as well as for-credit water-based programs at Mitchell College in New London, CT.
  • NESS’s seasonal staff includes experienced, dedicated, patient instructors, many of whom are current members of collegiate sailing teams. Whether teaching beginners or the advanced 420 racing team, NESS’s instructors connect with their students and relay their passion for the sport.

4. We have a variety of boats

    • Opti trainers – NESS owns six of these small boats for its youngest students. With extra-small sails, higher floors (so little feet can touch), and colorful hulls, these boats make learning easy and fun for NESS’s littlest sailors.
    • Optimists – The Optimist, or Opti, is the world’s most popular youth boat, with over a hundred thousand sailing around the world.  Specially designed for children and easily sailed by one child, NESS’s 19 Optis are constructed from fiberglass and have air bag ballast for safety.  NESS uses these boats for learn to sail instruction as well as its popular racing programs.
    • O’Pen BICs – Cool and hot at the same time, O’Pen BICs are on-the-water rocket ships for the <100 pound set.  One-person dinghies with fluorescent sails, NESS’s eight O’Pen BICs offer tons of fun for kids who want to blast around the harbor or Fishers Island Sound.
    • Club 420 dinghies – For older kids and teens (generally over 100 pounds), the Club 420 is a popular two-person dinghy. Many high school and college sailing programs use a version of this boat.  NESS’s twelve 420s are rigged with mainsails, jibs, spinnakers, and trapeze wires so students can learn the basics of double-handed sailing as well as compete in regattas if they’re so inclined.
    • Sonar keelboats – The Sonar is a 23-foot daysailer with mainsail, jib, spinnaker, spacious sit-in cockpit, and 4-foot draft.  A popular boat used around the world for sailing instruction, fleet racing, team racing, and adaptive sailing, the Sonar serves as a platform for selected NESS sailing and marine science classes. NESS is now a US Sailing accredited Keelboat Certification School.
    • BIC Techno 293 windsurfers – NESS owns eight boards and twelve sails of varying sizes to provide just the right combination for learning for different abilities and sizes.  Windsurfing offers incredible freedom to enjoy the water.
    • J/105 – Thanks to a generous donation, NESS offers adult and teen instruction in its J/105 sloop Pflash, which will enable students to learn how to sail and race a modern big boat with bow sprit and asymmetrical spinnaker.
    • Hartleys - Thanks to a donation of Hartley 12 boats in 2014, NESS was able to offer Hartley Level 1 and Level 2 to students ages 10-16. The Hartley 12 is fast to rig and easy to sail meaning more time on the water practicing and refining sailing skills.

5. No membership required
As a community sailing center that eschews memberships, NESS welcomes everyone to take classes. In fact, inclusiveness is one of NESS’s core values, and the NESS community’s diversity continues to grow.

6. No need to own a boat
NESS’s students do not need to own their own boat to take classes. Many do (as they learn and progress they purchase boats), but most do not.

7. Our classes offer both recreational and racing opportunities
NESS offers weekly classes for those students with limited time as well as month-long and summer-long classes for those wanting a more immersive experience.  While recreational sailing classes teach the basics to students who want to learn and sharpen their skills, NESS’s full lineup of racing classes offers the excitement of competition for students who wish to race. NESS participates in the Eastern Connecticut Sailing Association’s summer regatta series, which involves fun, day-long field trips to area yacht clubs.

8. Our programs combine sailing, marine science & adventure sports
NESS students can combine sailing instruction with other NESS classes in marine science and adventure sports for a full day of fun and learning. NESS also offers "a la carte" classes that combine marine science with sailing on a Sonar or J/105. Working parents can also take advantage of NESS’s early drop off and late pick up service.

9. We're in a great location
NESS’s location enables novice students to take advantage of the protected water of Stonington Harbor and advanced students to challenge themselves on the more open water of Fishers Island Sound.

10. We offer financial aid
Can’t afford NESS’s programs? NESS’s financial aid can help. 

To get started, visit our Sailing Program page or call us at 860.535.9362. See you on the water!