My star sign might be a cancer (crab), but I’m much more the land-type than the water-type to be real honest! My balance is always slightly off, so whenever I step onto a boat, I don’t feel very stable, especially when the sails are raised and we follow the swell of the water.
But, as I’m all about pushing your limits and trying new things, I signed up for a sailing lesson during my stay on the Island of Antigua. Because why not?
Sailing and Antigua actually go hand in hand. In fact, Antigua Sailing Week (a yacht regatta that was founded in 1967) is one of the top regattas in the world! Yearly, it attracts an average 150-200 yachts, 1500 participants and 5000 spectators on average!
The National Sailing Academy on Antigua was founded in 2010 and they offer Antiguan school children free sailing lessons. We decided to go back to school ourselves and experience what it’s like to sail a boat ourselves.
If you are curious to see how I went and wondering what it takes to sail your own boat, keep on reading and check out the video below:
What we'll cover in this article
LEARNING TO SAIL AT THE NATIONAL ANTIGUA SAILING ACADEMY
TEACHING WATER CONFIDENCE TO KIDS
In 2010, the Government of Antigua & Barbuda added sailing & swimming to the list of National Sports, but it was found that about 80% of kids in primary schools couldn’t even swim yet.
That’s why the National Sailing Academy was incorporated as an independent non-profit charitable organization with a volunteer board to help students in their training pool to gain enough ‘Water Confidence’ so that they are safe in a sailing dinghy.
They learn, for example, how to right their boat from a capsize, when they end up in deeper water than they can stand up in. They bring their students confidence in the water, even they are not great swimmers, so they can stay calm and safe in the water.
The sailing academy has the capacity for 150 students each week and at the moment, the Academy is operating at maximum capacity for their resources, even though there are many more schools that would like to join their sailing program.
SUPPORTING A GOOD CAUSE
It is estimated that students will need about 10 lessons of US$ 5 each to achieve the desired standard in swimming, so with just U$50, you can give a child the necessary skills to go on to learn to sail if they wish.
The sailing lessons come to about US$ 10 per lesson per student, including the instructor wages, boat repairs & maintenance and transport of the students to/from their schools, and of course there is no limit of lessons they can get.
Sailing is such an important sport in Antigua, because it can offer young people various employment opportunities, as well as the chance to becoming competitive racing sailors which could then result in becoming captains, crew, engineers, riggers, sailmakers, sailing instructors and even more jobs in the future.
If you are interested in helping fund this great charity, visit this page.
>> You can watch the full video also on YouTube >>
MEETING OUR INSTRUCTOR
At the moment, the academy has 3 racing Keelboats (Cork 1720’s) and they are available for hire, which is exactly what we did!
When we arrived at the Sailing Academy, we’re being given life vests and are teamed up in groups of four across the boats, each with an instructor. But before we hit the water, we get a quick introduction lesson on dry land and quickly realize that sailing sounds a lot easier than it actually is!
Our instructor was Mauriceson Valentine, an 18-years old guy who started sailing at the academy when he was just twelve years old. In 2018, he was selected to be part of the youth team that competed as part of Antigua Sailing Week! The boat (the Cork 1720, NSA Spirit – the same one we are having our lesson on) came in second in their class! Wow!
Mauriceson had a lot of patience with us as we learned the ropes (literally) and did his best not to laugh too much when we let out a few screams here and there navigating the boat towards the right wind directions and around (sorry – over or under) the buoys in the harbour.
After we helped raising the sail, we each took turns in trying to sail the ship around the harbour a few times. It was soon clear that our ship was a bit more cautious as some of the other boats with bloggers on them, as they seemed to race straight out to open sea.
But it was fast enough for me, haha! It takes some time to wrap your head around moving the tiller (sort of a stick that you move the rudder around with) and holding the main sheet (a rope that moves the sail around) at the same time, sometimes having to pass them over behind your back to move to the other side of the boat (minding the boom with your head, of course!)
There is a lot that happens at once, but the trick is to stay calm and watch what the wind is doing. And for us, trust that Mauriceson is never too far away to help out, haha!
Despite my love-hate relationship with the ocean and boats in general and the lack of warm sun during our lesson, I had a FANTASTIC morning learning to sail in Antigua!
The fact that we were busy learning a new skill and had so much fun together on the boat, completely took my thoughts away from the fact that I’m always a bit nervous on boats and so I had no problem at all with the rocking of the boat.
Our teacher was super nice and professional, even though he was still so young and he had the best of patience with us!
If you’re in Antigua at some point in the future and you are looking for a fun, different type of activity during your stay, I can highly recommend looking into getting a sailing lesson (or a few to really get a hang of it). All the details are at the bottom of this article for you to check out.
BOOK YOUR OWN SAILING LESSON
If you are interested in combining your holiday with learning to sail, then have a look at the website of the National Sailing Academy in Antigua. They are open all year round for both youth as adult sailing courses on their dinghies and keelboats and no wetsuit is needed.
If you’re really into it, there is even affordable accommodation on site. The training courses are usually morning sessions, but they can also arrange full day courses on request.
Prices for RYA certified courses are:
Dinghy – U$ 250 per person per course
Keelboat – U$350 per person per course
Prices for non-certified sailing courses are:
U$ 120 per person for a course of 3 lessons. These lessons are more informal and lessons are arranged to suit you in terms of days & times.
For more information, check their website
LOCATION OF SAILING SCHOOL
OTHER FUN TOURS / CLASSES ON ANTIGUA
DISCLAIMER: I was kindly invited to Antigua on behalf of the Tourism board of Antigua and Barbuda on the #WhatCoolLooksLike campaign organised by Traverse Events and Brighter PR. All opinions, photo and video material is 100% my own.