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Difference Between Sailing and Sail Training

Posted by calebpifer on June 15, 2006

What is the Difference Between Sailing and Sail Training? 

This past weekend, I found myself trying to explain the difference between sailing and sail training to a friend of mine. I thought that I would discuss what sets sail training a part from regular sailing, and how it serves individuals as a powerful learning experience. In doing so, I will draw on some of my personal experiences from sail training.

While there are many sailing schools and community boating programs around the country, these sailing programs do not necessarily engage in sail training. Sail Training is more than simply learning how to sail. It uses sailing as a platform to engage individuals in team building, leadership training, and personal empowerment. Trainees engage in their own personal voyage of self discovery while onboard and will often acquire skills that make them more effective citizens in the real world.

I am sure you are asking yourself how sailing on a tall ship accomplishes these feats. The answer lies in both the sailing experience itself, and the purposeful and deliberate training that is given onboard by the crew. Sailing on a tall ship immediately put most trainees out of their comfort zone and in a new, often uncomfortable, and unfamiliar realm. This type of environment puts all trainees on a level playing field and requires them to work together in order to sail the vessel and solve problems collectively. Additionally, with the proper instruction, and explanations from the crew, trainees begin to see the connections between what they do onboard, and how it relates to the world around them. In this way, the tall ship is really a microcosm for a real-world community.

My first voyage on a tall ship was the summer of 2000. I was sailing on the US Brig Niagara, from
Philadelphia to
Halifax, Nova Scotia. It was a life changing experience that has provided me with a solid foundation for my life in college. The experience put me in a position of responsibility and in an environment where I was surrounded by a diverse cross section of fellow crew members, that hailed from all corners of the globe. Interacting with these individuals, organically taught me conflict resolution skills, improved my communication skills, and forced me to be a more open minded and understanding individual. These traits, I have come to learn, are all hallmarks of effective leadership.

Finally, trainees walk away from their sail training experiences with an excellent understanding of sailing and seamanship. There are often environmental components onboard the vessels as well, and trainees become conscientious stewards of the sea. What more could you ask for from a program?

– Cal Pifer
American Sail Training Assn.


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