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Sailing instructors Laurie Weikamp and Terry Lettenmaier set out for an evening cruise on Yaquina Bay. The couple are two of four instructors for the Yaquina Bay Yacht Club adult sailing class that begins on Aug. 12. (Photos by Susan Schuytema)

NEWPORT — The Yaquina Bay Yacht Club (YBYC) is offering sailing classes for adult beginners starting in August.

The classes are open to anyone who is interested in sailing. No experience is necessary, though participants should be somewhat nimble and comfortable in the water.

“We are just trying to get things back on track after the past year and a half,” said Greg Krutzikowsky, race and crews chair of the yacht club. “We haven’t held classes for a while, and the time was right to hold this class.”

While there are opportunities for kids to learn to sail through the Oregon Boating Foundation, there haven’t been many options for adults to learn to sail over the past couple of years.

Laurie Weitkamp, one of four U.S. sailing certified instructors for the class, said these sailing classes are a great opportunity for people to learn a lifetime skill.

“Sailing is the ultimate green sport,” Weitkamp said. “It’s great exercise, and it is just so much fun.”

Krutzikowsky agreed that sailing is a fun hobby that people of all ages can enjoy. “And they can be active in sailing their entire lives,” he added.

The instruction will feature in-class sessions about sailing theory, rules of the road, boating safety, navigational aids and tides and currents. The students will also gain practical experience on the water. 

“Sailing is best to learn by doing,” said Krutzikowsky. “Learning the concepts and theories are great, but people learn more by practicing.”

The YBYC owns eight boats, and students will learn on Club 420 boats. The Club 420 boats are an internationally recognized class of boats also referred to as dinghies. They are a small sized, two-person boat commonly used for training.

“Many people use the 420 Class boats in races and regattas,” said Terry Lettenmaier, a certified instructor and Weitkamp’s husband. “The advantage of using the smaller boats is they are generally easier to learn and sail. The principles are the same for sailing small boats and large boats. You have to react quickly and directly.”

Weitkamp said the small boats are also more exciting. “On larger sailboats, everyone has one job. But on the small boat, you are doing everything. You can either take all the recognition … or all the blame,” she said.

Adding to the excitement level is the ability to go fast when the winds are strong. “Little boats can break out of the water and plane on the surface,” said Lettenmaier. “They can go really, really fast.”

The wind is obviously a big factor on how the boat performs. “Wind is the engine,” explained Weitkamp. “Will it be an original Honda Civic or a Maserati? It all depends on how the wind is blowing.” Light winds can offer a peaceful, scenic excursion — a different but still enjoyable experience.

One important lesson in the class will be how to handle a boat that has capsized. The water in Yaquina Bay is quite cold, and learning how to turn a sailboat over and get out of the water is a critical skill for anyone.

The six-day course begins Aug. 12 and runs through Aug. 26. Class fee is $400 for nonmembers or $200 for members — 50 percent of the fee may be applied to new YBYC membership for nonmembers. Registration is due by July 31.

Instruction will be at the YBYC clubhouse on Bay Boulevard and on Club 420 boats in the marina at Port Dock 7. Participants should bring their own wetsuits, foot gear, gloves and a life jacket. Sailors in training should also bring a sack lunch and a change of clothes.

The yacht club is always looking for new members, and boat ownership is not necessary. Benefits of membership include reciprocal rights at many yacht clubs around the world, discounts on clubhouse use, free entry for weeknight sailboat racing, invitation to all the club’s social activities and volunteer opportunities and use of selected club sail and power boats. Members also receive a monthly newsletter regarding club events.

Weitkamp said people should not be intimidated by the name “yacht club.”

“It’s not like anyone here is a millionaire,” she explained. “It is a relatively inexpensive sport to get into. Old dinghies are a dime a dozen, but the hobby can last a lifetime.”

YBYC membership is $290 per year for all persons in your household, or $240 for an individual membership, both subject to a one-time $100 initiation fee. There are also memberships available for students, active military and crew members. 

Anyone interested in signing up for classes or learning more about the YBYC can go to www.yaquinabayyachtclub.org or email race@yaquinabayyachtclub.org.

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