By Michael Esposito, Tribune Newspapers
8:35 PM EST, February 19, 2013
"I'd really like to own a sailboat someday," my bartender said.
Do you sail?
"I don't. It just looks really cool," he said.
Sailing is cool, but there's far more to it than buying a boat; it takes a lifetime to master.
"I'm still learning; you're always learning" about sailing, said Dawn Riley, a champion sailor whose seagoing resume is longer than a clipper ship.
A current U.S. Sailing board member, she has three America's Cups (one leading the America True campaign in 2000) and two Whitbread Round the World Races (now known as the Volvo Ocean Race) to her credit.
Riley said that for children who learn to sail, there are a lot of options for where to continue: community sailing centers, yacht club teams, Sea Scouts, as well as high school and college sailing.
But after college or for people who learn to sail as adults?
"Then it gets a little confusing," Riley said.
Her favorite solution, obviously, is for sailors to travel to the Oakcliff Sailing Center (oakcliffsailing.org) in Oyster Bay, N.Y., where she is executive director. It recently became the first official training center for the U.S. Sailing Team. Oakcliff offers programs for people just starting out as well as those hoping for a pro career. Their fleet ranges from small keelboats to wooden classics and even grand prix racers.
Apart from Oakcliff, Riley recommends visiting the Bitter End Yacht Club (beyc.com) on Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands during the annual Pro Am Regatta, which attracts sailing pros such as Russell Coutts, Ed Baird and Peter Holmberg.
"You get to sail with these great sailors, and they're giving you tips and advice all day long," said Riley, who has been a pro at the regatta.
Riley said other good values for adding to your sailing knowledge include the Offshore Sailing School (offshoresailing.com) in Captiva, Fla., especially when it hosts a North U class, and the J World schools (jworldschool.com) in Annapolis, Md., and Newport, R.I.
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