Reason to reach for sailing

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Sometimes getting away from it all can mean not going very far at all. Sometimes it just takes the deep, blue waters of the Chesapeake Bay and a light breeze to whisk you away both mentally and physically.

The sport to do just that is called sailing and, just in case it never occurred to you, the Baltimore area is supremely located for you to learn all about it.

The area is home to numerous businesses and organizations that offer sailing lessons, including the Annapolis Sailing School, Chesapeake Sailing School, Severn Sailing Association, the Annapolis Yacht Club, all in Annapolis, and Womanship, a sailing school for women, also in Annapolis.

The fortunate thing is, it is not necessary to own your own sailboat to enjoy the sport. "Of course, we teach people on our boats," says Rick Francke, the general manager and senior instructor at the Annapolis Sailing School, which was founded in 1959.

Even when you have completed the lessons and want to strike out on your own, there are ways to do it without buying a boat.

"You can charter boats, and people are always looking for crew," Francke says. "They will come to you once they know you are really into it and enjoy it."

Francke admits that not too many people jump into sailing on a whim. Research has shown that people contemplate taking up sailing for a few years before they ever actually do it.

"They have been thinking about it for three years, sending away for everyone's brochures before they finally go through with it," he says.

Although there are separate sailing classes for children, the average age of a sailing student is 35 to 45 years old, he says.

Like other schools, there are different levels and lengths of instruction at Annapolis Sailing School, and prices vary accordingly.

"Most of the people in our 102 [course] are real beginners," Francke says. "Many have never even been on a boat."

Then there are lessons for people interested in competitive racing and other types, he says.

"One of the things people are amazed over is that this is a lifetime sport and many sports in one," he says. "You can get into it deeply or you can enjoy it on multiple levels. Many people enjoy the gung-ho races when they are younger but then when they get older, they get a little more relaxed and don't need all that competition."

Just like many other sports, good motor skill is a plus for sailing, Francke says. People interested in any sailing school may want to check with the U.S. Sailing Association's guidelines on certification standards. And to get the best results from any school you choose, nothing beats practice.

"It is not wise to take a course and then not sail again for six months or so," Francke says. "If someone takes the course and practices, they will pick it up. The key to success is practice, practice, practice."

For Suzanne Pogell, learning how to sail is more than an enjoyable experience, it can be a way of building on your strengths.

"Sailing is fun," says Pogell, the founder of Womanship, an Annapolis-based sailing school for women. "And there's nothing quite as useful as identifying your strengths."

Your interest in sailing may be piqued by a number of events going on around town, even if they are not instructional. In Baltimore, you might take advantage of the Clipper City, which sails around the Inner Harbor past Fort McHenry, Fells Point and, if the winds are good, under the Fort McHenry Bridge.

Then there is the Whitbread challenge, a grueling nine-month around-the-world sailing race that covers roughly 32,000 miles and about 125 days at sea. It is a race people around the world will be following.

The 1997-1998 Whitbread Round the World Race will begin in England in September and the port stops include Cape Town, South Africa; Sao Sebastiao, Brazil; Sydney, Australia, and the Baltimore/Annapolis area. The race is scheduled to finish in England in late May or early June of 1998.

Baltimore's local connection to the Whitbread race is George Collins, former chief executive officer of mutual fund company T. Rowe Price. Collins is skipper of the boat he dubbed Chessie. The team sailing the boat is dubbed "Chessie Racing."

Collins spent $2.5 million of his own money for the 65-foot boat, which was built for speed. When the race is over, he will donate the boat to the Living Classrooms Foundation, a Baltimore nonprofit group that is using the race as an educational tool for city children. There will be a christening for Chessie tomorrow.

The Chessie fever builds

Tomorrow:

Chessie christening 5 p.m., Pier 5, Baltimore's Inner Harbor

Saturday:

The Chessie Kids Regatta -- children will be racing boats they built,

1 p.m., Baltimore's Inner Harbor (near the Maryland Science Center)

Sunday:

W60 Yacht Parade of Sail to Annapolis, departs Baltimore Inner Harbor (from Finger Piers near Science Center) 10 a.m.; Sails near Bay Bridge noon; arrives in Annapolis 2 p.m.

Monday:

Chessie send-off, 6 p.m., City Dock in Annapolis

Online information:

www.whitbreadchesapeake.org/whitbread

Pub Date: 5/01/97

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