View Full Version : Sail Trainer for kids

Mitch Larsen
11-22-2000, 03:32 PM
I can't say that I grew up sailing, so it is hard to think of what makes an ideal first boat. Here on the Ohio River we are teaching kids to sail in a batch of ESCAPES, 10 foot cat rigged , roto molded daysailers. After 3 years they are ready to be retired. Replacements are expensive, I think, versus club built ply boats. What is the best trainer in wood composite construction?

Jeff Lane
11-22-2000, 04:24 PM
Mitch, I sell several boats that would make stable, easy-to-build training boats. If you write me privately, at:


-and give me a postal address, I'll send you sketches of them. Tell me also, please, what length would suit your needs best.

Cheers, Jeff Lane

Chad Smith
11-22-2000, 04:26 PM
Try this site.

I'm building his 14' Sharpie and he has some others that are smaller and would probably fit the bill. Check out his small boat section.

Here is my construction photos of the sharpie.


Keith Wilson
11-22-2000, 04:53 PM
Phil Bolger has designed several small boats that would make good trainers (although installing a little more floatation might be a good idea). Chack out Dynamite Payson's site: http://www.instantboats.com/boats.html

I'd suggest perhaps the Cartopper or Gypsy, or if you wanted something simpler, Teal, Surf, ot Windsprint (similar designs listed by ascending size). All simple to build, all work as advertised.

Mitch Larsen
11-22-2000, 11:32 PM
I appreciate the input thus far. I would like to state that a simple hull form is not the prime objective. What matters is the knowledge gained in sailing each particular hull form, each type of rig to its maximum efficiency.
If it were my own kids , the boat would be under canvased, clear ie plexi bottomed for observation purposes, and a cinch to row. For the would be America's Cupper it might be a teched out Opti. What is it that we would like to teach our kids?

Stephen Hunter
11-23-2000, 08:05 AM
Seems to me if I really want to teach some kids to be competent and responsible on
the water this is what I'd do.
1. Have them help build the boats
2. Pick a design that rowed well, take the rigs out(hide them) and teach them to row
3. Have them maintain the boats and assign them boats that are "there's". Hopefully
the same one they helped build.
4. They should be responsible for the boats at all times. Like all good boat owners
have to be.
5. The boat should be beautiful
I've got a couple of boys coming up on this age and I'm building them a Heidi skiff.
As far as I'm concerned any sailing is good sailing but marinas are full of ugly,
unloved, plastic, go fast boats who's owners learned to sail in ugly, unloved,
plastic.... My .02

Dave Carnell
11-23-2000, 08:12 AM
Check out the infamous $200 SAILBOAT (modified Bolger FEATHERWIND).


Phil Young
11-23-2000, 06:21 PM
I really like the Nutshell Pram, nice looking, versatile boat. You'd need to build in some bouyancy. In South Australia there's a boat called a Holdfast Trainer. Same hull as a Sabot, but with fore, aft and side decks plus a jib. Usually raced by 2 kids between about 5 and 12 years old. No provision for rowing, but good sail/race training. The Mirror has always been a good little boat, more in the 1 parent, 1 child, (I think it used to be called Father/son) range rather than 2 kids, but good for a couple of teenagers You don't want to go too undercanvassed, or the kids will get bored. Opti's are ugly and pretty crappy to sail, with not enough rig to learn much beyond the bare basics IMHO.

11-30-2000, 01:54 PM
How about an Optomist Pram? What would they see through the plastic bottom? The last time I crossed the Ohio river all I saw was mud.

Mitch Larsen
11-30-2000, 02:42 PM
Yep. There be mud at the bottom of the Ohio. At least the last time I had the opportunity to wade out to launch one of my Acorns. Of course, my kids can sail, but usually like a the option to just goof off-fish a bit, row to unexplored shores, etc. The small boat is by nature very mobile, so when in clear waters there is much to see through the bottom. But back to the trainors. The Opti does seem to be favored by the directors of the community sailing program here so it could be we'll build a few at first and see how they are received. Granted they are small, and to some eyes, not very shapely, they still are an active and familiar class to many sailors. I personally like the looks of Antonio Dias's ORCA TRAINER design. Any further thoughts? Thanks Mitch

Tom Lathrop
11-30-2000, 10:46 PM
The Optimist is a fine little boat and I built two when my boys were small. My wife also learned to sail in one. Sabots and El Toro's are also good and all these have active class organizations. The Opti will be simplest and cheapest to build followed by the Sabot and the El Toro.

The best small boat I've ever encountered is the Spindrift 10 by Graham Byrnes. Can be sailed by two smallfry or one somewhat older. This is the smallest boat for an adult that doesn't feel like a toy. These can be seen at:
www.bandbyachtdesigns.com (http://www.bandbyachtdesigns.com)

They include multiple buoyancy tanks and row well. I concur with the idea of assigning boats to specific young sailors to develop responsibility along with sailing skills. It's easier on the boats too.

12-01-2000, 08:04 PM
Good advice so far. We have a kid's sailing club here that we run under 4-H for insurance and convenience purposes, and we use El Toros. That's what we had when I came to the club's leadership. We also have one of Ted Geary's 18' flatties for a few thrills. We may build another. The El Toros are a gas. They don't row, since we don't have oars, but I like that advice, and we'll be thinking that one over.

I don't know what your launch or storage facilities are like, but we have ours on two trailers, six to a trailer. Actually, one trailer carries five and the inflatable "chase boat." A local farmer donates us storage in his barn which is about five minutes from our two favored launch sites. We have a lot of fun with these little guys, and my favorite times are when we have fewer kids than boats and my 6'5" 220 lbs goes sailing too. We find the simplicity of the marconi rig lends itself to two things: get on the water fast and keep the number of lines few (sheet, halyard, vang). We've been able to pick up used boats now and then for cheaper than we can build them, but the fixin' and paintin' is usually sufficient energy input to create the desired buy-in by the kids. We have younger ones, about 10-15-year-olds, before they go to bigger things in Sea Scouts or whatever (girls, cars...), and these little boats work fine.

I have to add that the only trouble we've had was one accidental gybe that took a gooseneck off a mast (shortest d@mn screws), and one co-ed pair that was hotdoggin' and too lazy to bail. They were carrying some pounds of water, sitting forward, and riding low in the water when they crossed a wake running downwind. Ever watch an El Toro pitchpole? Two wet and slightly more cautious sailors.

Mitch Larsen
12-01-2000, 08:19 PM
One of the first things we do with the kids, at least on the escapes, is to go through a capsize drill out in the middle of the river. Of course the chase boat is present. This drill adds a bit of abuse to an already abused boat-what with loading them in and out of the box trailer they're stored in each day. The Escapes have little flooded volume and ample flotation so in replacing them with a more voluminous boat, albeit it with flotation installed, seems abit problematic.Still, I like a boat that you sit IN versus ON. Mitch

Eric Hado
12-05-2000, 12:57 PM
Consider a Melon Seed. home.att.net/~follansbee/melonhead/ is a website of builders and users. There is a wonderful description of the boat by Barry Thomas of Mystic Seaport a few pages down, under More Melon Head pages. Barry discusses the boat and why it would make a great trainer.

12-07-2000, 08:25 AM
I asked the same question myself a few months ago. After sifting through the sage advise from the whitebeards herewithin, I settled on a spindrift which can be found at www.bandbyachtdesigns.com. (http://www.bandbyachtdesigns.com.) Have to finish dry walling before I can start- the plan is to build 2 or 3 as prototypes to get the local yacht club to buy into the program. Will post when progress has been made.

12-11-2000, 07:58 PM
Consider the kids you want to reach. If they are under 12 or so, go for Optimists. They are easily built, easily handled and kids under 15 can compete internationally if they are good sailors and they have interested adult leadership.

For an all-round club boat, consider the El Toro or any of the centerboard Sabots. They all sail well with anyone from 50# to 250#. There is organized competition in many parts of the country for El Toros. The boat isn't too hard to build once an accurate jig has been produced. It can be sailed in almost no water (we have used a highway borrow pit, and a casting pond the size of a football field, flooded with 18" of water. And they can be sailed in the open ocean.

Our local club must sail from public beaches so we have kick-up rudders. Some of us also carry oars, and contrary to other comment in this section, they can be rowed. Shipping the rudder and lashing it to steer straight ahead improves tracking, but isn't necessary.

If you want to row fast, put a plug in the daggerboard trunk, or water will splash up.

Seaworthy El Toro hulls have been used by scout troops for white water river running.

If a sloop is wanted, get San Francisco Pelicans, Snipes, Hampton One Design, or the Geary 18. Blue Jays, Mirror Dinghies and Rhodes Bantams also carry spinnakers. All have local or national classes which can provide lots of information about the boats so you don't have to reinvent everything.

Old one designs are frequently inexpensive for a teaching group.