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If there’s one outdoor sport I’ve been vying to learn, it’s sailing! Every time we cycle along Jericho Beach’s bike paths or kayak in the water near the Jericho Sailing Centre, I get slightly envious of those little white sailboats on the water.

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Turns out MacSailing, Canada’s largest sailing school, offers multi-day courses for adults. The school is named after Vancouver-born Olympian sailor Ross MacDonald who won a silver medal at the 2004 Summer Olympics alongside fellow athlete Mike Wolfs.

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Class time slots are weekdays 9 am to noon, 1 pm to 4 pm and 6 pm to 9 pm. On weekends, the course switches up from five days (of three-hour instruction) to two successive weekends (of four-hour instruction). You can also opt for a private lesson aboard a dinghy or keelboat.

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[First day out on the Escapes]

Due to COVID-19, class size is currently limited to six and each student gets their own boat while on the water rather than get paired up.

MacSailing’s courses follow the internationally-recognized CANSail curriculum developed by Sail Canada. I recently signed up for a CANSail 1 course for newbies and headed over by bike each day.

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[Day 1: getting our boat terminology in order]

The first day is exciting, with five of us plus instructors Connor and Noah. Our first hour is spent in an outdoor classroom, going over basic terminology, and learning the parts of the Escape sailboat that we’ll be taking out later in the afternoon. From the second day onward, we’ll be sailing the Zests. Dinghies are well suited for beginners as they’re more responsive.

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As we become familiar with moving on the water and paying attention to Connor and Noah’s instructions, we’re offered two sayings: “When in doubt, let it out (the sail)” and “A flappy sail is not a happy sail”.

While that first day was definitely out of my comfort zone, I slowly became better acquainted with the tiller (steerage) and sheet (rope) and how they work in tandem with the current and wind direction.

On day two, we move to the Zests with their unmissable neon yellow sails. I quickly discover that they’re a lot more responsive (as promised) and bring a few more challenges to the game, including a longer tiller extension (to move direction), a downpour and a few rogue winds mid-afternoon. And yes, I wound up in the water taking a swim. Comes with the territory!

The rest of the week is spent both in the classroom, asking questions, going over tack and gybe maneuvers on land, then in water. Learning to tack and gybe are crucial when you want to change your boat’s direction in relation to the wind.

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Mostly the instructors try their best to improve our technique as sailing is an active sport with both hands engaged!

Once you’re through level 1, you can continue with CANSail 2, 3 and 4. Along with a certificate, your name gets entered into Sail Canada’s database, so you can rent a sailboat on your own from this point forward. There’s also several sailing clubs at Jericho Sailing Centre that you can join if you’d like to become part of the local sailing community.

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Courses begin at $295. MacSailing is located at 1300 Discovery Street in Vancouver.

My course was provided by MacSailing for the learning experience and for the purpose of this feature. Opinions, as always, remain my own.

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