August 20, 2019

Pettipaug Yacht Club Excels in Small Boat Sailing Programs for Young Sailors

A shoreline view of the high school racing teams on the water

A shoreline view of the high school racing teams on the water

The Pettipaug Yacht Club will offer a truly impressive roster of small boat, sailing programs for young people during the soon-to-be-upon-us summer sailing season. The club is located in Essex off River Road, directly on the Connecticut River, making it an ideal small sailing boat location. Among the club’s sailing programs for young sailors this summer are those at the club’s prestigious Pettipaug Sailing Academy.

The guiding spirit behind the Pettipaug Sailing Academy is retired Electric Boat engineer and club Board member, Paul Risseew. Risseew not only directs the Sailing Academy, he runs virtually all of the sailing and boating programs at the Pettipaug Yacht Club.

Learning to Sail at the Pettipaug Sailing Academy

The aim of the Pettipaug Sailing Academy, which was founded in 1950, is to teach young sailors in Risseew’s words, “the pleasure of sailing in small boats and also the racing in small sailboats.”

Six rigged sailboats are ready for the afternoon races

Six rigged sailboats are ready for the afternoon races

155 young sailors have enrolled this coming summer for the sailing classes at the Academy. Courses at the Academy are divided into two sessions. The first session begins on July 1 and ends July 23, and the second session begins on July 25 and ends on August 16. Some students take both sessions for seven full weeks. Others opt for a single session of three and a half weeks.

Rolling sailboats into the water; a stiff winds await them

Rolling sailboats into the water; a stiff winds awaits them

Academy days are also broken up into morning classes and afternoon classes.  Morning classes, which are for children, ages 8 to 11, are held from nine o’clock until noon. Afternoon classes, which are for students, ages 12 to 16, are held from one o’clock until four o’clock.

Sailboats ready for winds gusting to 20 knots

Sailboats ready for winds gusting to 20 knots

The curriculum of the Pettipaug Sailing Academy includes lessons in teamwork, rigging, capsize recovery, tacking, gibing, reaching, running, sailing to windward and tying knots. Upon their graduation from the Sailing Academy, students are givens ranks that reflect their respective sailing skills. The rank of progressions as they are called are; Seaman, Seaman First Class, Second Mate, First Mate, Boatswain, Skipper, and Racing Skipper.

With the wind blowing hard a sailboat sets sail from the dock

With the wind blowing hard a sailboat sets sail from the dock

This year the enrollment at the Pettipaug Sailing Academy was completely filled by March 30. However, sometimes there are drop outs, just before classes begin. When this happens, new students are taken off the waiting list. The tuition at the Academy for both sessions is $700 and $400 for a single session.

A Sailboat “Race Clinic” to Precede Academy Classes

 Prior to the instructional sailing classes of the Pettipaug Sailing Academy, the club will hold an intensive, five-day “Race Clinic” for small boat, racing sailors. Classes for the clinic will be held from Monday, June 24, to Friday, June 28. The “Race Clinic” is designed to teach students how to win sailboat races, and it is expected to attract some 25 students, ages 12 to 15.

All eight fulltime sailing instructors at the club will serve on the faculty of “Race Clinic.” The clinic’s curriculum will include; in getting a good start in a race, reading the wind to attain the fastest speed, as well as learning what are sometimes not so nice, but permitted, racing tactics. Tuition for the intense, five day “Race Clinic” is $200.

Other Summer Programs at the Pettipaug Yacht Club

Another program featured this summer at the Pettipaug Yacht Club will be Powerboat Courses designed by the U.S. Powerboating Association. There will be eleven, one day, Powerboat Courses held throughout the summer sailing season. The first course will be held on Sunday, April 28, and the other course dates will be posted on the club’s web site at www.pettipaug.com and on the club’s bulletin board.

The Powerboat Courses are for students of all ages, and the one-day course begins at 8:30 a.m. and end at 6:00 p.m. The tuition is $180. For further details contact Paul Risseew at 860-767-1995, or at PRisseew@aol.com .

Teaching Sailors to Teach the Art of Sailing

As if the above programs were not enough, there will also be two courses at the club on teaching sailors how to teach the art of sailing.  A Level 1 Instruction Course for would-be sailing teachers will be held over the two weekends of June 8-9 and June 15-16. A more advanced Level 2 Instruction Course for sailing teachers will be held over three consecutive days, June 17, 18 and 19.  The tuition for the Level 1 course is $350, and $300 for the Level 2 course.

In addition, there will be Windsurfing Courses, mostly for the young, throughout the summer, for which there could be a small charge.

Club’s Hosting of High School Racing Teams

Finally, during the months of March and April of this year, the club has been hosting sailboat races for three local, high school sailing teams. (Photos of a recent race of these teams are pictured with this article.) The teams are students from; Valley Regional High School, which has nine sailors; Xavier High School, which has 16 sailors; and Daniel Hand High School, which as 28 sailors.

Fifteen of the sailboats used in this pre-season sailing program are owned by the Pettipaug Yacht Club, and twelve are owned by Xavier High School. Although it is understood that all of the sailors participating in this program are members of the Pettipaug Yacht Club, there is no financial cost involved for the racing participants.

Paul Risseew’s Philosophy of Teaching Young Sailors to Sail 

 In teaching young sailors Risseew said, “Our priorities at Pettipaug are Safety, Fun and Learning, in that order.” He also noted, “If the students are not having fun, they won’t pay attention to the learning.”

Pettipaug Sailing Academy leader, Paul Risseew

Pettipaug Sailing Academy leader, Paul Risseew

“The majority of students return year after year, because they are spending the warm summer days with friends and playing on, and in, the water,” he continued. “Pettipaug is able to provide expert racing coaching to those who want to go in that direction. We send Optimist and 420 race teams to over a dozen regattas at other clubs in Connecticut.”

Putting it all in perspective, Risseew said, “As Rat said to Mole, in Wind in the Willows:  “‘There is nothing, absolutely nothing, half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.” 

Share