Want to test drive up to 20 different sailboat classes in one day?
That’s just what Sail A Small Boat Day, one of the most unique events on San Francisco’s sailing calendar offers.
Hosted by Richmond Yacht Club for more than 20 years, it’s perfect for those in the market for a sailboat or just curious about the sport in general.
Small sailboats are fun, easy to transport, inexpensive to store and cheaper to maintain than their larger brethren. They also are the best way to sharpen sailing skills.
The event is free and has sailboat for everyone… Child-friendly beginner boats, high tech marvels and comfortable cruisers.
This year’s lineup included 20 different classes: 24’ Catboat, 29er, 303 Access Dinghy, 420, Byte, Cal 20, CFJ, Lightning, Day Sailer, El Toro, Hobie Cat, Laser, International 14, Snipe, Sunfish, Thistle, Ultimate 20, Vanguard 15, VX One, Wabbit and Weta.
“Where else can you try so many boats on the same day?” asked event co-chair Greg Pfeiffer. It’s a great way to sample a variety of boats and also promote sailing in general. “The whole idea is to open the sport of sailing to people who might not experience it otherwise.”
The variety of participant was marked in Skipper Seymour Dodds’ experience. One of his seven trips out included two young women and their mother, who hadn’t sailed before. “One daughter with hardly any coaching took the tiller and didn’t do badly at all maneuvering all the way around a gigantic vehicle carrier.”
Another trip included the family of an America’s Cup sailor. “One visitor (along with her young son) mentioned very casually, and in all humility, ‘my husband won the Sunfish Worlds.’” Seymour said. “It only took ½ synapse to figure out who her husband was. I was deeply honored to have her on my silly little yacht.
Her husband was the absolute top RYC Junior Program graduate. Yet I can smile and whisper, ‘…that is until tomorrow.”
Can you guess who Seymour’s talking about? San Francisco-based sailors likely will.
There is a fun, casual feel to the event; there aren’t a lot of formalities, participants sign a waiver and are good to go. They approach boats of interest, chat a bit with the skipper to see if it’s a good fit, set sail.
“We like to keep it totally unorganized,” joked Eric Arens, event co-chair and also former commodore. The recipe works, it’s delightful seeing everyone having so much fun. There were more than 150 participants this year.
There is a boat for everyone, entry boats for beginners and high performance for experienced sailors. Those with sufficient skills can even take a boat out alone.
David Demko was one of the experienced ones. He grew up sailing wanted to introduce his fiance’s 12-year old son Josh to the sport. Josh had been on boats before, but not sailing. In no time they were off in a C420.
The green-sailed Bay Area Association of Disabled Sailors 303 Access Dinghies stood out among the many white sails. BAADS has participated for years, volunteer Eli Frank shared SASBD is a great recruiting tool for them, both for sailors and volunteers. BAADS Access Dinghies are designed and rigged so everyone, even those with severe disabilities, can go sailing.
Eli has found his four years of volunteering with BAADS quite rewarding and added “we are always looking for volunteers!”
Sail A Small Boat skippers are also gratified by volunteerism, donating their boats and time. “I do it because SASBD is what my club does and I love my club for this exact reason,” said Seymour.
Probably the best example of the transformative nature of Sail A Small Boat Day is the third co-chair Merrick Cheney. Three years ago he attended SASBD and “learned just how fun a small boat can be.”
Today he is an active member of the Richmond Yacht Club, crews on many different boats and enjoys sailing the bay with his wife Grace on their Wylie Wabbit.
“The small boat sailor is the real sailor,” Jack London famously said. Each year Sail A Small Boat Day gives everyone the opportunity to sample ‘real’ sailing on San Francisco Bay.
Sail A Small Boat Day is traditionally the Saturday before the first Sunday in March, which is the last of the four Midwinter races for dinghies at the Richmond Yacht Club. Click here for more information on Sail A Small Day!
If you enjoyed this article, you may also like ‘Capturing the Power’ at the Northern California Women’s Sailing Seminar and Corinthia Women’s Sailing Seminar: Equal Parts Education and Fun.