July 2007

Sailing In The Desert? You Bet!

By Mike Ferring
AYC Jr. Staff Commodore

It even amazes those of us who do it all the time, but there's a very large, very active sailing community in this desert of Arizona . The Arizona Yacht Club is a group of nearly 250 sailing families—and there are several more clubs from Prescott to Tucson . A “Sailing Adventure”club. A very active Lake Pleasant Sailing Club. Catamaran clubs.

Our common link is a love of sailing in all its forms, whether it's a laid-back overnight, an ocean voyage, or the electric jolt of sailboat racing.

Here's how you can get involved. Tap into www.arizonayachtclub.org and look around. In addition to lots of information about the Arizona Yacht Club (AYC), you'll find links to the state's other sailing organizations.

Click on the Fleet 42 link and you'll find multi-hull sailors gathering at Roosevelt Lake , Rocky Point, and West Coast destinations. Click on the Lake Pleasant Sailing Club, and you'll see why they're the leader in cruising events, with frequent raft-ups and social gatherings. They're a fun bunch that likes to eat and play and party.

AYC has cruising and social events too, but tends to be made up of people who like to race their boats. AYC is affiliated with US Sailing and the Southern California Yachting Association.

It has the most events by far, with regular racing and training at both Tempe Town Lake and Lake Pleasant . It's the only group that puts on US Sailing-sanctioned races with group insurance. AYC owns four boats that it uses to run races and provide safety at events.

About five years ago, AYC decided to step up its efforts in sailing education by forming the Arizona Sailing Foundation, a nonprofit subsidiary. Since then, ASF has taught hundreds of people how to sail and has an active and successful program for young sailors, beginning at age 8 and extending through college.

ASF has gathered a large fleet of small boats from Sunfish and Lasers to a 420, a competition dinghy.

This fall, the ASF “Start Sailing Right” classes will enroll around 70 adult students, taught by the club's cadre of about three dozen USSailing-certified instructors. In contrast to other sailing programs, ASF offers lots of time on the water at Tempe Town Lake .

From there, students can take more advanced courses, including a new course being presented at the end of August that offers an introduction to sailboat racing or new courses in powerboat operation.

As a nonprofit organization, ASF accepts tax-deductible donations to help pay for its operations, including donations of boats — both sailboats and powerboats. The support of volunteer instructors and tuition from students cover the rest of its expenses.

Of course, a lot of the reason to join any of the state's sailing clubs is to meet other sailors, people who like to play with the same kind of toys you do and share the same interests.

That camaraderie often turns into close friendships and can launch you on sailing trips outside the state. Members of the Sailing Adventure Club, for instance, have chartered boats all over the world.

Groups of sailors from the other clubs join together for charter trips that have included the Virgin Islands, Belize , Greece , and beyond.

You're also likely to meet members who keep boats on the West Coast and who are looking for friends to sail with. One bunch of AYC sailors recently raced in the gigantic Newport to Ensenada race and won the cruising class.

A father-son team from AYC will compete in the double-handed division of the Transpac this month.

If you want to sail, Arizona has the water and the sailors to help you do it.