About Us

Columbia Sailing School is a highly regarded, diverse and optimally located program hosted on the docks of the Columbia Yacht Club right off Randolph Street on Lake Michigan. Our youth programs provide education, from introductory sailing summer camps to advanced racing teams. Our youth alumni develop lifelong skills and friendships skills that lead to opportunities in high school, college and international competition as well a life on the water. Our coaches are trained to keep children safe, having fun and learning. 


Our adult sailing programs focus on new and intermediate sailors and are taught on our fleet of Colgate 26 sailboats. Our instructors are a combination of qualified and highly experienced volunteers and trained US Sailing certified instructors. Our programs cover introductions to sailing and racing. 

We offer powerboat lessons which are tailored to both adults and children (12+). It’s never too early to become familiar with the operation of a motorized vessel, whether it’s your sailboat’s dinghy, a racing mark set boat, or your go-fast boat.

Meet the staff, check out our fleet, get more information on Columbia Yacht Club


Meet the Staff

Kurt Thomsen - On the Water Director

Kurt grew up sailing with Columbia Yacht Club and has been involved with the sailing school since age 7. He began sailing in optis and sunfish, and competed in C420's in both high school and club sailing. Kurt is a certified CPR/First Aid Instructor, a US Sailing Level 1, 2, and 3 Trainer and a Powerboat Instructor and Keelboat Instructor Trainer. Kurt has been running the Columbia Sailing Program for the last ten years and the program has flourished under his direction. One of the most rewarding things for Kurt is witnessing the growth in confidence and independence as sailors progress through our program. Email Kurt

Katie Tinder - Sailing Program Manager

Katie began sailing when she was 5 years old. She raced Optis, X-Boats, Lasers, CFJ's and C420's as a junior sailor and college sailor. She graduated from St. Mary’s College of Maryland in 2006 with a BA in History. She was a member of the SMCM varsity dinghy team. She has spent time coaching in New York and Annapolis,  and has run programs at Encinal Yacht Club, Balboa Yacht Club, and Pewaukee Lake Sailing School. She joined the team at Columbia Sailing School in May, 2016. Katie is a US Sailing Level 1, 2, and 3 Instructor and Coach Trainer as well as a US Sailing REACH (STEAM) Educator Trainer, Race Officer, and Club Judge. For her, the best part about teaching and coaching sailing is not only the measurable improvement of sailing skills, but also the growth of young sailors as individuals and as a part of a team. Email Katie

Chuck Nevel - Dockmaster and Keelboat Director

Chuck joined the Columbia team in May of 2018. He started sailing with his dad when he was a kid in Wilmette, IL. Chuck attended Florida Institute of Technology and has a BA/BS in Economics. Chuck has coached at Sheridan Shore Sailing School, Chicago Yacht Club and previously at Columbia Yacht Club. Chuck is a US Sailing Level 1, Basic Keelboat, and Powerboat Instructor. Chuck is a Certified Reach Educator and CPR/First Aid Trainer. Chuck hopes to help youth and adults find enjoyment in and develop a passion for the sport of sailing. Email Chuck

Loghlen Rickard - Laser Race Team Coach

Loghlen is from Dublin, Ireland. He coached as a private Optimist coach and as an assistant to the Irish National Optimist Coach. He have coached sailors in the Junior Fleet in Ireland, including the Junior Irish and English National Championships. As a sailor, Loghlen was the 2012 Irish Junior National Champion and was ranked #1 in Ireland in the Optimist. He represented Ireland on the Irish National Team in the Optimist and Laser for six consecutive years and was a member of the Irish Laser Radial Olympic Development Academy. He was top 25 in the World and European Championships in the Laser Radial and was the North American Youth Radial Champion. He was recruited by Boston College for sailing and am currently a freshman on the BC Varsity Sailing Team.

Matt Arntzen - Adult Instructor and Youth Coach

Matt is a college student at DePaul University. He started sailing at Columbia Sailing School when he was eight years old. He traveled around the country with the Columbia Race team racing Optis, 420s and Lasers. He has also competed in many keel boat regattas both buoy and long distance. For the last four summers he has worked with the sailing school teaching all ages and skill levels.

Katelyn Kingsley - Beginner/Intermediate C420 Coach


Katelyn Kingsley completed freshman year of college as an engineering major with plans to move into a Naval Architecture program. This will be her first year coaching at Columbia, but 5th year coaching. She is US Sailing Level 1 and Level 2 Small Boat, Level 1 Windsurfer and Reach Educator certified.

Katelyn has sailed on Pistakee Lake since age 6, started as volunteer instructor in 2014 and continued as an integral part of the sailing program at Community Sailing Pistakee, where she also started a high school team. 


Katelyn has skippered a C Scow for team Hoffman at Pistakee YC for the last 3 years finishing 3rd overall 2018. She has coached park district sports classes, loves downhill skiing and soccer and is very involved in “Sailing Corner” program that provides a day of sailing for under-served middle school students which lead to summer sailing class scholarships

Seamus Scott - Youth and Adult Keelboat Instructor

Seamus has been sailing his entire life, including six years in the Columbia Sailing School camp and two years on the COLSS Race Team. His experience is not limited to dinghies - he competed in the 103rd Race to Mackinac on his father's Concordia 47 at 11 years old and placed 1st in the 2018 Verve Cup in the J24 Fleet. Seamus has been working at COLSS for two years teaching dinghy/keelboat classes and is a US Sailing Certified Instructor. He will be attending Massachusetts Maritime Academy in the fall with the intent of becoming a licensed deck officer.

Julia Williams-Portland - Advanced C420 Coach

Learning to sail in southern New Jersey, Julia has been sailing for ten years, and is now a competes in Z420s and FJ's as a crew for Old Dominion University, for which she most recently helped place 7/18 at the coed War Memorial regatta. She has competed all around the jersey coast in Club 420s as a crew and in Laser 4.7 and radials. She has also competed at the Corinthian Yacht Club of Philadelphia for four years as an FJ skipper. She has coached beginner to advanced classes, as well as private lessons, at the Yacht Club of Sea Isle City for four summers with sunfish, lasers, 420s, and optimists. She looks forward to being a part of Columbia's Sailing School's talented coaching staff and the amazing summer ahead.

Colleen Baumann - Opti Red, White and Blue

Colleen has been sailing at Columbia Yacht Club since she was 11 years old. Sailing and Columbia Yacht Club have become a huge part of Colleen's life in the past 6 years. She helped establish her high school's varsity sailing team and is a sophomore at Old Dominion University where she is a member of their Varsity dinghy team.  She is looking forward to this summer and helping others find their love for sailing. 

Emily Gildea - Opti Green Fleet

Emily participated in the high school program at Columbia and competed with the Columbia Jr. Race Team traveling around the country to regattas. She is currently a sophomore at Roger Williams University, in Rhode Island where she sails on their varsity dinghy team. She's excited to help more young sailors further their sailing knowledge and strengthen their passion for the sport.

Katie Faris - Prams

Katie has been sailing at Columbia Yacht Club since she was 8 years old. She started sailing prams and moved up to the Opti Race Team at Columbia Yacht Club two years later. After growing out of Optis, she crewed Club 420 Race Team for 3 years. She learned how to skipper and traveled around the Midwest competing until she started high school. As a freshman in high school, she founded and was the captain of the Trinity High School Sailing Team. In addition to youth sailing, she has raced on a Beneteau with her dad. She completed one Mackinac Race when she was 12, and a couple years ago sailed from Havana, Cuba to Key West, Florida. She is a US Sailing Certified Level 1 Instructor. She has spent every summer at Columbia Yacht Club sailing, and considers it her second home and second family. She is excited to coach prams this summer, and share her knowledge and passion of sailing with the next generation.

Emily Kowal - Prams 

Since the first time Emily visited Columbia as a freshman, she has fallen in love with sailing. Starting off as a high school sailor, Emily has become captain of Trinity’s sailing team. In addition to 420’s, she sails and races keelboats including Colgates, J22’s, her family’s cruiser, a Sydney 38, and most recently a Beneteau. She is a US Sailing Level 1 certified instructor, and is excited to coach prams this summer!

Cooper Soderlund - Beg./Int. C420


Cooper is from Southport, Connecticut. He grew up sailing at Pequot Yacht Club racing Opti’s and 420’s. He was captain of his high school team. He loves to match race and compete in offshore regattas as well as racing on the Northwestern University Sailing Team. He also raced 49er’s for a year down in Long Island and competed in the US sailing triple crown series. Last summer he was a race coach at San Diego Yacht Club and looks forward to being apart of ColYC this year.

Harry Bearrows - Beginner/Int. C420


Harry started sailing at the age of 10 after being introduced to the sport by his mother. After racing Optis and Lasers for several years at Belmont Yacht Club, Harry made the switch to Columbia during his sophomore year of high school. He sailed on the Fenwick High School Sailing Team throughout the remainder of high school and is now studying at the University of Missouri-Columbia as a freshman. Harry worked as a Pram instructor for the summer of 2018 and is excited to be teaching Beginner/Intermediate 420s for the summer of 2019.

Jake Nolan - Adventure Kids Camp

Jake joined the Lane Tech High School Sailing Team when it first began in 2015 and remained a part of the team until his graduation in 2018. He now studies Architecture as a freshman at Ball State University. Jake worked as Adventure Camp Coach over the summer of 2018 and will be remaining in the role for the summer of 2019.

Delaney Hybl - Prams

Delaney Hybl is one of the Prams coaches for the summer of 2019 at Columbia Sailing School! She has been a part of Columbia Sailing School since she was five years old and was on the 420 Race Team for four years. She spent last year as a Pram coach and is excited to spend another summer out on the water! When she's not sailing, she is busy working on her Psychology and Biology majors at Indiana University.


Our Fleet

The Columbia Sailing School fleet consists of the following:

7 Boston Whalers

8 RIBs

4 Colgate 26's

24 C420's

12 Prams

6 2-person Kayaks

8 Stand-up Paddle boards

2 Hobie Mirage Tandem Island


The Columbia Yacht Club

In 1892, Chicago was rebuilding from its disastrous fire, the world was wildly anticipating the Columbian Exposition, Daniel Burnham was advising city leaders to make no little plans and a group of yachting enthusiasts organized what became formally known as Columbia Yacht Club.

Since the founding of the club over 125 years ago, the location of the club has changed several times to different barges and ships, but what remains consistent is that not unlike those first members in 1892, the current members of Columbia Yacht Club share a passion for sailing and camaraderie. After more than 125 years, Columbia Yacht Club retains the vital and energetic spirit that began with that small group of sailors envisioning a yacht club on a tiny scow.

Columbia Yacht Club and Columbia Sailing School have an incredible bond. While they are two separate organizations, each relies on the support of the other to continue time honored traditions and passion of great education in a fun atmosphere. 

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