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Adult Summer Sailing

Columbia Sailing School offers lessons for every age and ability level of sailor. Join us for a fun and educational experience in any of our popular classes, from our First Sail Experience to our Advanced Racing Courses. Our US Sailing Certified Instructors teach classes in our fleet of Colgate 26 keelboats. Whether you've never been on a boat before, want to brush up on your skills, or are interested in meeting new people in a fun and exciting sport, we have something for you!

Never been sailing and are not sure you’ll like it? Our First Sail experience is a 2-hour chance to get out on the water and feel the exhilaration of sailing. Our Learn to Sail course is two sessions that will begin to develop a foundation of sailing skills.  Learning boat parts and their purposes, how to rig and de-rig a boat, points of sail, and basic boat handling are all skills you will pick up in this introductory course.  We’ll get you sailing the boat in your very first lesson!

US Sailing Basic Keelboat Certification Course. This 20-hour course is taught in our Colgate 26 keelboats, with a maximum of 4 students per instructor, and includes a comprehensive workbook. You will learn all aspects of sailing, docking, and how to safely captain a boat.  Upon completion of the course and a written test, students receive US Sailing Basic Keelboat Certification, which is accepted at many locations (including Columbia) to rent a boat without a captain.  


Sailing is a lifelong sport, and the Columbia Sailing School give students options once they have mastered the basics. We offer Clinics and Seminars on and off the water throughout the year and a chance to book one of our certified instructors for Private Lessons.  Join our Wednesday Night Racing in the Chicago Beer Can Series, or take the Learn to Race course to hone your new skills and learn about the competitive side of the sport. We see some of our most adventurous students buy sailboats and head cruising or join a charter and boat-sharing program such as our own Season Pass program for graduates of Columbia Sailing School.

We do offer Group and Private Lessons; if you are interested in learning more, please contact us at!

Adult Sailing Chart

Adult Sailing FAQs

Q: What should I bring to sailing lessons?

A: Come prepared to be on the water, rain or shine (unless it is a thunderstorm). We recommend checking the weather before you leave for your lesson at Columbia Sailing School. Pack a life vest, water bottle, sunscreen, towel, hat, sunglasses, shoes that can get wet, and maybe a change of clothes.

Q: Do I need to buy my own life vest?

A:  We have life jackets that you can borrow. However, if you want to purchase your own life jacket, it should be United States Coast Guard (USCG) approved, and we strongly recommend Type III PDFs.

Q: I’m not a strong swimmer; can I still sail?

A: Proficiency in swimming is not required for an enjoyable sailing experience. If you are concerned about your swimming ability, feel free to mention it to an instructor or email us at

Q: Where can I park at Columbia Sailing School?

A: We recommend parking in the DuSable Parking Lot, located under Lake Shore Drive adjacent to the Columbia Yacht Club Member parking lot. Since our Columbia Yacht Club parking lot is small, only members who have purchased a pass can park there, and unknown vehicles can be towed.


Q: What happens when the weather conditions are too bad to sail?

A: With safety as our number one priority, we are constantly alert about changing weather conditions, and we only take students out on the water if conditions are safe. We will have on-the-dock or classroom instruction if the weather prevents us from going onto the water.


Q: Do we have a class on July 4th?

A: We do not have class on July 4th when it falls on a weekday. ​

Q: Do I have to be a Columbia Yacht Club member to register for classes at the Columbia Sailing School?

A: No, Columbia Yacht Club Membership is not required to sign up for Columbia Sailing School courses as they are two separate organizations. 

Q: What is the Season Pass?

Our Season Pass Program is for COLYC Members or those who have taken the Basic Keelboat Certification Course through us. This program allows sailors to rent our Colgate 26's when they're not being used for classes. We recommend doing Tiller Time, before signing up for a Season Pass. If you are interested, please contact us at

Q: What if I must cancel?

A: All refunds will be less than the credit card processing fee. Students who cancel 21 days before the program start date receive a full refund (less processing fee). Within 20 days of the start date, the student receives a 50% refund (less the processing fee). Within 14 days, there will be no refund.

Q: Do I need to be a US Sailing Member to attend classes?

A: No.  However if you register for the US Sailing Basic Keelboat course, you will receive a 1 year membership which can be renewed at the end of the year, should you wish your membership to stay active.

Q: Do I need to take the sailing courses in sequential order from First Sail, to Learn to Race?

A: While our courses have been designed to be taken sequentially, there is no compulsion to do so. Your choice of course should depend on your desired outcome. However, it is recommend you take the US Sailing Basic Keelboat Course before the Learn to Race course.  


Adult Sailing FAQ
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