Raising the caliber of sailing education at Chautauqua, seven instructors at the John R. Turney Sailing Center received US Sailing Level 2 teacher certifications last weekend in a course taught by renowned sailor, Olympian, and longtime coach Allison Jolly, who returned to Chautauqua to teach and inspire the young sailors with her decades of decorated sailing experience.
Most employees at the sailing center at Chautauqua hold instructor certifications from US Sailing, the national governing body for the sport. The organization sets the standards for sailing competition and education, teaching elements of safe and efficient sailing instruction. Building upon instructional basics mastered in Level 1, the Level 2 program is a hands-on training that prepares sailors to teach advanced techniques more effectively.
This year, sailing staff were offered a Level 2 certification, with the added highlight of a champion instructor. Jolly took home a gold medal racing a 470-class boat at the 1988 games, and she and her crewmate Lynne Jewell became the first American women to win gold in sailing.
Jolly first came to the Institution in 2018, when she was invited by Rob Carter, a lifelong Chautauquan and perennial supporter of sailing at the Institution. That year, she taught the first US Sailing Level 2 certification course ever to be held at Turney.
This summer, Carter extended another invitation, which Jolly accepted for the openness, positivity, and hard-working attitude of the young sailors she said she has found here. She looks forward to working with the “friendly and competent students” at Chautauqua again and again.
“These are good kids. They know their stuff,” Jolly said of her students. “I’m really proud of them.”
Jolly served both as a font of sailing wisdom and as a role model for success in the sailing world, demonstrating for the young staff what the best of sailing can look like.
“Learning from such a skilled sailor and teacher has impacted many of us to strive for a higher level of instruction,” said Patrick Kelly, head instructor at the sailing center.
Chris Brady, director of the sailing center, requires a Level 2 certificate for Kelly and for Joey Borup, his assistant director. For the rest of the staff, the training was recommended, and those who complete it successfully are offered a wage increase.
Brady emphasized his goal to make the sailing center as friendly and welcoming a place as possible for Chautauquans to learn new skills and enjoy the lake, and said Jolly took notice.
“Allison said the sailing center seems more safe, upbeat, and positive than when she was last here in 2018. For me, that’s the highest compliment we could receive from someone of her caliber,” Brady said.
Despite the overcast sky and chill in the air, wind whipping the halyards of the boats in the yard, the group on June 16 was ready to practice their skills on the water and talk through the movements of more complex maneuvers like raising and dousing a spinnaker.
“Safety first!” Jolly exclaimed as the group donned lifejackets and rigged up a 420-class dinghy, after a morning of classroom discussion. “C’mon, we’re finally getting out on the water!”
Skills at this level include flying a spinnaker on downwind legs, using a trapeze harness for high-wind conditions, and sailing rudderless to improve boat control. Sailors practiced these skills and others both land-bound and on open water, making corrections to others’ technique as they will do in their own classes.
With a trapeze harness, sailors “use leverage instead of weight to flatten the boat,” Kelly said—beneficial when it’s too windy or the person on board is too light to hike the boat flat. The farther out from the center of the boat, the more leverage a sailor has to keep it flat.
The key to rudderless sailing, Brady said, “is weight placement and leaning at certain places to move and rotate the boat.” Learning to steer without relying on a rudder can improve boat handling and balance.
“We assess the level of our students from day one and make a plan for the week,” Brady said, and staff hopes that during some weeks of the season, there may be “enough returning sailors some weeks with experience and ability to teach these skills, like spinnaker, and, if it’s windy enough, trapeze.”
Later in the course, students practiced and coached each other through on-the-water capsize recovery, motorboat handling and towing, building a class curriculum, and the keys to being an effective instructor. The training aims to generate more sophisticated and better-equipped teachers, significantly improving their confidence level.
“This Level 2 course has been great for the sailing center. By expanding our instructors’ breadth of knowledge, it allows us to accommodate students looking to learn more advanced sailing,” Kelly said.
With all seven instructors passing the course, a record number, Brady said, more than half the staff is now Level 2 certified — a new high for the sailing center.