FAQ High School Team Sailing

Watch this video to learn about High School Sailing


What if I've never sailed before, can I come to a High School practice and check it out?

Yes, you are welcome join us for practice. Send Coach Molly director@pysf.us an email and let her know when you are hoping to visit. At practice, you will ride along with the Coach in the motorboat and sometimes get in a sailboat if the conditions allow. Please make sure to bring the signed PYSF Waiver.

What do my kids need to bring to practice?

  • Sunscreen, water bottle, lifejacket, sailing boots, gloves, spray gear, bailer, shin guards, and most importantly a good attitude and an open mind!
  • Gear: West Coast Sailing is a great site that has most everything you are looking for. http://www.westcoastsailing.net
  • Bailer: don't spend money on a bailer. An Arizona Ice Tea jug, or a big bottle of Tropicana Orange Juice with the bottom cut off work perfectly. As you drink up save the bottles and "recycle" them to PYSF as one can never have enough bailers. (plastic jugs of bleach, milk, etc. work as well, but the rectangle shape of the juice bottles works well with the flat edge being flush with the floor of the boat)
  • Shin Guards: This is personal choice, but as one is learning to crew in FJ's and skipper in 420's they bang their shins a lot. You will see many college sailors wear them. Again, personal preference, not mandatory.

What if I can't make all of the high school practices?

Many kids and parents have scheduling conflicts with all of the practices. We understand the challenge and understand if kids can only make 1 or 2 practices a week. Tuition for the semester is the same if you attend 1 or 3 practices a week.

What is the difference between High School and Junior Sailing?

Sailors represent their school in High School Sailing, where in Junior Sailing the kids compete under their Club/Program's name.  High School sailing is comprised of seven districts, or conferences throughout the United States. California is part of the Pacific Coast District (PCISA). PYSF has high school students from over 15 schools throughout the area that all practice together. They then compete in regattas during the High School racing season (September - May). Boats used in High School sailing are mainly Flying Juniors, but 420s (without spinnakers or trapezes) and Lasers are also used. Junior Sailing is comprised of all Yacht Club and Sailing Center regattas around the country governed by US Sailing.  Race courses tend to be longer and kids do not rotate boats within the fleet.  Boats used in Junior Regattas are extensive (Optimists, El Toros, FJs, C420s, Lasers, 29ers, etc). Junior racing occurs throughout the entire calendar year.

What regattas do PYSF sailors participate in and what is the difference between all of these series?

PCISA - A series of CFJ races hosted by PCISA and ISSA, that take place throughout the school year. Skipper and crew must be from the same school (with rare exceptions). High Schools sail as a combined team of two boats. The combined scores for the series qualifies your school for the Pacific Coast Championship. The Pacific Coast Championship then qualifies you for the ISSA National Championship.

NorCal - A series of races that is hosted by Northern California Yacht Clubs and PCISA. Skipper and crew must be from the same school (with rare exceptions). Teams sail as one boat. The combined score from the entire series qualifies your school for the NorCal Championship.

BAYS - A series of races where junior boats can race against each other (Opti Green, Opti Championship, Laser Full, Radial, 4.7, CFJ, C420, 29er). BAYS stands for Bay Area Youth Sailing. All sailors represent their yacht clubs at all series.

What High Schools sail out of PYSF?

PYSF is open to students from all high schools. We have sailors who attend the following schools.
  • Carlmont 
  • Crystal Springs
  • Design Tech
  • Gunn
  • Half Moon Bay
  • Los Altos
  • Menlo
  • Menlo-Atherton
  • Mountain View
  • Palo Alto
  • Palo Alto Prep
  • Serra
  • Sequoia
  • St. Francis
  • St. Lawrence Academy
  • Summit/Everest
  • Woodside
  • Woodside Priory
How do High School Sailing regattas work?
All kids will be sailing for their school. Each team is comprised of an A and B division. Each division has a skipper and crew, so four sailors is the minimum to fill a team. To encourage participation and set up a feeder program, 8th graders are allowed to compete at all events minus championship qualifiers.

What if I only have 2 kids currently at the same school?

You are allowed to combine sailors from different schools until you fill your team. The four sailors will sail under only one school's name, and are allowed to do this for two years only. The end goal is that you are forming a team of at least four kids and the two-year grace period is to allow you time to convince your friends to get in on the fun!

When can 8th graders be on the High School team and how does that work?

Eighth graders that have taken the FJ Intro class are welcome to join the high school practices during the school year. They will be part of the high school team they plan on attending in 9th grade. If a child is unsure of their future school, they will be placed where they fit best. 8th graders are allowed to compete at High School regattas (minus national championships).  Priority for placement in boats will go to current high school students.

Where can I find information about high school sailing and the Pacific Coast Interscholastic Sailing Association?

What is the deal with Schools having JV teams at PCISA events?

Sailing teams can vary in size from 4 kids to over 30. Size depends on things like continuity, recruiting by friends and parents, organized practices, etc. When I took over the program in the Fall of 2012, we had 2 full teams and kids from 11 schools. This year we currently have 6 full teams and 16 schools represented at practice. When a team can field two competitive teams (13 sailors minimum) we too could have a JV team entered into a PCISA event.

Who sails vs subbing in?

When teams have 4 kids the math is simple. Two kids per boat, two divisions need to be filled, so all 4 are in a boat all the time. Now the team that has 30 members requires more organization. The larger teams can field a JV team and the others fill in as extra skippers and/or crews.  Ideally teams are larger than the minimum 4 sailors, to allow pairings based on weather, team chemistry, ability, etc.

How do you decide who sails when we have extra sailors?

The way coaches decide who sails is determined by numerous things. Weather, attitudes, stamina, chemistry between the people, etc. The goal is that the team as a whole is getting better. The end goal on paper is that the school is moving up the "ladder" and qualifies for the next step (PCISA events lead to the district championship called PCC's. Top boats at PCC's qualify for Nationals, etc.).

How come my kid came home and only sailed 6 races over two days?

Our sport is dictated by the weather. Some regattas will only see three races over two days. Others will see 18 races. Weather also dictates who sails. The windier it gets, the heavier you need to be to counteract the weight of the sails. The best case scenario in my mind as a coach is to have at least 6 kids at a two-division regatta. Four kids are sailing and there are two on land ready to go in at any time. The current kid sailing might be having a meltdown, might be physically tired, might need to watch from land to figure out what the coach is talking about, etc. The first Nationals I went to in High School I was an extra crew. I never sailed, but I was stoked that I was chosen as the spare crew to go, I learned a ton from my coach and the other sailors, and helped my team perform well at the event.

Why do some kids always skipper, and some always crew?

I put people in skipper or crew positions based on ability and fit. The ideal weight in an FJ is around 275. So I am looking to find a good fit based on size, on athletic ability and on chemistry. Psychology is a big part of it and making sure the two kids can get along and be productive is important. Also factoring in what the team will need in the next year comes into skippering or crewing. Take a team that has two seniors driving for example. I will be getting younger folks to start driving so they are ready for next year. The NorCal regattas are where I try out new positions for the kids.

Does my kid learn anything by being on land?

YES!!! This is a huge part of the weekend regattas. Being able to watch a race from outside a boat is incredibly helpful, especially so with a coach right there. Being a team player and catching your team's boat during a rotation, helping them bail, getting their next boat in the rotation ready, helping them shake off a bad race and high-fiving them when they win, is all part of this.

How do the two-division regattas (PCISA events) work?

Each school supplies one boat for the regatta. That boat is entered into the field and boats are rotated after every two races. The idea of rotation is to even out the playing field (someone brings a brand new boat, while another team brings a 10 year old boat. Technically everyone gets to sail it so no one is advantaged/disadvantaged). Each school enters an A Division Boat and a B division Boat. The two boats are scored separately within each division. The scores are then combined to determine the overall score for each school. (For example Palo Alto gets 5th in A division and 15th in B Division. Their overall place would be around 10th depending on the other schools' results).

Why do kids sail with kids outside of their school at NorCals?

The intention of NorCal HS Regattas was to build interest in High School Sailing in our area. It has worked. They relaxed the HS Rules to allow a school to count as two sailors (1 boat) instead of needing four. When a school from PYSF has 3 kids available to sail, two must sail in the same boat. I then try to put the third kid with someone else so they can get sailing time.

Does my kid need to compete in every regatta?

No. Over the entire school year there are 9 NorCals (one day regattas), and 5 PCISA events (2 day regattas). In order to advance to the NorCal Championships sailors must compete in at least 6 events. That is 6 days of sailing. In order to advance to the PCISA Championships (PCC's) a school must compete in at least 3 events. Another 6 days of sailing. The results from those events are tallied and compared against the rest of the field, with the top boats advancing. If you plan to miss a NorCal event it is not as detrimental to your team. If you plan to miss a PCISA event it might hurt the team. The PCISA events require 4 from your school, so ensure that there are enough sailors to help your team do well that weekend and hopefully advance.

How do I participate in a regatta?

Let the Team Parent for your high school know that you are available to participate in a regatta. The Team Parent for your high school will then communicate with Molly. Molly will assign who is in each boat, sail numbers, etc.

How do I register for a regatta?

Generally the Team Parent, skipper of each boat, or their parent will register for the regatta. Each sailor will have to sign a waiver and contribute towards the cost of registering for the regatta.

How can I find out the schedule and details about the regatta?

Every regatta has a "Notice of Race" or NOR which outlines the schedule for the day, what meals will be provided, race course details, and more. Parents and sailors should read the NOR for each regatta.

Can I carpool to the regatta?

Yes, parents who are towing boats almost always have room in their car to help transport extra sailors. Typically you will arrange to meet at PYSF and depart form there.

Do sailors stay overnight and camp at some of the regattas?

There is camping on site at Tiburon Yacht Club. Both sites have large grassy areas for pitching tents. Parents volunteer to stay overnight and serve as chaperones.

What do I need to bring to the regatta?

  • Signed waiver
  • Water bottle
  • Sunscreen, sun glasses, hat
  • Sailing Gear: lifejacket, sailing boots, gloves, spray gear, bailer
  • Bailer
  • Duffle with dry clothes
  • Snacks

What should a sailor wear to keep warm?

Spray tops and bottoms are essential to help sailors stay dry and fairly warm. Different sailors use different gear for “warm layers”. Underneath the spray gear sailors can wear layers like long underwear to keep warmer. Some kids will wear a warm hat when its cold. Some kids will wear a wetsuit especially when sailing lasers.

NorCal Regatta Rules Summary

  • A full team consists of 2 people in one boat
  • Qualifying for NorCal Championship in Spring requires competing in at least 6 of the 11 NorCal Regattas. Sailors must compete in the same fleet (Gold or Silver) for the six regattas.  Results follow the skipper.
  • Schools are able to enter multiple boats in Gold or Silver.
  • Sailors do not rotate boats.
  • 8th graders sail for the school they intend to enroll in for 9th Grade. They must sail with a current student from that High School. They may not sail in the NorCal Champs.

PCISA Regattas

  • A full team consists of at least 4 sailors. A team may sail with 3 from the same school and a 4th fill in. But that team will not be able to advance to the District Championship (PCC’s).
  • To qualify for the District Championship in Spring, a school’s top 3 results from the five PCISA events will be counted, with the top 20 advancing.
  • Schools enter one team with an A and B Division. Sailors rotate boats throughout the regatta.
  • 8th Graders sail for the school they intend to enroll in for 9th Grade. They may not sail in any District Qualifier.

What are pinnies?

Pinnies are worn over lifejackets to show which high school they are sailing for.  Here are some examples:





I still have a lot of questions. What should I do?

Ask your high school Parent Reps. If you still have questions, ask me. I am happy to email, call or meet in person to go over things. Sailing is overwhelming to new folks, and all of the parents have been there at some point. We are one big community so feel free to reach out.