Point of Sail

by Jonathan Wright

A few weeks of learning… a lifetime of adventure

Learning to sail could change your life, says Kim Sanders. “Once you learn how to handle a variety of sailboats on the Illinois River, you will be able to take that knowledge and love of the water to any location in the world.”

She should know. As long-time members of the Illinois Valley Yacht (IVY) Club, Sanders and her husband, Chuck, have been sailing for more than four decades—and their taste for adventure has taken them all over the country. A six-time participant in the “Chicago Mac,” a 333-mile race from Chicago to Mackinac Island, Chuck Sanders is an instructor at the IVY Club, which has been teaching children and adults how to sail for the past 16 years. It’s one of Greater Peoria’s most distinctive amenities, made possible only by our proximity to the river.

Lifelong Learning Like most skilled pursuits, learning to sail is a “never-ending process,” Chuck Sanders explains. “It’s challenging, and you learn your whole life [as] you get better and better.”

Beginners start with the basics—boat handling, safety, knot tying, terminology, self-rescue and introduction to racing—before graduating to more challenging nautical adventures. “If you get competitive, there are all kinds of things to learn, like understanding the wind,” Sanders says. “The wind in one spot can be entirely different than the wind only 25 to 50 yards away. You have to learn how to read the waves, read the wind. It’s a lifelong experience, really.”

Sailing classes at the IVY Club are customized to each participant’s skill level—and small enough to offer personal attention. “We usually have 10 to 20 students between four or five instructors, so they get a lot of individualized sailing,” he adds. And you don’t have to own your own boat: the Club provides about 18 vessels of various sizes, from one-person prams and 12-foot Zumas to the Olympic-class Laser and JY15, on up to the O’Day 19 and Capri 22, which can accommodate four or more people.

River Race Adventures
With a few weeks of training under their belts, participants are encouraged to take part in weekly sailboat races on Peoria Lake. “We race on Wednesday evenings starting at 6pm,” Sanders says. “They call it ‘beer can racing.’ That just means it’s informal, where anyone can drive the boat, and we try to get other people involved.”

Saturday mornings bring out the more experienced racers, who sail their own boats. “It’s much more organized, and scoring is kept more accurately. It’s a little more intense. So Wednesday nights are kind of for fun, and Saturdays are for more serious racing.”

From the Illinois River, many people graduate to sail the Great Lakes, the Gulf of Mexico and other more exotic waters. An exciting platform for exploration and discovery, sailing will get you off the beaten path, to destinations far removed from the crowds. And your adventure can start right here in Peoria.

“All of the instructors are people who have sailed across the Atlantic or have been racing for 30 or 40 years,” Sanders says “So when people take the class, they are taking it from some of the best sailors in the country.” a&s

The IVY Club offers junior sailing classes (ages eight to 16) from 1 to 4pm on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, June 5-22, 2017. Adult sailing classes (ages 17 and up) are scheduled for the same days, 5pm to dusk. For more details, call (309) 682-5419 or visit ivyclub.org.

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