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Anchors Away for Opening Day – Celebrating Young Sailors in Seattle

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April 30, 2021

By Stephanie Riley and Annie Sorenson, Director of Junior Sailing at Corinthian Yacht Club

May 1, 2021 marks the official “Opening Day” of recreational boating here in Seattle. This longstanding maritime tradition is a favorite among locals as many mariners on and offshore celebrate the start of boating season. Festivities look a little different this year, but Corinthian Yacht Club (CYC) of Seattle is opening  the season by hosting a youth regatta on Saturday at the Port of Seattle’s Shilshole Bay Marina.

CYC’s Regatta anticipates participation from youth sailors from as far as the Columbia River Gorge and Orcas Island to compete in different types of dinghy races in Shilshole Bay. Races, run by a parent-operated race committee, begin at 11:00 a.m. and continue throughout the day.

The Port is committed to advancing youth in maritime opportunities and CYC’s Junior Program provides racing development, youth regattas, summer camps, educational programs, instructor training, and social events for sailors between the ages of five through 21. CYC’s mission is to foster passion in youth and instill a lifelong love and respect for sailing while providing fundamental skills necessary to advance success in the sport as far as desire, grit, and talent allow. Through sailing, the Junior Program builds confidence through accomplishment, instills respect for safety and rules, develops self-discipline and responsibility, encourages teamwork and camaraderie, promotes marine environmental awareness, and develops youth into self-reliant sailors who emulate CYC values. 

Sailboats at Shilshole

Summer Camps at CYC

Passion for the water begins at the learn-to-sail camps, which are week-long programs for children of all ages offered during the spring and fall. Feeling confident on the water is knowing how to be safe on the water. At these camps, participants learn safety best practices in all weather  conditions present in Puget Sound. CYC’s location in Shilshole Bay Marina, Seattle’s largest marina allows youth to practice safe navigation with watercraft that share the marina entrance. Before their first week of camp is over, 80 percent of  participants can sail themselves from the dock through boat traffic in a narrow channel in varying conditions with no tow necessary. 

“We are not a sailing family. This was Noah's first experience with sailing and I was impressed by how much was taught in a short time. I was a little nervous about him starting right in Shilshole Bay as opposed to calmer waters like Green Lake or Lake Washington, but he loved it, and I realized it was more of a true sailing experience.” -Kate Koester

CYC’s new parent and child class allows families to experience the joy of sailing a small boat together and create a bond unlike any other. The expansion of offerings, along with the hiring a Junior Sailing Director, has allowed CYC’s capacity to dramatically increase from less than 200 participants in previous years, to now more than 375 spaces available throughout the summer. 

“The feeling of teamwork between myself and my 10-year old child was incredible during this parent/child program. Those hours side by side on the rail, she with the jib and me with the main and tiller are times I will never forget. The trust and respect for the skills we build together created a bond between us and with sailing that I hope will only continue to grow.”  -Kevin Klinemeier


CYC Junior Instructors Program

The pipeline of development from sail camp to race team to junior instructor to U.S. Sailing Certified instructor allows for high participant retention and creates sailors who are with the program for most of their formative years. Over 70 percent of Varsity Sailors are employed by CYC as instructors, and 100 percent of them have volunteered in previous years. Through CYC’s mentorship program, sailors who have demonstrated sailing competence and a propensity for teaching are able to become “junior instructors” (JIs) and assist all summer long with camps and classes. Becoming a JIs is often the strongest drive for improvement in young sailors and encourages leadership, responsibility, and teamwork to be present in all facets of participation.

“I was introduced to sailing through the CYC’s summer program. I begged my mom to sign me up for every open week. After a few years, one of my counselors asked me to become a junior instructor, and it was awesome to have a leadership experience at such a young age. From there I joined the race team and started studying to get my certification as soon as I turned 16. Now I am a summer camp instructor and the opti race team coach.” -Sam Airhart

CYC Youth Sailers

Race Teams at CYC

The race teams at CYC have grown this spring to 47 participants across four different sections: Opti Green and Gold fleets (elementary and middle school); Junior Varsity (middle school and some high school); and Varsity (high school). Sailors develop skills in boat handling, boat speed, competitive team spirit, racing tactics, strategy, and rules knowledge. They practice at least two days a week in Shilshole Bay for nine months out of the year. Our Varsity team is home to Ballard High School, who recently sailed in the North West Interscholastic Sailing Association (NWISA) Team Racing National Qualifier. Ballard will compete again on May 8 and 9 in Bellingham for a chance to go to the Interscholastic Sailing Association (ISSA) Mallory Doublehanded National Championship in Cleveland, Ohio. There are currently 89 registered teams in NWISA and CYC welcomes students from any high school in the greater Seattle-area to participate.

There is raw energy you can feel at CYC around the Junior Program – anticipation and excitement for the future. The foundation for a stellar program has been laid by a multitude of individuals – parents, volunteers, coaches, and sailors – all pushing forward to create something powerful and lasting. CYC is building, growing, and nurturing a community where sailors of all levels are encouraged to leave their comfort zone and push their boundaries. Opening Day helps bring light and excitement for a fun, safe, and adventurous 2021 boating season for these young sailors and all recreational boaters in the Puget Sound. 


  • As boating season approaches, learn how you can protect the orcas whether you're at home or on the water 
  • Slow your vessel around the orcas and give them plenty of space, following state laws and the minimum guidelines for the Be Whale Wise program  

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