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Offshore sailing schools – choosing the right one for you


Considering the time and cost to outfit a bluewater boat, an offshore sailing class is the quickest and cheapest ways to get offshore sailing experience. This is Part II in a series of articles on getting offshore sailing experience from guest blogger TJ of Savvy Salt. He shares a list of the offshore sailing schools and tips for choosing the right one.


Welcome to the rarified air! Only a small percentage of sailing schools run an offshore sailing program. Skippers that manage to charge for offshore voyage opportunities are often famous and extremely accomplished sailors. You can choose from opportunities worldwide for your passage. You’ll be learning a lot on your voyage; your education is the trip’s primary purpose.

You can be very picky about which offshore sailing school and passage you choose. They cost a lot of money and time so you should make sure the passage is the best one based on your goals. Perhaps start by defining your goals. Are there certain regions you want to get experience sailing? Do you want to learn to sail on a certain size or type of boats? Is there certain onboard equipment you need experience with? A few more examples:

  • Learning to sail offshore on a 35’ (45’ 55’) ketch

  • Experience an offshore passage on a catamaran

  • Learn to use radar, AIS, windvane or etc

  • Sail high latitudes aboard a boat with an aluminum hull

  • Get your feet wet offshore (2-3 nights) to epic adventure (2-3 weeks)!!

  • Qualifications offered by the program that will help you accomplish your goals


Once you’ve got your goals nailed down read up on the sailing classes you might take and voyages you might embark upon. These can be tough to find so here’s a list:





  • Ocean Racers: If you’d like to sail faster you can apply to join Ocean Racers for a race or an ocean passage. The accommodations are going to be more spartan and they definitely have a younger vibe. Ocean racers have the most affordable pay to play opportunities I could find (less than $1000!). Check out their YouTube channel to get a better sense of what they do.



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  • Clipper Round the World Race: The clipper round the world race is definitely the veteran of paid offshore racing opportunities. You pay for a crew spot on one ($6,000) to all of ($60,000) the legs of a circumnavigation via the southern ocean. The Clipper race is expensive but they’re the only pay-to-play circumnavigation.



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There is a lot to peruse. Take your time and come up with a short list of offshore sailing schools that meet your goals.  Once you’ve got your short list of sailing schools, you should reach out to the skipper or organizer and ask any specific questions your have.  Be picky, you have options and you’ll be paying a lot so make sure you’re getting what you need. You can probably talk to the skipper of your specific trip directly if you’re​ willing to wait till they are not at sea.  Some schools or skippers will even work out semi-custom arrangements with students.

One of the best things about pay-to-play offshore opportunities is that you don’t have to spend much time considering the safety of the voyage: these opportunities are built around setting a good safety example for sailors just like you and if they were unsafe they would quickly become notorious within the sailing community. These are the only types of opportunities where a google search can act as the primary resource for your safety evaluation.

If a pay to play offshore passage seems like a good fit for you then go forth and conquer; if you’re headed for one of the high latitudes expeditions I’m quite jealous and would love to hear about your experience!  If pay to play doesn’t seem like a good fit you can compare and contrast the other types of offshore opportunities or jump right in and:

Good luck!  And see you out there.

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Friday 26th of May 2017

Having sailed with them on their Swan 48 Isbjorn I'd highly recommend Andy and Mia at 59 North. They are young, experienced and enthusiastic. Andy also had a great podcast about offshore sailing at the same site.


Monday 29th of May 2017

Thanks for the recommendation Bruce!

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