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Sailing lessons on Clear Lake open to young and old

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Nearly 30 young sailors spent Wednesday morning on Clear Lake beneath the sun and cloudless sky.

The children were participating in the Clear Lake Yacht Club’s Sailing School, a school that’s seen a significant increase in its attendance within the past year.

“Our numbers went down about two, three years ago, and this year, we kind of skyrocketed,” said Ana Starbeck, an instructor and coach at Clear Lake Yacht Club’s Sailing School. “We used to have about 10-15 kids per class, and now, we’ve had 30 almost every week.”

Some of the children are local, while most are visiting for the summer.

“We’ve found that a lot of parents tend to think you have to be a member of the Yacht Club to be in Sailing School, but you don’t,” Starbeck said. “It’s open to anyone.”

The Yacht Club, which was established in 1935, offers beginner, intermediate and advanced sailing lessons for children throughout the summer. Adult lessons are available in the evenings. It’s located at 103 Main Ave. in Clear Lake.

During the weekly four-day program, instructors who are certified by the U.S. Sailing program teach the children, between 5 and 15 years old, about boat parts, boat safety and basic boat-handling skills on a variety of boats, including Optimist, X Scow, 420 Class and Hobie.

On Wednesday, the children sailed O’pen BIC and X Scow boats across the lake, applying the information they’ve learned into action.

Cole Meyer, 8, of Clear Lake, and 6-year-old brother, Blake, began sailing lessons this summer.

During the class, they both sailed O’pen BIC boats, one-person watercraft.

“It’s a lot of fun, and you get to get wet,” Meyer said.

He said he started because Wil Cooney, one of the sailing instructors, was his mentor when he was in kindergarten, and he’s “one of the best sailors here.”

Jude Sorensen, 9, of Clear Lake, spent the morning on an X boat with two other boys.

“I just kind of wanted to try it out,” he said. “At first, I didn’t really like it, but for some reason I decided to keep on doing it, and last year, I just started loving it.

“Now, I can’t spend a day without sailing.”

Sorensen, who also races boats, said he started sailing when he was 5 years old, and he encourages other children, who are up for it, to try it.

“(I like) being on the water and I like being in control of a huge metal, fiberglass thing,” he said.

Sorensen wants to be a sailing instructor someday.

Instructors Cooney, Starbeck and Ava and Sophie Ollenburg were on the water with the children Wednesday.

Starbeck, 19, who will attend Iowa State for the second year this fall, started sailing lessons when she was 6.

Her family vacationed in Clear Lake over the summer, but four years ago, they moved from Cedar Falls to the lake city for sailing.

She’s been a Sailing School volunteer since she was 12 and an instructor since she was 14. Her siblings are also sailing instructors.

Starbeck said her favorite part about Sailing School is watching the children make friends.

“It’s fun,” she said.

Ollenburg, 16, of Clear Lake took sailing lessons when she was 6 and has been working at the Sailing School two years ago.

Sailing lessons will be offered July 30-Aug. 1 and Aug. 5-8.

For more information about the Clear Lake Yacht Club or Sailing School, visit or call 641-357-8001.

Photos: Clear Lake Yacht Club Sailing School 2019

Reach Reporter Ashley Stewart at 641-421-0533. Follow her on Twitter at GGastewart.


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