Scholastic vs. “Club”

Hang around competitive sailing among high school students and you will hear the word “club” used frequently.  Problem is, the world has several different meanings, depending on the context.  If you didn’t happen to grow up in competitive youth sailing, it can seem like a conspiracy to confuse. Let’s explain a few things that will hopefully make the meanings clearer.

New Trier Sailing Club ≠ New Trier Sailing
(but they have common members)

The New Trier Sailing Club is a special interest club of New Trier High School.  Any student of New Trier High School may participate in the Club’s activities, which typically include meetings about or promoting sailing. The Club does not have any on-the-water activities. Typically, the captains of New Trier Sailing (see below) serve as the President and Vice President of the Club, subject to the approval of the Club’s faculty sponsor.

New Trier Sailing (“NTS”) is an independent, 501(c)(3) non-profit. It is not part of New Trier High School, but its primary mission is to implement an instructional, educational and recreational sailing program for students enrolled (or eligible to be enrolled) at New Trier.  NTS’s board has typically interpreted this to have an emphasis on racing.  The bylaws of the organization say it “is a club that may sponsor, support or participate in competitions organized under the rules and regulations of the Interscholastic Sailing Association…”

In practical terms, a New Trier student who is a member of NTS will spend far, far more time in NTS-organized practices and events than at New Trier High School Sailing Club events.

New Trier Sailing partners with the Chicago Yacht Club for facilities, boats, and coaches

New Trier Sailing has recognized for many years that the Chicago Yacht Club (“CYC”) has the premier facilities, boats, and coaches available in the Chicago area and that trying to independently replicate these would be difficult, expensive, or impossible.  Therefore, NTS works with CYC to provide these to its sailors during the fall and spring scholastic sailing seasons. Several other high schools, including the Latin School of Chicago, Saint Ignatius College Prep, and Walter Payton College Prep, have the same arrangement.  NTS typically has, by far, the largest number of students in the CYC scholastic program.

Many New Trier sailors also participate in Club 420 sailing

All high school interscholastic sailing regattas in the U.S. are sailed under the auspices of the Interscholastic Sailing Association (“ISSA”).  Almost all ISSA regattas are in the fall or spring.  (One significant exception is the Rose Bowl Regatta in Long Beach, California immediately after New Year’s.)

In interscholastic sailing, the host organization for each regatta provides the boats for all competitors, whether ‘home’ or ‘visiting’.  Competitors typically rotate boats throughout regattas.  The objective is to create a level playing field for sailors without creating an expensive arms race for the best boat.  In the Midwest, most schools use the double-handed (skipper + crew) ‘420’ class of boat, which is a slightly smaller and simpler version of the 470 class sailed in the Olympics.


Many high school sailors also participate in so-called Club 420 (“C420”) sailing, which is done under auspices of the Club 420 Association.  C420 sailing is for youth but is not interscholastic, so skipper and crew can be from different schools.  C420 regattas are generally held outside of the scholastic sailing seasons.  Many are held in the summer.  The Orange Bowl and Midwinters are in Florida in December and February, respectively.

Unlike scholastic 420s, C420s use a trapeze and spinnaker, so they are somewhat more complex and expensive boats.  C420 sailors must bring their own boats to regattas (though most NTS sailors participating in C420 regattas use boats provided by CYC), so there is more emphasis on maintenance, tuning, and equipment than in scholastic sailing.

Frequently, an NTS parent will organize a group of NTS sailors to participate in a C420 event.  Competing in C420 events is not required to participate in NTS scholastic sailing and many NTS sailors do not sail ‘club’.  Club sailing tends to be significantly more expensive due to the more significant focus on boat technology, the cost of boat transportation, and the distance to regattas. For obvious reasons, however, many of the most competitive NTS scholastic sailors are also C420 sailors and vice-versa.