The History of the ASA

By: American Sailing Association

asa burgeeBeginnings

Until 1983, the United States had no nationally recognized set of standards for sailors. This made it very difficult to tell who was proficient and who wasn’t–a big problem for anyone renting or chartering sailboats, and for people who wanted to learn to sail but didn’t know where to start. That all changed when Lenny Shabes, a charter operator in Marina del Rey, CA, decided to found the ASA.

Frustrated with the lengthy exams he had to give everyone who asked to charter a boat, and inspired by the certification agencies of countries such as France, Canada, and Germany, Lenny set about adapting a set of comprehensive standards, based on those of the Canadian Yachting Association, that would be recognized across the nation. The system was based on having professional, highly qualified instructors teach classes at independent, ASA-accredited sailing schools. Each level of certification a sailor earned would be recorded in their ASA Log Book and could be used as proof of competency.

But that was only the beginning. ASA grew steadily to become the leader in sailing education, issuing more than 800,000 certifications to date, welcoming all types and levels of sailors. ASA’s courses are designed to help anyone reach the level of sailing they desire.

For example, some folks are looking to sail a small boat on their local bay or lake for pleasure. ASA 101, Basic Keelboat, gives them the basic training they need to sail safely and confidently. But for those seeking to bareboat charter, cruise the coast, or even make a major ocean passage, there’s an ASA course for them too! You can even begin your sailing adventure online.

The introduction of standards had a profound effect on sailing in the United States. It made sailing more accessible by connecting people with great teachers they may never have found otherwise. It also made it safer, by helping to ensure that boat skippers had the proper training. Finally, it made sailing more fun! Whole new worlds of sailing could be opened up through quality education, which leads us to…

ASA Today

As ASA has grown, it has become one of the biggest boosters of the sailing lifestyle. With over 300 schools around the U.S., and in several foreign countries, ASA is a gigantic community of people who love sailing. This has led to a number of great opportunities for ASA members, including ASA flotillas in exotic destinations, ASA Sailing Week in St. Petersburg, Florida, and a lively online community.

Now, you can find ASA members in every corner of the globe, ASA burgees flying proudly in ports from the British Virgin Islands to the Pacific Northwest, and an ASA school is never far away. Perhaps most importantly, the ASA certifications in your Log Book (in hard copy and online, of course) are respected and recognized as coming from the authority in sailing education.