ASA 101 Basic Keelboat Sailing – What You’ll Learn

By: Learn To Sail

I sat on the deck of a sailboat and I listened to a teenager explain the basics of sailing. I was impressed. The cloak of mystery behind something as simple as sailing is lifted when it is brought down to the simplest and truest form. “You need wind in your sail, and the boat will move forward.”

The lesson continued with very little discussion about how things worked and more about why things worked.  The teens laughed a lot. They pointed out things on the water. At one point, one teenager closed her eyes and let the wind hit her face. The teen instructor asked simply, “can you feel it?”

She smiled and kept her eyes closed a bit longer and then said, “I love it.”

In a nutshell, that is sailing. Yes, it is more involved than all of that and learning to sail is more than just having the wind in your sail but at the root of the sailing lifestyle is the ability to close your eyes and appreciate the wind in your hair, the sun in your face and the feeling of the bow gliding across the water as the wind takes control of your day.

Intro to Sailing: Online Course

You can start your online education today with American Sailing’s Online Course: Intro to Sailing. Learn the basics and familiarize yourself with the important topics before you get to the dock.

What you’ll learn in ASA 101 – Basic Keelboat Sailing:

You’ll expand on your Basic Sailing Terminology by getting a good understanding of sailboat parts and functions:

  • Hull
  •  Deck 
  • Transom 
  • Keel 
  • Mast 
  • Boom 
  • Gooseneck 
  • Bow 
  • Stern 
  • Helm / Tiller /Wheel 
  • Rudder 
  • Cockpit 
  • Cabin 
  • Standing Rigging 
  • Shroud 
  • Spreader 
  • Chainplate 
  • Headstay / Forestay 
  • Backstay 
  • Stanchion 
  • Lifeline 
  • Pulpit 
  • Winch 
  • Cleat 
  • Block 
  • Fairlead 
  • Fender 
  • Docklines

After taking ASA 101, you will be able to explain and identify sails, sail parts, and sail controls. You’ll understand and be able to identify the parts of a boat as well as the language used when discussing sailing, sailing terms, and sailing instruction.

Points of Sail Diagram
Learning the points of sail, and how the sails look and the boat feels on each one, is fundamental to becoming a competent sailor.

ASA 101 will help you become familiar with as well as explain Maneuvers & Points of Sail

The Art of Sailing

  • Understanding Points of Sail The direction of the wind dictates the direction a sailboat can sail. The Points of Sail describe the range of courses a sailboat can and cannot travel.
  • Understanding the Sails The sail is the driving force of the boat. A sailboat is only as good as its sails when you consider that capturing the wind’s energy is the premise behind what sailors do to propel their boats in a forward direction.
  • Understanding the Wind A sailor’s world revolves around the wind and staying aware of the wind’s direction is crucial. Your ability to accurately sense changes in the wind, its speed and its direction will improve as you learn.

You will understand terms such as Close Hauled and Close Reach when referring to points of sail and be able to describe and perform maneuvers such as jibing and tacking. 

ASA 101 will also teach you how to effectively and correctly use and respond to helm commands:

  • “Heading Up”
  • “Bearing Away”
  • “Ready About” —– “Ready” —– “Helms a-Lee” (or “Coming About” or “Tacking”)
  • “Prepare to Jibe” —– “Ready” —– “Jibe-Ho” (or “Jibing”)

Navigation Rules are covered and utilized while taking ASA 101. Your certification in Basic Keelboat Sailing will familiarize you with the USCG Navigation Rules and Regulations Handbook and help you understand basic right-of-way procedures on the water. 

In ASA 101, you will familiarize yourself with safety equipment and procedures.

Among other things, you will be able to:

  • List the federally required equipment for a recreational sailboat of 25 feet in length.
  • Identify the location and color of navigation lights used by a recreational vessel of 25 feet in length.
  • Describe the purpose of a Float Plan, give examples of information contained therein, and to whom it should be submitted.

ASA 101 will teach you to sail. A certified sailor will demonstrate his or her ability to rig/hoist/set sails correctly.

An ASA 101 certified sailor will be able to skipper a sloop-rigged keelboat of approximately 20 to 27 feet in length by day in light to moderate winds (up to 15 knots) and sea conditions. The sailor will be able to demonstrate competence in these maneuvers:

  • Depart dock or mooring fully ready to get underway safely
  • Select and maintain a given tack and course
  • Demonstrate how to get out of “irons”
  • Head Up
  • Bear Away
  • Sail Close Hauled
  • Sail on a Close Reach
  • Sail on a Beam Reach
  • Sail on a Broad Reach
  • Sail on a Run
  • Tack
  • Jibe
  • As crew, give appropriate verbal responses and perform correct actions during the maneuvers listed above.
ASA 101, Basic Keelboat Sailing

ASA 101, Basic Keelboat Sailing covers 52 skills that must be completed to earn certification. 

Take a look at all of the skills that you will master on the ASA Certification page:

Find a school to earn your ASA 101, Basic Keelboat Sailing: