Small Boat Instructor Programs

Level 3-PLUS Course


The US Sailing Small Boat Level 3-PLUS Course is designed to provide experienced, elite-level coaches a vehicle by which they can demonstrate proficiency in skills and teaching methodology employed in the Level 1, 2 and 3 Small Boat Courses and to provide information on how to teach more safely, effectively and creatively.


The goal of this application-only program is to enable select, highly qualified professional coaches who have had little or no exposure to US Sailing Training Programs to obtain the certification levels necessary to coach at US Sailing Championships and other youth events that require a minimum of US Sailing Level 3 Coach certification. This is not meant for anyone who wants to be an Instructor Trainer (IT).  To be an IT, any of these applicants would have to go through the standard training procedures for an IT.

Topics covered in the course include: classroom and on-the-water teaching techniques; risk and crisis management; safety; lesson planning; creative activities; ethical concerns; sports team management; practice and drill development; and psychology.


To be eligible for the Small Boat Level 3-PLUS Course, the applicant should be at least 24 years of age. No exceptions will be made to this requirement.


  • Three (3) written references from coaches or employers that you have worked with or for, with at least two being from the past five (5) years. Reference forms included with the application should highlight the character of the candidate.
  • Information on at least five (5) high-performance clinics at which you have coached and/or high-performance teams that you have worked with in the past three (3) years. These clinics must have occurred outside of a youth summer program. US Sailing or Class-supported clinics, or clinics held in conjunction with Regional, National or World Championships would qualify as “elite” level clinics.
  • Coaching Resume. This should be submitted in addition to the application. It is considered supplemental information, not a substitution for the content listed on the Level 3-PLUS application
  • Personal Sailing Resume. Include details on Regatta finishes and position in the boat. This should be submitted in addition to the application. It is considered supplemental information, not a substitution for the content listed on the Level 3-PLUS application. It is expected that candidates will have significant experience and proficiency in small boats such as prams, dinghies, skiffs, multihulls or day sailing keelboats.
  • NASBLA Safe Boating Course certification OR USCG License (minimum OUPV).  The NASBLA website also lists any state-specific requirements; it is the responsibility of the Instructor Candidate to be aware of the safe boating laws of the states in which they are taking the course and where they are teaching, and ensure they are in compliance with those laws. Candidates will not be allowed to participate in the course without proof of completion.
  • Proficiency in operating a safety boat. Experience should be in a variety of weather conditions and at both regattas/events and practices.
  • Current US Sailing adult individual or family membership.
  1. Teaching and Coaching Fundamentals Online*
  2.  SafeSport Online Training*
  3. Head’s Up Concussion Training*
  4. The following items in the Small Boat Instructor Candidate Evaluation Booklet *
    1. Safety Boat Skills Self-Assessment Form
    2. Swimming Verification Form
    3. Medical Form
  5. First aid and CPR certification course(s) from a USCG-approved provider. These certifications may be completed after the course; however, US Sailing certifications are not valid unless accompanied by a current FA/CPR certification. Copies need not be provided to US Sailing.
  6. A review of all related US Sailing publications.

*Candidates must bring these completed items with them to the course. Failure to do so excludes them from participation.


  • Sailing Skills Practical. Execute the following skills with competence and confidence: rigging; leaving a dock/beach; starting, stopping and speed control; safety position; getting out of irons; sailing backward; roll tacking; roll jibing; steering with sails and weight; proper sail trim and proper use of sail controls; judging laylines; use of spinnakers; returning to dock/beach; and unrigging.
  • Safety Boat Operation Skills Practical. Execute with competence and confidence: system, equipment and starting checks; leaving and docking; high- and low-speed maneuvering; holding position upwind/upcurrent; backing; pivot turn (180 degree turn within one to two boat lengths); anchoring and/or making fast to a mooring; overboard recovery; and landing alongside a moored boat.
  • Marlinspike/Seamanship Practical Test. Demonstrate ability to tie the following knots and hitches: Figure-8; bowline; square knot; sheet bend; clove hitch; two half hitches; rolling hitch; cleat hitch; truckers hitch; set spring lines; and coil and throw a line.
  • Classroom Presentation Practical Skills. Demonstrate lesson preparation with clear, logical and accurate content; good voice enunciation/clarity/volume/pace/pitch; good non-verbal communication (gestures and body language); effective visual aids; well-timed presentation(s) with introduction and conclusion; demonstration, clarity and use of notes; use of multiple pathways techniques; and ease in handling questions.
  • Land Drill, Water Drill and Debriefing Practical Skills. Demonstrate good class positioning; control and positioning of safety boat; demonstration skills; effective on-the-water communication; evaluation and feedback (i.e. debrief) techniques post-practice. The candidate is expected to facilitate the management of a performance-focused water drill. The ability to utilize a video camera effectively within debrief is also expected.
  • Written Tests. There are five closed-book tests on the written materials, sailing theory and rules.  A passing grade of 80% is required for all exams. The practical and written tests each stand alone, and each must be passed in order to pass the course.
  • Demonstration of Personal and Interpersonal Practical Skills. Demonstrate professional conduct; an open-minded, positive and enthusiastic attitude; appropriate appearance (clothing, footwear and tidiness); participation in discussions; collaboration skills/team player; confidence and ease of manner.
  • All candidates shall submit proof of their ability to swim 50 yards at the course by submitting a completed Swim Verification Form. US Sailing will accept swimming certificates issued by the American Red Cross, YMCA, NAUI or PADI. 
  • Attendance at all portions of the “4-day, 40-hour” course.
  • The two Master Instructor Trainers’ overall evaluation. The final determination as to each candidate assessment rests with the Master Instructor Trainers.

NOTE: It is the candidate’s responsibility to inform the Instructor Trainers if accommodation is needed for any assessments.


There are eight (8) publications to read; plan on reading these publications and preparing your assigned presentations prior to arrival at the course. Instructor Candidates should have the following materials:

  • Small Boat Sailing Level 1 Instructor Guide
  • Small Boat Sailing Level 2 Instructor Guide
  • Basic Powerboating, Safety and Rescue
  • Learn Sailing Right: Beginning Sailing
  • Learn Sailing Right: Intermediate Sailing
  • Level 3 Coach Course Workbook
  • Safety, Rescue and Support Boat Handling
  • The Racing Rules of Sailing 2017-2020
  • Review questions (Found in the Small Boat Instructor Candidate Evaluation Booklet)
  • Other handouts and course information as applicable


Master Trainers will pre-assign topics that each candidate will be responsible for presenting.  Candidates are strongly encouraged to prepare their presentations prior to arrival at the course, as there will be no time to develop these once the course begins. All supplemental and support materials for candidate presentations should be brought with the candidate.  Whiteboard and magnetic boats will be available on site.