The blue-green waters of the Sarasota region have always had a magnetic pull, drawing sailors and wannabes into the mesmerizing embrace of the waves, where dolphins dance, manatees graze and birds nest along the sandy shores. Set your sail to catch the Gulf winds and join us as we delve into the offerings of the local sailing communities catering to both beginners and seasoned sailors in our region.

Photography by Wes Roberts

Sarasota Yacht Club

A five-star platinum club of America and the world the Sarasota Yacht Club (SYC) is one that is rich in history. Its location, minutes from downtown Sarasota in the protected flat water of Sarasota Bay on the west side of Bird Key, with quick access to the Gulf of Mexico through Big Pass, cannot be beat, offering the best in sailing and boating.

Dalton Tebo, the Sailing Director at SYC handles all of the logistics of running a race team. “We have five coaches and about forty-five sailors on our team who sail with us year-round,” says Tebo. “Our team practices most weekends and travels to a regatta about once a month. Most regattas are local and in Florida, although some of our sailors have qualified to sail in national and even international regattas all over the world.”

The Club has hosted many regattas, including the United States Optimist Dinghy Association (USODA) Team Race Midwinters for three years. They also host their very own Sarasota Yacht Club Invitational Regatta each year in November with close to one hundred boats participating. This regatta is a big event at the Club and continues to be a yearly tradition with great racing and a fantastic party. For those new to the world of sailing or for those looking to sharpen their boating skills, the Club offers private lessons for youth and adults. “The best option for young sailors is to join our summer camp, learn to sail and see how they like it,” shares Tebo. “Any sailor who wants to continue their sailing passion, coming out of camp or a sailor who already knows how to sail is encouraged to join our racing team and sail with us year-round.”

SYC member and sailing team parent, Ed Miersch is thrilled with the progress his son has made as a sailor. “In less than three years, our son Eddie went from not knowing anything about sailing, to being invited to join Team USA. This is all due to the amazing environment curated by SYC’s Dalton Tebo and Brett Putnam.” Every member every day, whatever it takes. That is the SYC staff motto. “What makes the club special to me is that it feels like home, and all of the members feel like they are your family,” shares Tebo. “It truly is a special place with an amazing staff and membership. It’s always a pleasure to be here at SYC.” Sarasota Yacht Club, 1100 John Ringling Blvd, Sarasota, 941-365-4191,

Photography by Wes Roberts

Venice Yacht Club 

This year marks the 73rd anniversary of Venice Yacht Club, a club founded by sailors, weary of the long drive to Sarasota to get their boats. The sailors wanted to establish a maritime tradition in Venice for enduring friendships of common interests with fun on the water and on land and that they did. The history of The Club is a rich one, tied to and invested in the success of Venice. Founded in 1951 as semi-private, its business and social affairs were conducted in space rented at the Tarpon Center Resort, owned by George Gibbs, Jr., occupied by The Jetty Villas condominiums today. Two years later in 1953, converting to a private club, an addition was built at the resort’s main building for its larger functions. By year end 1951, there were 118 members. As membership continued to increase, more space was required. In 1957 an extensive search began for land with immediate access to water. By 1961, land had been acquired on Roberts Bay, and the new clubhouse was commissioned. In 1960 while constructing its new clubhouse, the Club was one of the 13 founding members of the Florida Council of Yacht Clubs, now made up of 37 yacht clubs. The Council monitors and promotes pending legislation for boating and water safety. Reciprocal privileges at all 37 clubs are enjoyed by individual members of the clubs when visiting other places in Florida. 

Through its 73 years, significant enhancements have been made to the property and clubhouse. From a single, small dining room, there are multiple dining venues today from formal to casual inside the clubhouse and outside under cover at the significantly expanded Tiki and all along the pool deck. Menus are refreshed often, and varied specials are offered daily. Steak nights, taco nights, seafood nights along with beverage specials add to members’ pleasure enjoying dining in a venue of their choice.   

A robust social and event calendar begun in 1961 has expanded through the years. Multiple clubs within the Club exist for special interests: golf, fishing, books, bridge, MahJong, the Joy sailing club, a wine club, bingo and many others. With its waterfront presence of 72 slips along 5 docks, a fueling station and dockmaster’s office, the club’s location is perfect with immediate access to the Gulf. There are kayaks for daily rental by members, and adult sailing is also available. The Club sponsors the U S Sailing-designated Community Sailing Center, Venice Youth Boating Association, Inc., that is always open to the public and was begun in 1952 as the “Pram Fleet.”  Here young sailors become captains of their ships long before they can drive a car.

“Investing in greater Venice for 73 years has been a priority,” shares General Manager, Bruce Furman. “Our members helped initiate the original volunteer corps at Venice Hospital with funding and volunteers, Sundowner Cruises for many years for the public, conducted by our boaters, were for the benefit of Venice’s chapter of the American Cancer Society, and founded in 2011, the Venice Yacht Club’s Charitable Foundation in only its first ten years has provided nearly $1 million in grants to charitable organizations in greater Venice. With a long-range strategic plan in 3-year segments in place and with continued diligence in financial oversight, the Club looks forward to the future with great excitement and confidence.  A resurgence in sailing is underway along with several other important initiatives.” The Venice Yacht Club, 1330 Tarpon Center Drive Venice, 941-488-7708,

 Photography by Wes Roberts

Luffing Lassies 

The Luffing Lassies are an accomplished group of women who sell real estate, teach and practice law, raise children and spoil grandchildren. They are healthcare professionals, they run businesses and thrive in the arts.  And….they love to sail. Created with a mission to establish a fun and welcoming atmosphere where women can come together, build relationships, and gain the confidence to explore the world through sailing, the Luffing Lassies was founded in 1972 by Lilly Kaighin. It is one of the oldest and most active sailing groups at the Sarasota Sailing Squadron and with 125 women sailors of all ages and backgrounds, it is also one of the largest of any Sunfish fleet in the US, and possibly the world. It gains 12 new members each September through its Introduction to Sailing course. Then there’s the Introduction to Racing course for those Lassies who already know how to sail and aim for sportier aspirations.  “Sailing is an environmentally friendly activity and sport. Sailors are in touch with the health of the bay and consciously take care of our natural resources. None of our fleets use motors. We are powered by Mother Nature,” shares Judy Hodgson, Co-Captain of the Luffing Lassies and SSS Commodore 2019-2022.

Every Thursday during the school year, the Club meets to race against each other or sister clubs in the Florida Women’s Sailing Association on Sunfish boats and Hobie Waves, 420s. Many members learned to sail or polished their skills at the Luffing Lassies’ annual Introduction to Sailing week where women are teaching women to sail. At the end of every summer, Luffing Lassies veterans and instructors introduce a new crop of sailors to joy on the water. Each woman learns to skipper a boat, on her own, within a matter of days and she will be racing that boat after just a few weeks.  When not racing, rigging, learning or sailing for fun, Luffing Lassies are an integral part of the Sarasota Sailing Squadron which hosts many international and national regattas and competitive sailing qualifiers. Luffing Lassies help the Squadron host these events and serve in many volunteer capacities. The two organizations know the value of one another and have been partners for decades. Luffing Lassies, 1717 Ken Thompson Pkwy, Sarasota,

Photography by Wes Roberts

Sarasota Youth Sailing

Founded in 1980 to help promote sailing to the youth of the Sarasota area, a Sarasota Youth Sailing (SYS) is a local 501.c3 organization that offers opportunities for kids to learn to sail and continue to grow in their understanding of the sport, the environment and the lifelong activity of sailing. Through summer camps for kids aged 6-17, and with year-round training and competitive racing programs, young sailors learn to compete as they continue to gain an understanding of the sport that unlike many others, they can participate in for their entire lives. Over the years, SYS has continually provided young sailors the foundation needed to grow in the sport, with several going on to represent the United States in international youth championships all around the world. Current US Rolex yachtsman of the year, Ravi Parent, is an alumni of SYS and Halle Shipman, Young Women Sailor of the Year is currently training for an Olympic campaign. 

“The mission statement of Sarasota youth sailing speaks to supporting kids in going as far in the sport as their hard work and drive will take them,” says Board President Travis Yates, an experienced competitive sailor himself. “Just as importantly, I believe Sarasota Youth Sailing works to give access to the water and the sport of sailing to students who otherwise could not get that, whether it be for financial reasons, or in some cases physical or emotional reasons.” Throughout the year, SYS hosts children from local schools, homeschool communities, therapeutic support programs, and the general public. “This is an important part of the positive impact that SYS has on our local community,” shares Yates. “We have routinely worked with organizations like Visible Men’s Academy, Sarasota School of Arts and Science and our local community, supporting students with autism, which we do through an organization called Spectrum Sailing.” Yates recalls sailing with one young man from Visible Men’s Academy who had grown up in Bradenton but never touched water other than in a swimming pool. “I was blown away to learn that this boy had never been to a beach, but some of these kids just don’t have access to resources and for us to be able to provide these experiences is just amazing.”

In partnership with the Sarasota Sailing Squadron and the Luffing Lassies, SYS hosts two major youth sailing regattas that bring kids from all over the nation to Sarasota to compete. SYS also hosts a number of regattas for the interscholastic sailing association which organizes the sport of sailing for high school students nationwide. Through the generous support of parents of students involved and wonderful local benefactors, SYS provides a great service to the community and raises the funds necessary to try to make sailing  as accessible as possible.  SRQSarasota Youth Sailing, 1717 Ken Thompson Pkwy, Sarasota, 941- 504-4236,

“The Sarasota Sailing Squadron boasts the best sunrise skyline vista in the county. We are a performance sailing club that is uniquely 100% volunteer driven. In fact, our members volunteered 8,882 hours last year, among the highest of many not-for-profit organizations in Sarasota County. We have nine different fleets of boats, including a robust youth program. In the last five years, we’ve had three female Commodores, including myself. I am proud to be listed among this group of women leaders.” —2021-2024 Commodore Ingrid Summers 

Sarasota Sailing Squadron (SSS) is a special place that teaches, supports, and provides sailors with a community of like-minded people who love to sail. The Squadron has a rich history that spans 76 years and currently has 800 voting member families and almost 2,000 sailing members who enjoy this gem on Sarasota Bay.  SSS makes sailing accessible by removing the barriers of getting on the water. Sarasota Youth Sailing and the Luffing Lassies are two sailing groups hosted by the Sarasota Sailing Squadron.