Fast Track to Sailing is a large format softbound book that covers the wide spectrum of knowledge required for introducing students to sailing. The authors are internationally recognized for their Offshore Sailing School and professional expertise, with over forty years of instruction development.

In ten chapters, complete with diagrams and photos, the techniques of sailing are shown and explained. Also included are introductions to right-of-way, navigation and seamanship.

It would be easy to relegate this book to the large selection of efforts already available, but it shouldn’t be. This one is decidedly different.

For instance, this manual covers just the essentials. Learning to sail safely, comfortably and efficiently is the entire focus. Related subjects such as maintenance, tradition and etiquette are reserved for later training.

Also different is the exceptional clarity of the writing. Every concept, every maneuver, is so well explained that the average person can easily understand and accomplish the described step.

The book is a confidence builder. Information is discussed in a matter-of-fact style with the authors giving students credit for everyday knowledge. It is written to “you,” not to a third-person stranger — a small but effective distinction.

Finally, this is an ideal standalone course. It is possible to purchase this book and learn independently how to sail a smaller boat. There are beginners who wouldn’t do that, preferring some hands-on instruction, but it is definitely possible.

If there is a weak point, perhaps physical agility is not emphasized enough. Along with the skills, sailing still requires some balance, an ability to function on a rolling work surface. A minor point, but a new sailor should expect a moving environment where sure hands and anticipation of the boat’s action are essential.

I wish I had had this book fifty years and seven sailboats ago, rather than learning through my often-vivid mistakes. It is simply the single best source of basic sailing instruction I’ve seen. Steve and Doris Colgate are to be congratulated.

Fast Track to Sailing: Learn to Sail in Three Days by Steve and Doris Colgate (International Marine/McGraw Hill, 2009; 120 pages)