Hello, another first-time poster here. Even though I'm a newbie on this site, I was in your shoes a couple years back, so figured I'd share my experience. I'd shopped around several "101-104 in a week" options, and ended up going with school which was local to me (New England), with the three courses spread across several weeks. Factors in my decision:
- Time on the water: Taking the classes
separately gave me 8 days on the water vs 7 in a package course, but the school I went to also threw in a two additional half-days on a 101 boat to help practice my skills, which helped a lot going into the 103.
- Time to absorb the material: Each course comes with a book you're supposed to have read before the class (thought it was clear not all students followed that advice). I tried to front-load all the reading, but I found it hard to absorb the more advanced material until I'd had some hands-on experience. Spacing the courses out a bit gave me time to let everything "sink in".
- Cost: Even without factoring in travel time & expense, the "all in one" courses I'd looked at were comparable.
- Location: for me, the option of going with a school in my region rather than an airline flight away was a big factor. There's also a benefit in practicing in the area where you hope to eventually sail. I found that, after sailing in some NE weather
, the BVI was a piece of cake, but YMMV.
- Instructor personality: When I spoke with the the owner of the local school, his personality just "clicked" with me, and that personality carried through to his instructors.
- Student personality: I've read a few horror stories about people getting paired with "characters" during their week long courses. Regardless of how good the instructor is, your fellow students can make or break a class. I expect the risk is low (sailing students tend to be cool people!), but by spreading out the courses I figured I was at least limiting my exposure to difficult personalities. In my case, we did have one somewhat demanding fellow student in one class; he was handled well by the instructor, but I was glad I didn't have to share a boat with him for a week.
Please don't read any of that as a recommendation to avoid a week-long course, but I do like another poster's suggestion to at least try the 101 locally first before deciding on where to take the 103/104. Even if you do end up taking them back to back later on, I think you'll enjoy it all the more with some sailing time under your belt.
Best of luck,