Learning Sailing Skills

Learning Sailing

Sailing can be a tranquil experience, or with stronger winds quite an adventure. Boats can be small or huge. It is a thrill to speed over the waves.

Skills – Strength: 4, Balance: 6, Flexibility: 5, Agility: 3, Coordination: 5
Time needed: travelling time + 1 hour, Cost to try: £free

Sometimes starting out in a sport can seem a little daunting; is it for you? What equipment do I need? What you really need is some sound advice. If you’re interested in getting into sailing then here are a few top tips about getting started from what kind of sailing you want to do and where to do it, to how much it costs and what courses are available.

What kind of sailing do you want to do?

Before you get started you’ll need to have a think about what kind of sailing you want to do; dinghy or yacht sailing.

Dinghies are open boats which are suitable for day sailing in a variety of areas both inland and on the open sea. They are fun and exciting whilst bringing you closer to nature.

They provide an exciting and cost effective way of getting afloat to experience the thrills of sailing. You could go cruising somewhere like the Lake District or hire a dinghy off the beach for your summer holiday; participate in high octane and fast performance sail racing or just sail on your own for fun.

The great thing about dinghy sailing is that it provides one of the cheapest ways to get afloat. It is also the quickest and easiest way to learn to sail as dinghies are easy to rig, anyone can handle them and they are very responsive, providing limitless entertainment for everyone. But remember with dinghy sailing you will get wet, especially when you are learning the ropes!


Yacht sailing is extremely diverse and there are opportunities for everyone to participate. The boats are bigger and come equipped with more of your home comforts such as toilets and kitchens and place for you to stay onboard and sleep. It’s a great way to get out on the water in warm climates with the family, explore far flung remote places with friends or you might even try your hand at racing.

Yacht sailing is about adventure, exploration, teamwork and fun. It’s relaxing and an enjoyable way to discover new places.

What Sailing Lessons and Courses are Available?

The RYA (Royal Yachting Association) offers a whole host of courses from complete beginner right through to professional qualifications. Run through the RYA’s network of some 2,500 recognised training centres both in the UK and abroad, you should be able to find a course to suit you.

To get you started many RYA Training Centres, sailing clubs and charter companies throughout the UK and abroad run taster sessions/days providing an ideal opportunity to get out on the water for the first time and help you decide if sailing is for you and if you wish to go ahead and sign up for a course.

If you decide that yachting is for you then the RYA’s Start Sailing and Competent Crew courses are the perfect way to learn the basic principles of sailing whilst meeting like-minded people and exploring new locations.

The Start Sailing course is designed especially for the complete beginner. During this two day course you’ll get a real hands-on experience and start learning how to steer a yacht, sail handling, rope work and be aware of safety on board.

The RYA Competent Crew course is a five day course, usually over three weekend or three days and one weekend, but if you have your Start Sailing certificate it reduces to three days or two weekends. You’ll experience living on board and really get to know the boat. Virtually all the course is hands on. You are the crew – without you the sails won’t go up and the boat won’t be steered.

By the end of the course you should be able to steer, handle sails, keep a lookout, row a dinghy and assist in all the day to day duties on board. You should also have visited some interesting places and had an enjoyable holiday.

If you decide on dinghy sailing is more your style then the RYA’s Youth Sailing Scheme, for under 16’s and National Sailing Scheme for adults offer the Stage one and Level one courses respectively, and are perfect for beginners.

The Youth Sailing Scheme is a series of courses to develop your skills with instructors signing off each skill as it’s complete it and, once completed, the certificates can be of use in other areas of study or activities such as PE at school, or the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme.

Stage one is a day two course and provides a basic understanding of how a boat sails, with some experience of steering and handling the boat

The National Sailing scheme is a series of two-day courses for adults wanting to learn in dinghies, small keelboats and multihulls.

It has been designed to help you enjoy whichever aspect of the sport appeals to you. Level one starts by introducing you to sailing with all you need to know to get afloat under supervision. During the course you’ll learn how to sail in all directions and have an awareness of launching and recovery.

Where can I learn?

Whether you decide to take a course as part of your holiday or take a course at your local sailing club, there are plenty of locations to choose from.

Visit the RYA’s ‘Where’s my nearest’ to find a training centre near you – . Here you can also find details of RYA Training Centres overseas if you fancy doing your course in the sunshine!

Is sailing an expensive sport to take up? How much does it cost?

Sailing has always been seen as an expensive sport to get in to, but the reality is that it doesn’t have to be. You can buy a small dinghy to get on the water with for as little as £600 and a wetsuit will cost you from around £70 to buy.

sailing gear

Like any sport it costs a lot to compete at the very top but thousands take to the water each year for less than it costs to play golf or tennis and for a lot less than a gym membership in many parts of the country. As a family you can join a sailing club for as little as £150 a year and have free or very cheap access to their fleet of club boats.

The cost of training courses vary depending on where you live and what course you decide to do. An RYA level one course for sailing starts at about £200 per person. It is always best to go to an RYA recognised centre where a national curriculum is taught. This means that if you move you can still follow the different levels all the way through and the RYA certificate is internationally recognised. RYA recognition also means the centre will run the course to the RYA’s syllabus with safe, well maintained boats and equipment.

Sailing really is for everyone

The beauty of sailing is that is really is for everyone, young or old, able bodied or disabled.

Especially for youngsters is the RYA’s OnBoard programme which provides children with the opportunity to learn to sail as part of the school sports curriculum or through youth groups. Find out more at www.ruob.co.uk

There are also racing programmes for youth and junior sailors and windsurfers wanting to sail competitively both at home and abroad. Many of our current Olympic sailors have come up through these programmes.

Sailing is also one of most accessible sports for disabled people to participate in and is also one of the only sports where people with disabilities can participate on equal terms with able bodied people.

RYA Sailability is the charity of the RYA (Royal Yachting Association) which offers people who think they can’t even get on a boat, let alone sail it, the chance to have a go. There are over 200 sites for disabled sailing throughout the UK encouraging and supporting thousands of people with disabilities to take up sailing, with a proportion, over 40%, having learning disabilities. Find out more about RYA Sailability at www.rya.org.uk/programmes/ryasailability

Where can I find out more information about getting into sailing?

Visit the RYA website www.rya.org.uk. As national governing body for all forms of recreational and competitive boating, it represents dinghy and yacht sailing, as well as motor and sail cruising, RIBs and sports boats, powerboat racing, windsurfing, inland cruising and personal watercraft. The RYA can advise you on how best to get started with any of the above activities as well as answering any questions you have.

If you want to get yourself some gear to go sailing, sailing clothing and gear is available from Amazon.

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