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4: Yacht options

There is a very comprehensive RYA training scheme for cruising under sail, starting with a two-day basic introduction course, and leading ultimately to the internationally recognised Yachtmaster (Offshore), which is awarded following a minimum of 2,500 miles of offshore experience and an 8-11 hour examination at sea. However, there is no parallel scheme for those who want to race yachts.

Keelboat sailing experience can be a good initial move for those whose ultimate aim is to race larger boats — most people will gain a feel for the boat and the wind more quickly if they’re learning in a smaller boat. In addition, as keelboats are sailed by a smaller crew than all but the smallest of yachts, you’ll be much more involved in the action.

Racing opportunities onboard yachts sailing in both inshore and offshore events are offered by a number of sea schools to those of all abilities and sailing experience.

For instance Southampton-based Sailing Logic offers an Introduction to Racing course over two weekends, which is a perfect springboard for those with no previous racing experience. The company has developed its own structured set of courses for those who want to pursue their big boat racing to intermediate and advanced levels. Like many others, the company also offers combined training and racing weekends.

During the Raymarine Warsash Spring Series, for instance, you can book either the whole series, with race training on the Saturday and racing on the Sunday, or just book by the weekend. Warsash-based Five Star Sailing will tailor programmes to suit each individual, with elements of both practical tuition afloat and classroom instruction. They suggest Competent Crew or equivalent sailing experience as a minimum before starting race training.

A good self-made programme that would give a solid springboard might be to do some keelboat training relatively local to where you live, followed by a Competent Crew course on a racing-oriented yacht (most are taught on cruising designs, which offer a more comfortable experience — you’ll be living on board — but the sail-handling systems are likely to be very simplified compared to those of a raceboat). After this, an introduction to racing course will get you well on the route to being a useful crew member on a raceboat and being able to build successfully on your existing knowledge as you gain additional experience.

Previous page:3 Keelboats and multihulls

These have a weighted keel for stability and resistance to capsize

Next page:5 Other routes in

In the past, sailing with friends was the route through which most people were introduced

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