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Start Yacht Racing

4: Getting started

Here’s a suggestion for total novices wanting to get started in big boat racing from scratch — competent dinghy racers with experience of sailing in tidal waters can skip the keelboat elements. RYA Keelboat Levels 1 and 2 — these two-day courses will give you basic familiarisation with being afloat, experience of boat handling and wind awareness. Although generally more expensive than the equivalent dinghy courses, they are still cheaper than a full-on yachting course, and you’ll have more hands-on experience of sailing the boat.

This could be followed by two race training weekends with a sea school that specialises in yacht racing. This will help you build on the skills you have already learnt and transfer them into a specific role in a larger crew on a raceboat. Good dinghy sailors, or those with a solid cruising background, could go straight in at this level, but it’s helpful for novices to first have a broader experience first.

After this, newcomers might want to combine the performance sailing and start racing elements of the keelboat scheme, with some more experience on big boats. By this stage you’ll be becoming a useful crew member who’s able to switch between boats and some differing roles.

Even if your long-term aim is solely to race big boats, don’t rule out racing keelboats and Sportsboats. There are a number of advantages to doing so, especially in the early stages of your sailing career and many of those who race yachts successfully also sail keelboats. In particular, racing in closely-matched one-design fleets is invaluable experience. In addition, being part of for a smaller crew broadens your role, putting you closer to the decisionmaking process, so when you step up to a bigger boat you’ll become more likely to be able to slot into more roles and carry them out with a greater degree of skill.

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One tactic is to hitch a lift by ‘dockwalking’ around marinas before the start of racing

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