Beginner questions

Would I like sailing?

If you want to try sailing, to see if you like it, there are ways to have a go without any major financial commitment. Your nearest sailing club may be able to arrange a trial sail, or you can try a watersports holiday. Our sport is full of people keen to help newcomers get interested.

Can anyone sail?

You do not need to be fit or able-bodied to sail, as there are such a variety of boats to cater for everyone. If you cannot swim, do not sail alone - just make sure your instructor or companion is aware. Disabled sailors may have to travel further to find a suitably-equipped sailing venue.

What about children?

Children as young as 8 can sail small boats alone, and there are many craft suitable for families with tiny children too. Nearly all sailing clubs cater for children of any age.

What organisations will help me?

Your national association or local club will have details of courses and trial sessions in your area. Normally they are delighted to help newcomers. Check their website or give them a call.

Is sailing expensive?

Sailing is not an expensive sport, unless you choose to race at the highest level! Secondhand boats can be bought very cheaply, but you do not have to have your own boat at all. Many boats need 2 or more people to sail them, so finding opportunities to sail on someone else's boat is not difficult. Specialist sailing clothing can seem a little expensive, but again you do not have to own any, or buy brand new. It all depends how much you get hooked!

Where can I go sailing?

There may be several sailing clubs fairly near to you, as narrow rivers and tiny lakes are just as popular as the sea. Sailing holidays are another popular way to have a go, or take a proper course, in a pleasant climate.

How do I choose a boat?

You should not think about buying a new or secondhand boat until you have had a chance to go sailing several times in several different boats. Just try things out! There are so many different types of boat, there will be one or more that suit you well. Once you have a little experience you will know what type of sailing you want to do, and can then start to do your research. One of the most important things to do is find out what sort of boats are sailing at your nearby sailing clubs, especially if you want to race there.

Do I need to join a sailing club?

You do not have to join a club. Some people sail only on holiday, and some people travel to several different sailing clubs as a guest. If you wish to sail frequently, you will probably find it easiest to join your local club.

Will I get cold and wet?

You'll probably get splashed a bit unless the weather is calm. The proper clothing (bought or hired) will keep you warm and dry so there is no need to shiver. In strong winds, small dinghies may tip completely over, quite safely, and dunk you in the water. All boats will lean over as the wind gets stronger, but large yachts do not tip right over.

Is sailing dangerous?

Sailing has a very good safety record, and even racing the fastest boats, injuries are incredibly rare. Checking the weather forecast before launching makes it easy to stay as safe as you want to.

Will I feel sick?

Some people may feel sea-sick if sailing a larger boat on the sea in waves, but in smaller boats and on lakes or rivers, it is very unlikely anyone will feel sick. If you go inside the cabin of a yacht, where you cannot see easily out of a window, this is likely to bring on a nauseous feeling.

Will it take a long time to learn?

Like any new sport, sailing has strange new skills and terminology to learn. You can certainly spend a lifetime progressing to the highest levels, but after an hour most beginners can sail along happily, building up to sailing a dinghy alone after a day or two.

What about racing?

Sailing around just for fun is called cruising, but many people like to try racing too. The sense of competition is exciting, but beginners may not enjoy the shouting that sometimes accompanies this! If you get shouted at, it normally just indicates urgency rather than real anger, so don't get upset.

Why do people like sailing?

It's fun! Sailing can made made as fast and exciting as you like - or as gentle and relaxing as you like. Racing against others gives great competition, or you can use a boat to explore an area of water. You'll also meet new friends, and maybe get fitter.

What else do I need to know?

It is helpful to know the basic difference between a dinghy and a yacht: Dinghies are light boats between 2 to 4 metres long, for one or two people to fit in. They are meant to be taken out of the water after a day's sailing. They can be fast and exciting, or gentler for beginners and families. Yachts (also called keelboats) are bigger than this, and much heavier, which makes them more stable. They need several people on board, and are suitable for a short day sail, or a trip around the world.

Other wind-powered sports

You may also enjoy windsurfing, kite-surfing or land-yachting.