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Try Sailing In May

So, you want to learn to sail. All you need to do is to buy a boat and put it in the water and go out…. Right? – How hard can it be?  

True enough you might be able to get out on the water if you have been able to rig and launch properly, but then how can you turn the boat around? What do those flappy things do? How do I control them? How do I start and stop the boat? How do I steer? What on earth is the wind doing? The list is seemingly endless.  

What you should be doing is attending a recognised sailing school for a course. The centre will help guide you through the learning steps and get you going. Learning in groups, you not only benefit from the guidance of experienced instructors, but also learning as a peer group, feeding off each other, seeing how others approach aspects can really accelerate your learning path. 

In the UK, we are lucky to have the Royal Yachting Association* (RYA*) on our doorstep. This organisation is the governing body for the sport of sailing and has, over many years, built and refined its excellent training programmes for sail and powered craft. The RYA* runs a very good pathway for dinghy sailing (and bigger yachts) in simple achievable steps. These steps are designed to progress the student and then encourage them to practise and then return for the next module. 

During May the RYA* is running ‘Try Sailing in May’. This is a nationwide effort with many sailing schools and clubs participating to get people on the water all under the watchful eye. In effect these are taster sessions. Learning to sail the RYA* way will also allow you to continue your progression at a later date and understand the terminology as all sailing centres follow the same steps. One thing the RYA* does so well is to keep a keen eye on the quality of ALL of its learning establishments. So if you want to have a go at sailing, but didn’t know what to do, check out your local sailing centre or contact the RYA* for more information. 

Sailing: A Beginner’s Guide is my book, based on my experience from being an instructor for approaching 20 years. My aim was to write down everything needed to know in one easy-to-read book, full of illustrations and video links. I myself am a very visual learner so in my book I use images a great deal to help illustrate what I am writing about.  

You can’t learn to sail by just reading from a book. But what I try to show is the important aspects that can help in a couple of main ways. Firstly, to set your expectations of dinghy sailing courses at a recognised training centre. Becoming familiar with the language of sailing and the steps taught on the course can help you to get more out of your training. You will be better positioned to ‘know what you don’t know’ and therefore be able to ask sensible questions to push yourself more. Secondly, after the course the book is the perfect companion as a refresher to what you were shown, a perfect reference book to help you remember what to do. None of us remember much unless we repeat and repeat, it is only after this that you will remember what you were shown as second nature and it is only then does the information you were shown will become knowledge. Knowledge is what enables you to remember what to do and when and is the key to success. 

Enjoy your journey to learn how to sail. 


Tim Hore, Author of Sailing: A Beginner’s Guide 

* Royal Yachting Association and RYA are trademarks of the Royal Yachting Association.