How do I get into Dinghy Sailing?

written by former Olympic dinghy sailor, Christian Brewer

Signing up for a dinghy sailing course is one of the easiest and most fun ways to learn how to sail. Dipping your toe in the water with a course will give you a pretty good idea as to whether this is the type of sport for you, or not, before you commit to buying a dinghy of your own.

A Royal Yachting Association (RYA) recognised training centre is the best place to get started in the UK.

It’s not quite rocket science, so you can learn the basics of dinghy sailing in just an afternoon on a ‘starter’ or ‘taster’ course.  A typical course starts with an onshore briefing, where your instructor will run through the theory of dinghy sailing with some classroom work, normally followed by a demo in a shore based ‘dinghy simulator’.

If it all sounds good, you are then allocated a dinghy and off you go, out into the deep blue sea (or lake/river).  Your instructor will be close by in a training boat to guide you safely through the manoeuvres learnt in the classroom, teaching you to sail upwind and downwind, as well as importantly turn corners by tacking and gybing.

It’s wise to plan ahead and book well in advance, as sailing courses are extremely popular. Check out your nearest training centre and check availability today, for courses taking place throughout the summer and into the autumn.

Another great RYA initiative is the ‘Try a Boat’ or ‘Discover Sailing’ days.

Many RYA affiliated sailing clubs run such events throughout the summer months.  Club members happily give up their time and take would-be sailors out on their own boats to experience what it’s like being out on the open sea.  It provides those interested in dinghy sailing immediate immersion (hopefully not literally) to the sailing thrill of the wind and waves, as well as a crash course in how to operate the controls.

At Whiststable Yacht Club, where I am a member, it has a been a great way to introduce would-be sailors to the sailing school and to sign up new members to the sailing club.

Crews Union! It’s not all about helming:

If you are enjoying the experience of being on the water, have passed your introductory exams but do not have the funds to commit to buying a dinghy yet, or want to try out other dinghy classes then why not consider crewing for another sailing club member?

A club member can generally sign people into a club on several occasions before they need to commit to joining and paying club membership fees.  Club members looking for crew will put their name and contact details on the club notice board or website, this can be for crewing on the racecourse or for cruising.

Doing this with different dinghy owners will enable you to experience various dinghy classes and their sailing styles, to decide which you like sailing best, and help you make a better informed decision when purchasing a dinghy.

Too cold at home?

We can have rather inclement weather in the UK, as we are seeing with the summer of 2024 so far, so you could consider a Beach Club holiday to get started in dinghy sailing.  By choosing an RYA recognised teaching centre abroad in the sun, you can rest assured you will be learning in a safe and friendly environment, whilst getting the benefit of warm sunshine and calm seas.

Established sailing holiday companies to consider include Neilson, Minorca Sailing and Mark Warner. Each have decades of experience in tailoring a holiday to suit you and your family with plenty of extra activities for those who would rather enjoy beach activities.

All that remains is to take the leap and talk to your local sailing club, or holiday specialist to get into dinghy sailing this year.

Christian Brewer is a member of Whitstable Yacht Club and a former Olympic Squad and British Sailing Team member in the Tornado class.

He has won fifteen National and one European Championship in catamarans and in One Design keel boats.

A former sailmaker and charter yacht sales manager, Christian has sailed extensively in Europe, the Caribbean, Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans.  There isn’t much he doesn’t know about sailing!

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