Taking that first step to learn to sail can be difficult. It's not that it's hard, but like many things it's often hard to know where to begin.

Learning to Sail - Where to Begin

This seems like a good place to start....the beginning. The choices you have are to a degree determined by:

Learn dinghy sailingTo kick start the process, you need to book yourself onto a suitable learn to sail sailing course. If you already know of a sailing school then talk to them to find out what they recommend. If as when I first started you don't live round the corner from any sailing opportunities, then you may find that a good way to 'force the issue' is to visit a boat show.

Boat shows (e.g. the Dinghy Show, London or Southampton Boat shows or indeed some of the more regional local shows) offer an easy way of meeting and talking to a number of training schools all in one place. If you're not sure where to go for a course this is a good option and I encourage you to aim to book a course there and then! Often you'll find training schools make a show offer to encourage you to book either at the show, or within a few days of the show finishing. Personally I visited the London Boat Show and ended up booking myself a dinghy sailing course in the Solent which I could just about commute to.

The main thing is to book yourself onto a structured sailing course where you'll learn quickly. At the end of your course you'll have a fairly good idea if sailing is a hobby you want to continue with.

Learning to Sail - dinghy or yacht?

Now here's a good question! What type of sailing boat do you want to learn on. We could include catamarans, tri-marans not to mentioned the various other types and classes of dingy..... For the sake of simplicity, lets just stick with dinghies and yachts.

Dinghy Sailing:

  • close to the water and the action
  • more responsive
  • quick to get on the water
  • lower cost of entry
  • there's a generally held belief that learning to sail in a dinghy makes you a better sailor. Things happen in real time and after capsizing a few times, you'll learn quickly.


  • creature comfortsyacht winch
  • accommodation enables you to take weekends or more afloat
  • plan longer trips and holiday on board visiting new areas / countries
  • there's lots to get to grips with outside of tuning a sail or two....bigger boats bring bigger complications from the rigging to the electronics involved
  • cost - it's fairly safe to assume that the bigger the boat, the bigger the annual running costs (& initial purchase cost)

Which of these two you choose is down to you. Personally, we've gone full circle. We started in dinghies, moved to yachts and now with young children are moving back to dinghies again!

Learning to Sail - Finding a Sailing School

How to find and choose a sailing school deserves a blog posting in itself, hence I'll leave the detail until then.

If you're just starting out, which by virtue of reading this post you probably are, then get yourself down to your nearest sailing school and book yourself onto some form of taster course. You want it to be a structured sailing course, by which I mean there is something you can read which tells you what you will learn and be able to do by the end.

For most people, what you'll want to learn from this course, is perhaps not what you think. It's not about learning to sail - it's about whether you want to learn to sail! Look upon this first course as a journey of discovery. Whether you're learning to sail in a dinghy or on a yacht, the end goal is the same....yes....or no. Do you want to continue down the sailing path or not.

Learning to Sail - finding a Sailing Club

I spent a little time looking for a comprehensive list of sailing clubs on the net before I wrote this. I was stunned to see it wasn't easy to find something decent. With that in mind I'm now mulling over whether we should develop something as part of this overall site to help sailing clubs get the word out themselves. If you want to learn to sail and to sail with any regularity (without breaking the bank) then you need to find a sailing club... and sailing clubs need people like you too.