’ve decided you want to undertake some kind of training course to do with water. You may even know the type of vessel – sailing yacht, dinghy, powerboat, motorboat or windsurfer. It’s tempting to move forward by taking a look at boating magazines or searching on the internet........but STOP!

Tempting though it is, there are some fundamental questions, which if answered early on, can save you an enormous amount of time later. Yes, they may seem obvious to some, but to others these are a revelation.

1. What is your ability and what are your goals?

Many people each year undertake a watersports course or marine activity and in doing so achieve their aim. However potential students need to consider their end goal – exactly why are you researching information about these courses?

The most important question to ask yourself is what you want to achieve through doing a sail training course – and this applies whatever the vessel – be it a yacht, dinghy, powerboat, motor boat, or windsurf.

Are you wanting to try sailing, powerboating or windsurfing for the first time in order to learn or improve your skills or are you working towards a career in the industry? Are you actually looking for a holiday and feel that a training course would provide the opportunity to meet other people? Or is your aim to charter a boat and you need a certificate to prove your competence?

Knowing your end goal and defining this when researching a sailing school will enable you to choose the right training centre for you, whether in the UK or abroad.

2. Is accreditation important?

By asking this question you will determine whether you want to do a training course, and if so to which accreditation, or if you simply want to have a more holiday feel.

For many people it makes no difference, - it’s about learning to manage a craft in a safe environment with a qualified instructor and this may mean choosing a sail training centre with no accreditation, but who maybe follow the syllabus of a particular sailing body.

At we profile training centres accredited through a variety of bodies – for example the RYA, IYT, and SAS to name a few, as well as training centres who have chosen not to be accredited. Unless you want to pursue a career, in a particular country, this may not be important to you, though y

ou should be aware that not all accreditations are accepted in all countries, so if you are looking to charter a boat in Greece, for example, then check the level of accreditations they are looking for and from which body.

3. Who do you want to learn alongside?

Here I mean are you particularly looking for a singles week, or are you female and prefer to be with others of the same sex. Not all sailing schools run courses for specific audiences, so this will help narrow down your search.

4. Location

a.    Tidal or non tidal?

If you’re looking to further your cruising or sailing skills, then a tidal course is probably more appropriate. A non-tidal certificate will only allow you to be qualified at that level to sail in non-tidal waters, so if you’re looking to charter a boat in the Solent, in the UK, following an RYA Day Skipper Course, then it will need to be undertaken in a tidal environment.

b.    Where in the world……..

If you are in the UK or Scotland there is a large choice of RYA sailing schools around the coast, but with the advent of low cost airlines, the choices of where you can cost-effectively undertake a sailing course have widened immensely. The Canary Islands, the Balearics, Greek islands, Croatia, South Africa or the dramatic coastline of Brittany are all realistic possibilities. You could combine a weeks’ course in the sun with a week’s holiday on dry land. Or you can escape the cold weather and head to a country where the climate is more forgiving even in the winter months.

By reflecting on these areas, you will find it easier to narrow down the choices of training course provider, or you may simply realise that you don’t want to choose , for example an RYA sailing school at all, but perhaps try a sailing holiday, or a learn to sail course instead.

Now feel free to pick up your mouse, or flick through those classified ads!