Top tips for sailing beginners
15th March 2021 Jessica Watson
Sailing doesn’t necessarily have a reputation for being easily accessible, but I’m not convinced that reputation is fair; sailors are an agreeable lot who, of course, have a vested interest in seeing their sport, hobby or lifestyle thrive.
Starting out in sailing also doesn’t have to mean the huge expense of purchasing a boat.
Here are a few tips to get you out on the water.
Read, scroll and watch
The perfect way to figuratively dip your feet into the water is with the help of a few good books. Sailing stories are a great way to learn a little of the vocabulary and provide some background before you jump right in.
Although now I think about it, maybe it’s better if you leave Fastnet, Force 10, Fatal Storm and Red Sky in Mourning at the bookshop, along with any other sailing titles about storms — those books are a little intense, even for those with solid sea legs.
Of course, it’s not just the traditional paperbacks that will expose you to all things sailing. Social media is another great way to immerse yourself. Nic Douglass - Sailor Girl is a great follow, and just about everyone is watching young Australian couple Riley and Elayna’s Sailing La Vagabonde youtube channel.
When you’re ready to actually dip your feet in the water, it’s time to head to the Discover Sailing website. I’m afraid that this isn’t the most helpful suggestion for any internationals, but Australian Sailing has a fantastic initiative called Discover Sailing, which, as the name would suggest, helps you start out on the water.
As part of the initiative, participating yacht clubs around the county put on free ‘Discover Sailing’ days, inviting anyone along to get a taste for sailing. The days are typically scheduled throughout spring and early summer, and all the details are on the Discover Sailing website.
There’s a lot to be said for learning to sail in a lovely holiday location, and while some level of boating know-how is usually required yacht charter companies cater for those with little or no sailing experience. Charter boats are designed and set up for simplicity, and often come with manuals written in very plain language.
Your local club
And, of course, there’s nowhere more logical to start than your local sailing or yacht club. Many of the big clubs are fantastic with well-run programs and a greater variety of boats to sail, but I also encourage you to give the smaller clubs plenty of thought.
Small clubs are guaranteed to be very welcoming and grateful for new sailors, but ultimately your choice will need to reflect the type of sailing and boat you most enjoy.
You would also be surprised by how many clubs welcome visitors looking to participate in their casual or twilight races, often with little or no experience required. Again, in Australia the Discover Sailing website is the place to go to find a suitable club and sail training programme.
Choosing your crewmates
If you have the misfortune of finding yourself on a boat with a skipper who likes to yell, feel free to ditch the boat. But don’t give up on sailing; there’s plenty of great skippers and crews out there. Choosing who you want to sail with is a choice that should be given as much if not more consideration as the type of boat you want to sail.