Whilst some people may be put off by sailing’s slightly elitist stereotype, the truth is that sailing really is for everyone. It’s actually a lot cheaper and easier to get involved with than you might think - plus, you don’t even need to live near the sea!
With a number of events taking place throughout the summer, not forgetting next year’s Olympics on home soil (well, water) too, we thought we’d give you the sailing low-down so you can give it a go for yourself.
What’s it all about?
Sailing entails controlling a boat with large foils called sails. In order to change the speed or direction of the vessel, the sailor must manage the force of the wind on the sails.
There are many different types of sailing craft depending upon whether you want to race or if you would prefer to go cruising. But regardless of your age, gender, or level of ability there are lots of choices to consider.
What are the options?
Dinghy sailing – Undoubtedly one of the best ways of getting into sailing, there is no better way to get a feel for a boat and how it reacts to the wind and water than at the helm of a dinghy.
Dinghies are open boats suitable for day sailing in a variety of areas both inland and on the open sea. Bringing you closer to nature, they can be sailed single handed, double handed or even as a family and offer an ideal starting point for those new to the sport.
Yachting – Yacht sailing is extremely diverse – one day you might be racing or sailing offshore surrounded by dolphins and the next you could be anchored in a secluded bay, eating freshly caught fish for lunch. Most yachts will even have kitchen facilities, cabins and toilets on board – perfect for those who would prefer not to leave their creature comforts on dry land.
What can I expect?
Regardless of the type of boat or sailing you want to learn, you will spend most of your time on the water gaining practical skills. Instructors will demonstrate before letting you loose.
You don’t need to have any particular skills to get involved – whatever your age or ability there will be some kind of sailing available to suit your needs. It’s just a case of getting out there and finding out what you enjoy – but don’t just take our word for it! Over to the experts for this bit…
For 22-year-old Kate Gibbs who has been out on the water since she could walk, the recipe for sailing success is strength, stamina and perseverance, along with a love of winning! But it’s not all about competition, she tells us, “it is a brilliant sport with something to offer everyone – those who want a thrill or just a pootle about on a sunny evening, plus there’s a great social scene too!”
And the great thing about sailing is it’s a sport that can be picked up at any age, as Jane Swan discovered. “My seven year old son started sailing and I didn’t want to be left behind!” she explains. “I love the fresh air, saltyspray and that there’s no mobile phone o emails. It’s a great workout and you get a huge buzz every time you get on the water.”
So, where do I start?
First of all you need to decide what kind of sailing you want to do. It might be worth considering going on a taster course – perhaps try a taster session at RYA (Royal Yachting Association) recognised training centre or give their Start Sailing or Start Yachting courses a go.
Sailing for the first time can be slightly confusing so it is really useful to have the guidance of an instructor to avoid any early disasters. They will also be able to give you advice on the best sort of boat for you and how to get the most out of your sailing.
To find your nearest training centre use the ‘Where’s My Nearest’ tool on the RYA (www.rya.org.uk) website.
But isn’t it expensive? What kit will I need?
When starting out you will require minimal kit as the training centre you choose will provide all the safety kit and clothing that you need. Sailing gloves are recommended and can be purchased for as little as £15 while sun cream and sunglasses are also advisable. For yachting you might need your own sleeping bag, non-slip deck shoes and plenty of thin layers.
As you progress you may want to purchase your own sailing kit such as a wet suit or dry suit, boots, rash vest and buoyancy aid. Your instructor will be well qualified to offer advice and it will depend greatly upon what sort of sailing you plan to do, at what time of year and the location.
Before buying your own dinghy it is worthwhile talking to your local sailing club or RYA training centre to see what is suitable for your requirements. You can pick up bargains and be afloat for as little as £200 but on the other hand you could quite easily pay over £10,000 for a new performance racing dinghy!
Watch out for…
Henri Lloyd Falmouth Week – August 6-14 2011, Falmouth
Having developed into the largest regatta in the South West rivalled only by Cowes Week, the Henri-Lloyd Falmouth Week expects to see around 450 yachts and dinghies race in three fleets across eight days, and there’s even a Champagne Day too!
Aberdeen Asset Management Cowes Week – August 6 -13 2011, Cowes, Isle of Wight
A real mecca for sailors, Cowes Week offers a great opportunity to watch the action and soak up the atmosphere. Don’t miss Ladies day on the Tuesday and another great event to look out for is the Extreme 40’s racing as a part of their global race series on the Monday.
2012 Olympics – July 29 – August 11 2012, Weymouth and Portland
With 10 sailing events across 14 days of competition, next year’s Olympic Games promise to showcase some of the world’s leading talent in the charming yet challenging Weymouth Bay waters.
Know your port from your starboard?
Glossary of basic terms:
Aft - The back of the ship (also known as the stern)
Bow – The front of the ship
Port - The left-hand side of the boat when you are facing the bow
Starboard - The right-hand side of the boat when you are facing the bow
Leeward – The side or direction away from which the wind is blowing
Windward – The side or direction from which the wind is blowing
Boom – A horizontal pole which extends from the bottom of the mast – this does move, so watch your head!
Rudder - Located beneath the boat, the rudder is a flat piece of wood, fiberglass or metal used to steer the ship
Tacking - A basic sailing manoeuvre allowing you to change direction when sailing into the wind
Jessica Whittington, Sportsister
The Women’s Sports Magazine
Image credits: Richard Langdon/Skandia Team GBR