A Beginners Guide to Sailing by Nikki Curwen
So you want to start sailing..!
We asked Nikki Curwen to give us the run down on where to start, here’s a beginners guide from a transatlantic pro:
“There are loads of options but I would suggest finding a dinghy course near you, or even go somewhere nice and warm. The Royal Yachting Association (RYA) have a very good scheme in place for beginner training, if you go on their website you can search for training centres across the world. Or perhaps you have a friend you could bribe for lessons, or at least a taster?
Understanding wind direction and the response needed is definitely easier to find from sailing in smaller boats. Although you might like the idea of starting on a nice dry cruising boat, to really get to grips with the sport I’d definitely suggest jumping in something smaller and taking the waves to your face!
From there you need to ask yourself, what do you want? Which direction do you want to go in? Big boat, small boat, cruising, racing, day sailing…there are many different channels you can take. Each needing different skills and each with their own positives and negatives.
Desperate to try dinghies?
A dingy is perfect for day sailing, club racing, and competitive fleet racing. Relatively cheap and easy to transport you can travel around easily, and can store in a garage or driveway. From solo sailing in a laser, to swallows and amazons style picnic adventures in a wooden classic. Once you’ve mastered the basics of sailing you can get on the water quickly. Whether on a local pond or on the coast.
If you want to get into racing there are many different options, from optimists, cadets, toppers, mirrors, moving up to 420, 29er, and the RS fleet. If your looking into dinghy racing, I’d suggest choosing your “local club” and seeing what classes are raced there, talk to the sailors, perhaps even persuade one of them to loan you a boat to try.
The quickest way to learn is to get stuck in and get as much time on the water as you can.
Yearning for a yacht?
Slightly larger and generally having some form of cover or accommodation you can travel further in a yacht, with flexibility for more people to join you.
Your basic principals of sailing are still the same as in the dinghy but everything tends to happen a bit slower. While you have more time to respond and react, you also can’t notice changes as well so can be more difficult. A yacht can come with an engine, plumbing, electrics, painting/varnishing and more things to tinker with to keep you busy, particularly when it comes to maintenance.
In short, there is no right or wrong way to learn, for beginners it’s what suits you, and what you want to get out of it.”