Training in Focus

Image: Paul Wyeth
Training is a brilliant way to get your confidence up, so that your first foray into the boating world is a thoroughly enjoyable experience.
If you have never set foot on a boat before, the prospect can seem daunting. It is a confusing world: RIBs, powerboats, dinghies, yachts… What is a keel boat? And let’s not get started on multi-hulls.
So, how do you know what kind of boat you want to try?
Weigh up your options of power over sail (or hedge your bets with a combination of both). The first will get you there quickly; the second will get you there when you get there and the third will get you there in style. Narrowing your focus will help with your next decision.
Decide on the kind of scenery you prefer. A gentle pootle along a country waterway? Or ripping across open sea? Perhaps a sparkling coastline pulling ropes aboard a sleek yacht? Or maybe you would prefer the thrill of being low to the water and at one with the elements in a dinghy? Once you have decided what and where, then you need to work out ‘how’ and it is much simpler than you think.

Without a boat, you will not get far. However here is the biggest myth-buster that holds people back when thinking of trying out sailing: you do not need a boat! And guess what? You do not even need any kit.
Any reputable RYA training centre or school can provide everything you need: the boat, the salopettes and waterproof jackets, buoyancy aids, books, charts and equipment. If your course includes it, you may even get a nice lunch.
What is key, is finding the right course for you. Visiting the RYA’s course finder portal can help to narrow your search. Go to to find the perfect course on your favoured vessel in a location close to where you live.
Still not sure which course to take? Refine your options by clicking Let’s Get Started. With the right instruction, you can relax knowing you are in the safest, most competent hands to help you really enjoy and get the most out of your experience.
The RYA’s Resources Manager Craig Burton, explains why he thinks courses are the best way to start: “It is important to start any new hobby on the right footing. If your first experience is poor it is likely to put you or your partner off the sport for life.
“Our RYA training schemes are broken down by type of vessel and structured in such a way that you can enter at any level. They are particularly good at providing safe and enjoyable introduction to the recreational boating.”
Image: Paul Wyeth
With more than 1,000 training centres around the UK running over 300 different courses, you are sure to find something to suit. Start sailing on a dinghy course, learn to skipper a yacht or master the basics of power – it will not be long before you are afloat.
Here’s a selection of entry level RYA courses:
SAIL: Start Yachting
Who is it for: Beginners of any age.
You will learn: Some yacht steering, sail handling, ropework and basic safety on board.
Duration: Two days.
What is next: Your Start Yachting certificate means you can complete the Competence Crew course in a reduced time of three days or two weekends.
MOTOR: Start Motor Cruising
Who is it for: For friends or family members looking to crew a motor boat.
You will learn: Personal safety, seamanship, dealing with emergency situations, coming alongside, picking up a mooring, boat handling.
By the end: You will be a useful crew member, able to assist the helm.
Duration: one day as a stand-alone course, two days if accompanying another course.
What is next? This course leads to Day Skipper where you can take charge on short passages under instruction.
POWER: Start Power Boating
Who is it for: Those wanting an introduction to boating techniques, from launching and recovering a boat from a road trailer to everyday boat handling and the use of safety equipment.
What will you learn: How to prepare your boat and crew, how to handle the boat, plus picking up and securing to a mooring buoy, leaving and coming alongside, being towed.
By the end: You will be able to drive under supervision.
Duration: One day
What is next: Powerboat Level 2 provides everything you need to drive a powerboat and is the basis of the International Certificate of Competence. It lasts two days.
SMALL BOATS: Dinghy Level 1
Who is it for: Anyone wanting an introduction to sailing, but there is a separate program for youngsters.
You will learn: How to sail in all directions, including an awareness of launching and recovering.
By the end: Able to sail in light winds under supervision.
Duration: Two days.
What is next? Move up the levels for increases in skill.
BOARDS: Start Windsurfing
Who is it for: Beginners.
You will learn: The basics of windsurfing and how to use the right equipment. There is a separate youth scheme.
By the end: Able to sail to a chosen point on the water and return to where you started from in light winds.
Minimum duration: Eight to ten hours
What is next: Fine tune your skills with the Intermediate (non planing) course.
CANAL BOATS: Crew or Helmsman (Crew means basic helping around the boat, Helmsman means you can drive the boat).
Who is it for: Beginners.
You will learn: Safety, how to helm, lock operations, collision avoidance and engine checks.
By the end: Able to helm a canal boat safely on inland waterways.
Minimum duration: Two days.
Sailing is not just a sport, it is a way of life. For fresh air, exhilaration and a different perspective on life, it is hard to beat. For more information about RYA courses visit or to find a training centre near you visit

Find a reputable holiday company that runs RYA courses, like Neilson or Sunsail. That way you can combine relaxing abroad in the warm sunshine with learning a practical skill.
Splitting the cost of the boat will make it cheaper and you will make some close bonds along the way. If you would rather take it slowly, you can hire a skipper and dip in and out of the learning experience as you wish.
If you are an RYA member you can enjoy great discounts on your Neilson and Sunsail holidays.

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