Outdoor Pursuits: Learn To Sail

learn to sail in the UK

Looking for a summer activity that will keep everyone in the family interested? Why not learn to sail. There’s nothing like being on the water when it’s balmy in England, and from dozing in a dinghy to racing Opis, everyone in the family can get involved.  

What is it? Sailing a dinghy or keelboat seems like rather a grown-up hobby, but with the right tuition and equipment, it’s something that children can get involved in, too. It’s probably best avoided with the very young, but many sailing clubs cater for over-6s. At others you’ll need to wait until they turn 8.

Why we love it? Sailing is a great way to get children confident in the water. And tutors often say that the ability to man a boat gives kids confidence on dry land, too. Sailing can also improve their spacial awareness and sense of direction, and gives them a deeper understanding of the weather. Plus it gets them outdoors.

Where to go: The Royal Yachting Association runs youth sailing courses at outdoor centres across the country. These allow the over-8s to start sailing and learn how to rig a boat. Don’t assume you need to live near the coast, either – there are plenty of inland sailing clubs where you can learn to sail on lakes and reservoirs.

When to go: This depends on where you are. Some lakes and reservoirs are very sheltered, making it easier to go out in poor weather. But even if you’re out on the open sea, you’ll probably still go out in the rain – after all, you’re going to get wet anyway. You can sail year-round, but children’s courses tend to run from April to October, when the weather is milder. Autumn is a great time to sail though, when the days are still long but the crowds have died down a bit.

In the kit bag: Wetsuits are essential for most of the year, as is safety equipment, such as a buoyancy aid, but your local sailing club should provide these. You should also put your child in footwear you don’t mind getting wet, such as old trainers or wet shoes. A dry bag is also a really good investment to keep snacks, towels or your phone stashed in the boat and protected.

Find out more: You can read more about the RYA’s youth beginners’ courses here. First Sail, meanwhile, will tell you everything you need to know about getting out on the water.