Ten tips for sailing beginners

Sailing basics for those staring out

Just starting out in sailing? Here’s a few sailing basics which should help you in the early days and ensure you are successfully and safely tacking and jibing in no time. Below are our top ten tips for sailing beginners:

Get to grips with basic sailing terms

Before you hit the water, make sure you’ve swotted up on some of the basic sailing terms you’ll need. Being familiar with these terms will enable an instructor to impart information to you more easily, meaning that you’ll really get the most out of your sessions.

Tips for sailing beginners

Take instruction

Don’t try and teach yourself on the water. Not only is this dangerous, it is also likely to be a time consuming and therefore costly. By all means invest some time learning the basics from guides and books, but practical instruction should come from someone with good sailing experience. A good sailing course is worth investing in.

Start in calm, uncrowded waters

One of the best tips for sailing beginners we can give is to start out in calm and quiet waters. Nobody wants to be starting out in rough open waters or surrounded by boats containing skilled yachtsmen who clearly know what they are doing. If you’re just starting to master the basics, then start out in conditions where winds are light and traffic is low. A contained marina is perhaps the safest option.

Start small

Like no-one chooses to learn to drive using a bus, the same applies to sailing. Start with a small boat, ideally a small dinghy. This will be much more responsive and easy to manoeuvre. It will also be far easier to deal with in the event of capsizing, which you will inevitably do as some point.

Check conditions

Once you are ready to go out alone, it always pays to check conditions beforehand.

Check information concerning tides, wind and weather conditions so that you are prepared for whatever may come your way. Be sure to have the right gear and provisions as required.

Capsize!

No we’re not crazy, but you really need to have practised how to deal with your boat capsizing. It is better to do this within a controlled environment where there is help at hand, rather than confronting this eventuality when you are in open water. Trust us, you will capsize at some point, so a test-capsize is essential.

Boom or bust

Watch out for the boom – the horizontal pole that extends from the bottom of a mast – as it can cause injury or even send you overboard. The boom is most commonly responsible for onboard injuries, so always keep a watch for when the boom is about to swing. It might just save you a major headache or worse.

Safety first

Your safety is of paramount importance. No matter what your level of experience there are certain safety precautions that should always apply. These include informing people of your intention to head out on the water, wearing a floatation jacket, and of course, being able to swim.

Know the right-of-way

It’s not a sailing free-for-all out there – there are rules to govern how sailing craft should manoeuvre to ensure they do not collide with one another. How you move is based on many variables including what side the wind is on, what type of craft it is, whether you are planning to overtake. Get familiar with these nautical rules to prevent mishap.

Always maintain a lookout

It may seem obvious, but always look where you are going! Sailing is fun but there are plenty of other craft out there, so maintain a proper lookout using both your eyes and ears to help prevent collisions. To give you sufficient time to respond to danger you should always maintain a safe speed.

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