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How do I learn to sail?

October 29, 2020

James Turin

Editor @ SailEasy

Start with the kind of sailing you would like to do

Do you want to do racing, daysailing, coastal cruising, or long-term passage-making live-aboard? By far the most popular choices are day sailing and coastal cruising. Coastal cruising takes place on a sailing or motor yacht that is suitable for long-distance travel and offers enough amenities to live aboard the boat, yet is small enough to not require a professional crew. This kind of sailing requires knowledge about boat handling, navigation and some technical knowledge about the boat itself. Day sailing is very similar but does not require being able to sleep on the boat or do complicated navigation, and hence can be done on smaller and simpler boats. Most racing takes place on yachts that are built for racing and are typically very fast but also very spartan. While racing does typically not formally require any course work, it does require very in-depth knowledge of boat handling and sailing trim to be able to be successful!

Cruising is one of the most popular forms of sailing

Determine whether you need a boating license or other qualification

First, there is the regulation side of this question: Whilst offshore sailing regulations do not require a licence, to sail on any inland waterways in the UK, such as the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads, you’ll need one. To get a boat licence, you a boat safety scheme certificate (BSSC) and boat insurance 

Second, charter companies might require a boating license: Most UK charter companies will require a RYA Day Skipper qualification as a starting point, and depending on the kind of voyages you plan on doing, it can be advisable to also get the RYA Yachtmaster Offshore Certificate. Internationally, to rent a boat in most countries you’ll need an recognized boat license mostly an ‘international certificate of competency’ (ICC) and sometimes a Radio Licence. The ICC proves the holder has undergone formal training and has all the necessary boating skills to manage a vessel in international waters. If you have a licence from your home country, you can usually fill out an ICC application and send it in with proof of your current licence to receive an ICC certificate. Often, international charter companies also accept RYA qualifications. The best way to determine what kind of licence you will need — depending on destination and boat type — is to ask the charter you book with

Pick the right course for you & start sailing!

This is what SailEasy is set up for! Use our website to filter based on the countries you’d like to do your course in and based on what kind of courses are on offer. When picking a country it’s wise to not only consider which areas you like most but also the difficulty of the sailing there. Sailing Choices provides a really good intro on most sailing areas. If the courses section does not yet have what you are looking for, please reach out and our team will be very happy to help you find the right course. Last but not least, after learning the basics, one of the best ways to further build experience and confidence is to make as many nautical miles as possible, both as crew or as a skipper!