Keeping the show on the road 

Towing safely more features

The British Sailing Team and Volvo Car UK offer top tips for safe towing as the sailing season begins in earnest

One of the most daunting parts of being a sailor or a sailing parent is towing a boat for the first time. How do you know if your car’s got enough ‘oomph’ for the trailer? Will the boat be secure during the whole journey? What about corners and parking?

But once you’ve got the knowhow, the world’s your sailing playground.

Volvo Car UK has supported British sailing since 1997. During that time the cars have become firmly established in the sailing community as the most reliable, comfortable and safe vehicles for boat towing.

Additionally when Britain’s sailors stand atop podiums worldwide, behind every medal are thousands and thousands of miles travelled to train and compete to get each sailor to that moment.

Each competition year the British Sailing Team sailors and support staff regularly tow boats to many European venues, including Palma (Majorca), Hyeres (south of France), Medemblik (Netherlands), Kiel (Germany) and wherever the class European, and possibly World, Championships are that year. To get to Hyeres, for example, is a 12-hour, 1,200km drive once the ferry arrives in Calais!

Towing – the basics

Good towing technique is largely about practical common sense and adjusting your driving accordingly – allow greater breaking distance, turn slower, accelerate more gently and remember when you are changing lanes you have got a boat behind you!

An added bonus of towing a boat, compared to a caravan for example, is your wing and/or rear view mirror visibility is rarely as obstructed, if at all.

Are you licensed to tow? Drivers who passed their test since 1 January 1997 and wish to tow a trailer with a Maximum Authorised Mass (MAM) over 750kg, or with a car whose MAM is less than 3,500kg, need to do a Category B+E Test.

In terms of the tow itself, it is highly recommended you tow a trailer weighing less than 85% of the towing vehicle’s ‘kerb weight’. The kerb weight equals the vehicle weight plus a 90% full tank, 68kg for the driver and 7kg for luggage. The heavier the trailer is in relation to the car the harder it is to get the trailer to follow in a straight line behind. Not sticking to these ratios can at best make the tow unstable or hinder performance, especially going uphill or if the weather and/or terrain conditions change, and at worst make you a significant danger on the road.

Top tips for towing in the UK:

* Always drive at a speed well within your capabilities for the road and weather conditions at the time.

* Always keep to the legal speed limit for the road you are on.

* If you are towing a trailer you must not travel in the right-hand lane of a motorway, with three lanes or more.

* If your trailer begins to snake or swerve, ease off the accelerator and reduce speed gently - this can happen if you are driving too fast or the trailer load is badly positioned.

* Load positioning is crucial in maintaining control – where possible put heavier items over the axle and secure them to stop them moving when braking or going round corners

* Do not brake sharply on a bend as this could cause a possible jack-knife. Reduce speed before the bend, select the appropriate gear for your speed then gently accelerate out of the bend.

* Volvo towbars are designed especially for your Volvo model with specific mounting points designed to fit securely and safely whilst ensuring the correct height of the towball - available in both fixed and detachable versions.

* The Traction Control system on the car is modified to detect ‘snaking’ caused by the trailer. The system brakes the necessary wheel and reduces engine power when necessary to control the situation.

Volvo towing clinics at events such as the RYA Dinghy Show and UK Volvo Optimist regattas are always popular, providing a hands-on opportunity to improve towing skills with hints and tips on theory, like on towing capacity and terrain and climate considerations, and practical exercises like reverse parking a dinghy in tight space.

Thanks to Volvo's RYA Affinity programme, it's possible for RYA Members to drive a great deal on a new car. Find out more at