A beginners guide: Get started in sailing

Interested in sailing? Find your local club or training centre and get out on the water this summer!


If you want to know more about how to get started in sailing, you’ve come to the right place.

Here are the RYA’s top tips to help you get afloat this season…

Where it all begins

If you want to give sailing and windsurfing a go, the best place to get started is your local sailing club or training centre.

With more than 2,000 RYA affiliated clubs and recognised training centres in the UK, and even more overseas, there’s bound to be one near you

Located around the coast and on inland waters, you only need to look at the home sailing venues of our Olympic medallists to see just how widely spread our clubs and centres are.

boats on the shore

Something for everyone

From windsurfing and dinghy sailing to larger keelboats and yachts – there are so many ways to learn to sail and enjoy time afloat.

Whether you want to potter about exploring your local stretch of water, join a sailing club, or get competitive on the racecourse, there’s something for everyone.

Learning in a dinghy is a great way to start sailing. Single-handers (boats sailed by one person) are a popular choice and can be the quickest way to learn. This is owed to their lightweight design, making them easy to rig and launch.

If you don’t fancy being in a boat alone, double-handers or keelboats may be for you. These are larger boats designed to be sailed by two or more people, offering an enjoyable way to learn with others aboard.

Once you’ve mastered the basics, there are plenty of opportunities to continue to develop your skills and have fun on the water. Maybe getting involved in club racing, venturing further afield dinghy cruising, or feeling the thrill of flying across the water sail or wind foiling.

Training courses and qualifications

With more than 100 RYA courses to choose from, there’s something for every age, ability, and interest. The choice is yours.

The National and Youth Sailing and Windsurfing training schemes are perfect for anyone wanting to learn to sail or windsurf. The short courses can be run over a number of sessions, or two full days. Courses will see you progress quickly from beginner to expert in a controlled, safe, and enjoyable environment.

Options include training at your local club or centre or booking a course to coincide with your holiday - either in the UK or overseas. As well as benefiting from the expertise of an RYA instructor, all the equipment you’ll need is provided and some centres will also offer all-in-one options including accommodation and catering.

shoreside training

The club scene

Local sailing and boating clubs offer opportunities to get on the water with a range of sailing, cruising, racing, courses, and events for all abilities.

Many have boats to hire or borrow for free and are also a great place to find people who may need crew. They also have youth and family weeks as well as opportunities to try other watersports like paddle boarding and kayaking.

It’s no surprise that in recent years approximately 21,000 people joined their local sailing club. Every club is different, so ask and compare to find what best suits your lifestyle and social expectations.


Sailing can often be perceived as an expensive activity but can be very affordable, especially when compared to the cost of a gym or a football season ticket. 

Clubs often have boats you can hire on a ‘pay and play’ basis, as well as discounts on courses for members. Best of all, there will always be plenty of people around to help you put your skills to practice.

#DiscoverSailing taster sessions

Venues across the UK are running #DiscoverSailing sessions this summer, inviting you to come and ‘have a go’ for very little cost or free.

You don’t need any previous experience to enjoy a taster session and many venues will welcome all ages.
It’s also a great opportunity to check out what your local venue has to offer including membership deals and offers on courses.


RYA Sailability offers a level playing field for disabled sailors with activities for young people, adults, and groups – all at your pace and adapted to your abilities.
There are more than 200 RYA Sailability sites across the UK and further afield welcoming people with disabilities to enjoy the outdoors, experience freedom on the water, and learn new skills. 

sailing with a wheelchair

Young sailors

The RYA’s OnBoard programme aims to provide safe, fun and equal access to sailing and windsurfing for anyone aged 8-18.

No experience is required and the basics can be learnt easily in a couple of weeks or over a number of sessions (usually run between the spring and autumn).

As well as making friends and having heaps of fun, children will learn to sail at affordable sessions with expert instructors and learn skills for life. Find out more about RYA OnBoard.  

After school activities and holiday clubs

Taking a course at an RYA training centre is one of the quickest and easiest ways for youngsters to learn to sail or windsurf. Most centres offer courses and sessions for children from eight-years-old, sometimes younger.

Many centres offer both after school sessions and holiday clubs to fit in around other commitments. A number will accept childcare vouchers so it’s worth checking what’s covered.

Feeling the benefit

Great fun and rewarding to learn, sailing, and windsurfing also offer a chance to get active and enjoy time outdoors. Being on the water has been shown to benefit both our health and wellbeing and it couldn’t be easier to give it a go.

“Luckily, we have a wealth of coastline, lakes, and waterways for people to find a bit of escapism and benefit from the positive effects associated with being outdoors and on the water, explains Rob Clark, RYA Director of Sport Development.

“Newcomers to watersports might want to take a course locally or on holiday, while those who are experienced might like to develop their skills or try new activities like racing.

“There are so many opportunities to get away from it all.”

Kickstart your sailing journey by learning more about how to get started in sailing.