Stay afloat all year round

Why, when the evenings start drawing in, do you think about packing your boat or windsurfing kit up until next spring?

Female windsurf in cold weather gear

Is it because thoughts of the cold aren’t appealing? You think no one else is doing anything? Or simply because sailing and windsurfing are summer sports right?

With developments in clothing, equipment and forecasting better than ever, plus plenty of events taking place throughout the year, ask yourself again, why do you stop doing something you love for six months? 

“Everything you need is in place to stay out on the water” explains Amanda Van Santen, former RYA Chief Windsurfing and Dinghy Instructor.

“The UK tends to get some good low pressure systems moving through during the autumn and winter months providing some excellent sailing conditions.

“I always feel the consistent South-Westerly winds can give a more exhilarating and challenging experience. The weather is colder, but that is soon outweighed by the nice, satisfying tingle to your body as you warm up after a great sail!”

“Social media and messenger app are another great way to stay afloat. A local group I sail with has a WhatsApp group, this really helps with getting on the water as you know when others will be going out, as well as it being a real motivation!! You will find similar groups set up in your local area, and if not, why not set one up?”

Credit Tim Olin

The sea is at its warmest in autumn

Sea temperatures should be at their maximum into autumn, while inland water temperatures, although inevitably varying considerably depending on location, are typically colder than the sea. But they are still perfect for sailing!

Many inland and coastal sailing clubs have developed opportunities to enable everyone to stay out on the water into the autumn and beyond.

For experienced racers, Frostbite Series traditionally start early November and are very popular. A growing number of clubs recognise the value of being part of a local inter-club Frostbite series for encouraging genuine competition and a motivation to keep people coming back whatever the weather.

A quick Google search will tell you where the nearest Frostbite events are if your club doesn’t already participate. Meanwhile if you don’t have Frostbite sailing on your club calendar yet, is it something you could introduce as a new activity?

There’s also the Seldon Sailjuice Winter Series which is based around the UK’s biggest winter handicap events. The event typically attracts almost 100 different types of boats represented across the season. From fleets as diverse as the traditional Norfolk Punt and National 18 to emerging classes like the Hadron H2 singlehander.

Windsurfing in the autumn and winter is also a very exhilarating experience with the prevailing weather conditions and stronger winter winds bringing anything from flat water blasting to choppier, challenging waters.

Credit Tim Olin

Whatever activity you do, ensure common sense prevails and above all else be safe with our top tips...

With most equipment built to sail in all conditions there’s no reason why you can’t enjoy the sport all year round. Of course, just as you would in the summer, ensure you check all your equipment is suitable for the conditions and in good working order.

It doesn’t matter what you look like, the right, warm clothing makes for an enjoyable sail! But remember, cooler weather plus thicker wetsuits and layers can tire you out more quickly. Your body will tell you when it has had enough so listen to it.

The growth of mobile phone technology also means we’re never more than a quick App check away from the latest forecast. Weather patterns and systems can change quickly during the autumn and winter, so it’s good to stay on top of any diversions.

Don’t forget to download RYA Safetrx so you can plan your sail or journey, knowing that should you not arrive by the time given, a nominated emergency contact will be alerted and advised to initiate appropriate action.

All forms of boating, whether sailing or windsurfing offer a great excuse to socialise outdoors in a covid safe environment but especially as it gets cooler, always sail with others and pay careful attention to any changes in behaviour that might indicate someone is getting too cold or tired.

So put all your preconceptions aside and stay out on the water this autumn and winter. You will quickly realise what you’ve missing out on and find out just how satisfying a sport it is to enjoy all year round.

Join us at the RYA Dinghy & Watersports Show this February at Farnborough International for more dinghy and watersports advice, interactive family fun, live demos, coaching sessions and hundreds of boats and boards all under one roof.