What to wear sailing

Intrigued by sailing but not sure where to begin or what you need? Get advice from The RYA on what to wear when out sailing on the water.

Wide shot of two children happily sailing on a dinghy

Sailing boats come in all sizes, and different types of boat require slightly different kit. Here are some tips from the RYA on what to wear sailing so you can be safe and comfortable on the water.

What to wear in a small sailing boat (dinghy)



Dinghies are smaller boats that can be sailed by one or two people and offer a great way to learn the basics of sailing. You’re closer to the water and you can experience more of a splash, or even the occasional capsize when learning, so be prepared to get a little wet, especially at the start.

If you’re taking part in a course or taster session with an RYA centre or club, the instructors will provide all the equipment you need to stay safe on the water, including a buoyancy aid or lifejacket. 

You will need:

  • A buoyancy aid is essential
  • A wetsuit 
  • Water-friendly shoes or old trainers.
  • Waterproofs are important - a jacket with hood or trousers for younger sailors 
  • A cap in the summer or woolly hat in the cooler months
  • Sunglasses (with a glasses band or tied on with string) 
  • An optional extra is a dry bag, to keep your belongings dry
  • Sunscreen, whatever the weather – the effect of the sun is more intense on the water

What to wear sailing a yacht

Wide shot of crew on training day

Yacht sailing offers a more comfortable adventure, as some larger boats are equipped with toilets and kitchen facilities. Although you’re less likely to contact the water, be prepared for rain and ocean spray. It's a good idea to dress in layers, so you can warm up by adding or removing as needed.

You will need:

  • A lifejacket is essential
  • A decent raincoat with a hood
  • Waterproof trousers (may not be needed in warmer climates)
  • A jumper or fleece 
  • Mid layers - a t-shirt or a long-sleeved top
  • Comfortable and lightweight trousers or shorts 
  • A cap in the summer or woolly hat or beanie in the cooler months
  • Sunglasses (with a glasses band or tied on with string) 
  • Non-slip shoes or sailing boots
  • A drybag that can be easily carried and stowed away.

The RYA is the national governing body for dinghy, motor and sail cruising, all forms of sail racing, RIBs and sportsboats, windsurfing and personal watercraft.

Discover opportunities at your local sailing club or training centre and explore the RYA sailing courses that accommodate everyone from beginners to those wanting to learn more.