For parents wanting to take their young
sailor on the road to an event, car-topping or trailing a boat to a different
club for the first time can be a daunting prospect - but sailing at a new venue
can also be a hugely rewarding experience.
Children who get hooked on the sport often
want to improve their racing skills by attending training and racing events at
other clubs - which for parents who have never taken a boat on tour before
raises a number of questions about how best to do this.
As Fiona Spence, Youth & Junior Sailing
Secretary at Ripon Sailing Club, explains: “It’s extremely daunting on a whole
number of levels but the rewards for me are that you sail at new places, see
different areas of the country, meet new people and make new friends.
"And for children it’s great because
it's an adventure. They get to have new experiences which stand them in good
stead socially, and they need to have a bit of resilience, take some
responsibility and be organised. It teaches them incredible life skills.
"Then when you come back to your own
club you’ve broadened your horizons. It makes you appreciate your home club,
you bring back fresh ideas, and you can see the bigger picture.”
Fiona says that for first-time travellers it
can be helpful to buddy up with someone who's done it before and perhaps has a
trailer big enough for more than one boat, while those wanting to car-top or
trail their own boat may want to ask seasoned travellers at their club for
Janet and David Bates from Ripon SC car-topped
their son Tom's boat for the first time in summer 2018 so he could compete at the RS Tera Worlds at Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy. Tom fell in love with the sport after an RYA Level
1&2 course and was wanting to travel more to take part in events.
"We're not sailors or even campers so it
was a completely new experience for us," says Janet. "But they've
been so encouraging at the club and the sailing community is so supportive; everyone
has time for us and answers our questions.
"We'd never even put a roof box on top
of our car but when your children want to do something you put your
reservations to one side, so we just did our research about what weight our car
will take and bought some Thule roof bars, and the first time we put the boat on
at the club people helped us to lift it. We tried it on a short drive back from
the club to get our confidence and then the first away trip was 300 miles to
"It is nerve-racking but if you think
about it calmly and you've got your straps and spare straps and you do that
little trail run to get in your comfort zone, and stop after not very long to
check it all, it's actually so easy. If anyone's got any doubts, just go for it,
because if we can do it anyone can do it!"
To help first-time travellers take to the
road with their sailor and boat, Fiona has helped RYA North East to compile a checklist of tips:
- Car-topping v. trailing: If you are not very tall, you may find it
easier to get a boat on and off a trailer than the roof of a car. Trailing may
also be more suitable for your car.
- Weight: Check in your car manual whether yours is suitable for the
weight you propose roof-racking, and likewise if trailing, ensure the
trailer/boat weight does not exceed the gross limit for the car. Most cars have
a maximum weight they can tow, usually listed in the handbook or specification
sheet. Alternatively the vehicle’s ‘gross train weight’ of the fully loaded car
plus trailer may be listed on the vehicle identification number (VIN) plate,
normally under the bonnet or inside the driver’s door.
- Road trailers: For towing you will need a road trailer. “Combi”
trailers are those which fit the dinghy trolley used in the boat park, others
are generic road/boat trailers, so check they are a suitable size for your
dinghy. If you think another child in the family may also soon want to start
sailing/travelling, look out for a double or triple-stacker; some come with a
handy box at the bottom for throwing in sailing and camping kit.
- Driving licence: There are rules on what you can tow depending on
when you passed your test. Check you have a driving licence that allows you to
tow your trailer - if you passed your test before 1 January 1997 you’re usually allowed to
drive a vehicle and trailer combination up to 8,250kg MAM (Maximum
Authorised Mass). If you
passed your test after this date you may need to take an additional test. Visit https://www.gov.uk/towing-with-car to find out
- Tow bar: When fitting a tow bar to your car it needs to be ‘type approved’, meaning
it meets EU regulations and is designed for
your car. Use a breakaway cable or secondary coupling in case the trailer
becomes detached from the car.
- Tyres: Your trailer must have road-legal tyres and also have a
spare wheel, which you must carry with you when you travel!
- Loading: The weight needs to be distributed evenly on the roof or over
the trailer axle; not towards the tow bar hitch as this will affect safety and
- Tying down: Use straps or ropes to tie down the boat and again,
ask other club members who regularly travel for their advice; if roof-racking
make sure the bars are man enough for the job! Ensure the boat is also tied
down front and back to prevent it sliding forwards or backwards off your car or
trailer, for example in the event of an emergency stop. No matter how well
you’ve secured your boat, this is good for belt-and-braces safety.
- Ratchet straps: If you are using these do not ratchet them so
tight that they start to crush the hull. Many sailors use ropes - with bits of
carpet underneath at contact points - to avoid damaging their boat.
- Lessons: Ask seasoned travellers at your club for tips; if you are
nervous about towing for the first time, take a short trip around the block
first to gain some confidence, or better still have a lesson with a driving
school which specialises in trailers; this can also really help with learning
how to reverse a trailer.
- Number plate: Legally you must have a working lighting board with
the correct number plate for your car. Check the lights actually work before
you set off!
- Rules of the road: Towing cars are not allowed in the outside fast
lane on a motorway and the speed limit is 60mph; on dual carriageways the speed
limit is 60mph, and on single-carriageway roads the speed limit is reduced to
50mph. Leave extra stopping distance between you and the car in front.
- Safety checks: There is a handy guide here.
Fiona adds: “My advice to new members is
don’t do this when you're in a hurry, take a trip around the block and get used
to driving a trailer, even before you put the boat on it, and take it steady.
Also factor in an extra hour once you're there to unload and sort out your
As a relatively new parent to the sport,
Janet adds the following advice: "Get involved when you get there, even if
you're a non-sailor and it's only on shore with a radio passing on messages, do
as much as you can. Just being there and talking to other parents and helping
the children is great because you learn so much and it's a good way to make
"It's a fantastic atmosphere, the
sailing community is great to be around, and for me as a mum, seeing Tom's face
when he comes off the water just makes it all worthwhile. Their sense of achievement
is rewarding and enabling him to do what he's so passionate about is fab.
never thought for a second when we joined Ripon two years ago we'd have done
all this. I just thought he'd sail at Ripon. But it's been amazing and we've