Changing class

How to choose the right class for you

Changing class, like changing school, can be daunting for young sailors and the choices can be confusing for parents too. The reality of going from being one of the most experienced in a junior class to relative newcomer in a youth class, coupled with new skills to learn, a tougher physical challenge and a new peer group can be unnerving. 

Fortunately, there is a lot of help at hand and just like school it won’t be long before you feel right at home.  It is important to make the right choices and the RYA and our coaches are here to help. Here are some tips to help:

When to start thinking about transitioning

Being a good physical fit for the boat you sail Is very much part of a young sailor’s enjoyment of the sport. As sailors grow and develop their ideal boat will also change. It's best to always have an idea of what may come next on your journey. It is tempting to stay in your existing class longer to stay with your friends and to try to win events, and sometimes this can build your confidence.

But beware as getting too big for your current boat can lead to poor results and a loss of enjoyment. Likewise, if you transition too early you may not be physically or mentally ready for the new challenge. There is no right answer so you should change class when you feel ready but bear in mind the majority make the mistake of staying in a boat for too long and on reflection will say they should have transitioned a little sooner.

What to do next

Sailors thinking about changing class should consider a whole host of different factors:

  • Do you enjoy sailing on your own or as part of a team?
  • Do you have a teammate in mind? How might you find one?
  • Do like helming or taking a more strategic role?
  • Do you like a technical challenge?
  • What boat might ‘fit’ you best for your size?
  • What boast are raced locally to you?
  • Is speed your thing?
  • Do you thrive on the physical challenge?
  • What is affordable?

Think about what excites you most in your sailing and come up with your own questions. Talk to your coach and parents to help you understand this and work through your questions.

Take advantage of any opportunities to try out different boats. Many clubs and classes will run ‘try a boat’ days or have club or class boats that can be borrowed.

Then once you are ready, join the relevant class association and sign up for its open training programme. There are RYA coaches working within these programmes who will tailor training to the needs of the transitioning sailors.

Once you are in a new class it is important to take time training and learning how to sail your new boat before considering performance and racing. Don’t expect too much too soon by setting yourself some realistic goals. It can take years to master a new class of boat but learning new skills is very satisfying – along with seeing your results improve!

Thinking of changing class?

Check out our six-part web series guiding you through the process of moving class