Child and adult driving a boat

Learn to Sail

Learn to Sail

It is possible to start yacht sailing with very little experience, although we recommend that you take some training before leaving the quay. You will get much more out of the experience and ensure you have a safe experience. Typically yacht training will cover topics such as ropework, getting underway, clothing, equipment, emergency equipment and procedures, meteorology, the rules and regulations of sailing.

One of the most important things for you to know is that sailing boats are categorised into different ‘classes’ or types of boat depending on their size, design and the number of crew they can hold. Choosing a type of sailing ‘class’ depends partly on what type of sailing appeals to you and partly on what’s available within an acceptable travelling distance of home. Don’t worry though, you can always try out new areas of sailing at any time — in fact this is often the best way to figure out what you enjoy most, as well as helping to broaden your experience and knowledge base.

There are several training options available to you:

Sailing course or experiences

One of the best ways to learn to sail correctly and safely is to enrol on a yacht sailing course or experience with an RYA approved sailing school or centre.

The RYA has a comprehensive training scheme, which will provide you with the essential safety information and knowledge and confidence for you to continue. Many new sailors begin with a two day “Start Yachting” course before then progressing to the “Competent Crew” course. Competent crew status will give you all the skills necessary to crew other boat owners yachts. From this level there are endless opportunities with yacht sailing leading up to professional “Yachtmaster” and Instructor training courses.

To find out more about sailing courses please visit

RYA Start Sailing from £180

RYA Competent Crew from £399

Sailing clubs

Sailing clubs provide great training on reservoirs, rivers and lakes throughout the UK, with most people living less than an hour’s travel away from a club. Clubs are as diverse as the UK’s population, ranging from small inner-city sailing clubs, to clubs based on large bodies of water in the country to active coastal yacht clubs.

Being new can seem daunting at first, but it won’t take long before you get to know a few people and soon be a regular member of a crew participating in the club's sailing and social activities. This gives you the chance to get a 'feel' for the sport, to learn boat- handling techniques, safety procedures and to evaluate which type of boat you might eventually like to own.

To find a sailing club near you, click here >

Sailing holidays

If you are sailing for the first time, yacht charter has something for all levels of experience - it’s up to you to decide how much or how little crewing you want to do.

Hire a Captain (skippered holiday)
skippered holiday allows you to relax, or be as involved as you wish. A Captain brings years of sailing experience and a wealth of local knowledge to make sure that you make the most of your chosen sailing destination and your yacht.

Socialise (Flotilla holiday)
Flotilla holidays are the ultimate in social sailing and the perfect balance between independence and unobtrusive support.

Cruise in Luxury (Crewed holiday)
If you prefer to leave the sailing to a professional captain, crew and chef, whilst you focus on relaxing then a crewed holiday is a good option.  

See our boating holiday guide to find out more


One of the best ways to get started in yacht sailing is to crew for other boat owners. Large yachts need lots of people to sail them, and this gives you the ideal opportunity ask boat owners if you can crew for them. This is a great way to build your skills level, learning from people who are more experienced than yourself.

Before offering yourself as crew, you’ll need to get at least a small amount of experience. Many of the sailing schools, centres and clubs around the country can provide training to get you started. To find a suitable boat owner, ask around at a sailing club or visit an online forum.