Getting Started in Yacht Racing

So I’ve got your attention. You want to try sailing. How do you get started? There are many opportunities, some better than others.

Crew for someone else

First things first. Sailing is not for everyone. Either you love it or you don’t and you need to find out if this is what you really want to do. So, take a trip down to the closest yacht club, beg a ride and see for yourself. How do you feel about the boat heeling over or drifting aimlessly? Is this for you? Having decided you like it, you will want to learn how to sail. The least expensive and often the best way to learn is crewing on someone else’s boat. You will have the opportunity to learn each position without worrying about what is happening in the rest of the boat. Just about everyone in this sport is shorthanded so you shouldn’t have any trouble finding a boat to sail on. The slower boats tend to be better for novices. There’s less shouting and more patience. Check out your local non-spinnaker club. Find a ride and go sailing. The best way to learn is to roll up your sleeves and dive into it.

Take a course

Unless you have a really good skipper willing to spend hours upon hours on your education you won’t be able to learn everything you need to know on the race course. I highly recommend you take a Boating Safety course. Many states now insist you take a course before you skipper your own boat.

Safety courses and higher level courses are offered by the United States Power Squadron, the Coast Guard Auxiliary and many state and private organizations. They are usually inexpensive, often free and well worth the time and effort. As you become more experienced you might consider a sailing course. These are offered by licensed and unlicensed instructors in most ports around the world. Sailing courses are structured from “Basic” to “Advanced” and help you hone your sailing skills.

Vacation on a crewed charter

Many charter companies offer instructional charters. The boat is skippered by an experienced seaman which is reassuring when venturing into unknown waters. You can combine a wonderful relaxing vacation with personal instruction and become certified to handle a chartered boat so the next time you can venture out on your own.

Buy a boat

And finally you are ready to skipper your own boat. You have learned the rules of the road and practiced your sailing skill and you are now something less than a hazard to others. I put buying a boat as last because I have seen so many people just buy a boat and head for the open sea only to find themselves in danger. Learn the rules and sailing skills before you invest in your dream and you will have a lifetime of pleasure and personal satisfaction.

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