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2: Dinghy sailing

The RYA National Sailing Scheme is a series of two-day sessions for those wanting to learn dinghy, multihull or small keelboat sailing. It’s designed to help participants enjoy whichever aspect of the sport appeals most, with the two-day format of each element making it relatively easy to fit into even the busiest of schedules. Alternatively, several elements can be combined to create a longer intensive programme, or each one can be spread out over a series of summer evenings. Levels 1 is an introduction to the sport covering the minimum knowledge needed to get afloat under supervision, while Level 2 covers the basic skills that form the grounding of becoming a competent sailor in light winds.

The courses may be taught in a variety of boats — some are larger crewed dinghies in which three or four students will sail with an instructor in the boat, while others are smaller dinghies that you sail on your own. The latter may at first sound daunting, but it’s actually relatively easy to gain the fundamentals of controlling a boat in this fashion, and you get to spend longer actually on the helm. You will also tend to be closer to the water, will be likely to sail faster and will be more liable to get wet — but that’s no problem if you’re wearing the appropriate gear — and it can certainly add to the adrenaline factor.

Young people under the age of 16 normally start learning through the RYA’s Youth Sailing Scheme. This has four stages, with the first two being roughly equivalent to Level 1 of the adult scheme. Youth Stage 3 corresponds to Level 2, while Youth Stage 4 is an additional course to give those who have trained in singlehanded boats the opportunity to sail a crewed dinghy.

After completing Level 2 (or Stage 4 for those on the Youth Sailing Scheme), there are five further options. Sailing with Spinnakers introduces how to rig the boat, gybe and recover either a conventional or asymmetric spinnaker (two courses are therefore needed to cover both types). Start Racing is an introduction to club racing, covering starting procedures and the essentials for getting around the course, including an introduction to the racing rules of sailing. Performance Sailing provides coaching to improve your handling and confidence in planing dinghies — and is an obvious help to those who intend to race.

The two remaining options may be less appealing to those who primarily intend to race, but they nonetheless will help to increase your skills base, especially if you sail on the sea. Seamanship Skills covers boat handling and solving problems afloat, enabling you to build your skills so that you can sail independently, while Day Sailing looks at planning and decision making for small boat cruising.


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Close to 200,000 people complete an RYA training course each year in the UK

Next page:3 Keelboats and multihulls

These have a weighted keel for stability and resistance to capsize

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