Many of us consider ourselves to be “DIY” types. We are confident that by watching a Youtube video, it will provide us with all the necessary information to install a garbage disposal, throw a football or drive a stick shift. It’s true that in many situations, these videos can be a great starting point. If you’re trying to teach yourself how to sail, however, you’re going to need more “hands-on deck” training. Moving a sailboat around can be easy, but to do it safely and expertly, will take practice and guidance. Getting proper help from trained professionals provides you with the knowledge and skills to be confident in the water. It can also mean the difference between a life or death situation.

The Basics of Boat Handling

Before heading out on the water, you should learn the basics. The basics of sailing include being familiar with the wind and what direction it’s blowing, steering the boat, and controlling the sail. The wind is a natural factor that we don’t have much control over, so you learn to work with it to decide the direction your boat will sail. At first, it can be tricky to tell which direction the wind is blowing, but many boats have the equipment to help you. Steering a boat can be challenging so get familiar with the tiller and rudder, and how they move. Learn and practice how to turn, tack and jibe. And lastly, controlling the tension of the sail to orient it at just the right angle relative to the wind will drive the boat forward. This is known as, trimming the sail. Throughout your sailing journey, you will continue to keep these factors–wind direction, steering and trimming the sail– in mind as you control the boat. Even though it’s only three factors, it’s a lot to remember and a professional can help you find the best ways to manage the tasks.


The Royal Yachting Association (RYA) is a membership organization with many schools located throughout the United Kingdom that can get you the skills and certification needed. They offer small boat and yacht sailing, and windsurfing courses. The courses are taught with specialized RYA training charts, almanacs, and simulated GPS plotter. The programs are tailored for adult or youth audiences. The youth program is called Onboard and offers windsurfing and sailing courses through students’ PE program. As a member of the RYA, you are provided with knowledge products like a magazine, e-newsletter, members-only website and a card with access to discounts and rewards. As a one-stop information guide to getting you started, the RYA website or any of their schools have extensive course offerings from sailing clubs near you.

Sailing Clubs

Sailing clubs are great for meeting fellow sailing companions. There might provide social sailing sessions that give you the opportunity to practice your skills, or there might be boat owners who welcome beginners as crew members. Your local sailing club might even have boats that members can rent or borrow for free.

In short, you can watch a video and teach yourself to sail, but we recommend enrolling in a course at a sailing school. Sailing schools offer expert instruction, courses to learn and practice new skills, and a social circle that provides you with the confidence and skills to keep you are safe on the water.