When you see the €10 million team Volvo Ocean Race boats going around the world at speed, or the America’s Cup foiling catamarans screaming around San Francisco Bay, you may be forgiven for assuming that sailing is for rich people with nothing better to do with their time.
When you realise that 99% of sailors will never set foot on a VOR 65 Volvo Ocean Race boat or an AC45 racing catamaran (or often enough, never see one away from the TV screen) you will begin to understand that sailing is not just a rich man’s hobby.
This article will look at cheap and cheerful ways of entering the sport of sailing.
Yachting is one of the cheapest sports to get in overall. This might sound nuts considering a new yacht can set you back the wrong end of £100,000! Let’s look at how you can sail a yacht regularly for less than £1000, and just pay for beer and club membership there after…
First you need to learn whether you like sailing at all. This could mean doing an RYA Start Yachting course, or, for far cheaper, getting down to your local sailing club on a race day and offering yourself as crew. Admit you know nothing, and want to learn. Often enough you will find someone short of crew who needs someone to pull a rope and make good conversation while racing around the buoys on a Sunday morning. All you need is some wet weather gear – everyone has a raincoat!
If you want to get serious about crewing, perhaps making yourself useful on longer cruises or knowing what’s going on in the cockpit during a race as people charge around getting the boat to do its best on a race, an RYA Competent Crew course will cost you around £500.
This is a 5 day course that will make you a useful and competent crew member on a boat. In theory you can take this with you anywhere in the world, as the RYA is so well respected and well known. You could fly to the Canaries on a cheap holiday and join in on a race day at the sailing club…
As well as the £500 investment in your sailing qualifications you’ll need some decent sailing wet weather gear and some deck shoes. All in, that will set you back around £300 (approx. $450). From there you just need club membership and off you go.
Look up Crewseekers.net which connects yacht owners with crew. Through this website you can help a yacht owner sail across the English Channel or right across the Pacific. It just depends on what time you have and where you want to go. Membership is £95 (approx. $140) annually.
You might be reading this in disbelief? I have raced yachts on Boston Harbour in the US, the Bay of Roses and other places up and down the UK south coast. This is how I have sailed regularly for many years, and only in my 40th year have I got myself a boat for the first time…
I joined my local sailing club this year for £200 (around $300). I initially used their boats at £15 a session, but ended up finding £1000 for a very good Supernova single handed dinghy. That will cost me £20 a year to keep at the club.
If unlike me you’re a complete novice and need to learn to sail, most dinghy clubs will charge around £150 to teach you the basics of sailing. Another £500 for a tatty second hand boat and you’re off and away… A wetsuit will set you back less than £100, and a buoyancy aid another £25. Total? Just under £1000 all in, or around $1500.
Everyone wants to sail a beautiful, comfortable boat at some stage but at first you’ll just need a boat that will forgive your mistakes. The faster the boat, by and large the more of a chance of getting wet and ending up upside down.
Dinghy sailing teaches you more about sailing than yachting. Dinghies are just about sailing with a little theory where yachting is about navigation, engine safety, passage planning, as well as making lunch for the crew and keeping your own lunch down in rough conditions!
Dinghies are about getting from A-B on relatively sheltered waters. Most dinghy sailors race, and this is about trimming your sails, reading the waters and setting the best course between two points. Race tactics and meteorology are about the only theory you will learn.
Moving onto yachts from dinghies though, you will find yourself a much better sailor from the finely tuned techniques of dinghy sailing. With good dinghy skills you can make yourself extremely useful as a crew member at a yacht club’s Sunday racing series!
And finally, if you’re considering buying a second hand boat we can recommend the following links;