Not many activities provide the same sense of freedom and adventure as dinghy sailing. You can go sailing all year round, all over the world, exploring lakes, rivers, reservoirs and the open seas.
Sounds exciting, doesn’t it? However, if you’re a dinghy sailing novice, there are a few things you need to know before getting started.
With that in mind, here are our 5 dinghy sailing tips for beginners.
Make sure you’ve got the right clothing
Knowing exactly what to wear when dinghy sailing can prove difficult, especially if you’re new to it.
There are so many factors to consider when you’re buying dinghy clothing, such as your budget and the time of year. However, there are a few essential garments you’ll need, whatever the weather.
Firstly, a wetsuit. A wetsuit is made from a synthetic rubber called neoprene and keeps you warm by trapping water between the neoprene and your skin, effectively forming a layer to keep you from getting cold. You’ll need a full wetsuit to keep you sufficiently warm most of the year, but if you’re dinghy sailing in the height of summer you may want to opt for a shortie wetsuit, without arms or legs.
Another essential item of dinghy clothing is the buoyancy aid. This helps you stay afloat if you capsize – and the likelihood is you’ll capsize numerous times to begin with! Your buoyancy aid should fit your physique and shouldn’t feel too loose or too tight.
Dinghy boots, sailing gloves and waterproof spray tops are among the other items you’ll want to invest in before going dinghy sailing.
Related: Dinghy Sailing: What Should I Wear?
Learn some common dinghy sailing terms
One of the most challenging aspects of dinghy sailing for beginners is getting to grips with the lingo.
Whilst you’re not expected to be an expert in this area if you’re just starting out, knowing some of these key phrases will improve your understanding of dinghy sailing:
Aft: the back of the boat (also known as the stern).
Bow: the front of the boat.
Port: the left-hand side of the boat when you are facing the front (bow).
Starboard: the right-hand side of the boat when you are facing the front (bow).
Windward: the side of the boat which the wind blows onto.
Leeward: the opposite side to the windward side.
Boom: the boom is the horizontal pole that extends from the bottom of the mast. Adjusting the angle of the boom to the wind is how the dinghy harnesses the wind power.
Rudder: connected to the tiller (steering stick) sits at the back of the boat and is a flat piece of wood, fibreglass or metal used to steer the dinghy.
Helm: where you steer the boat. Usually this is a big wheel, but on smaller boats it can be a tiller, which is basically a long wooden stick. Either of these can be used to control the boat’s rudder.
Jib: the smaller triangular sail attached to the bow (front).
This is just a selection of phrases which are used by seasoned dinghy sailors. If you fancy taking your knowledge to the next level, check out this comprehensive list of nautical sailing terms!
Decide where and how you want to practise
If you know your dinghy sailing terminology, it’s time to put this into practice by finding a sailing club near you!
Sailing clubs offer a wide range of training courses covering different aspects of dinghy sailing, whether you want to learn about cruising, racing, or a bit of everything! They also provide the opportunity to network with other boat owners and practise sailing in a safe and fun environment.
The RYA (Royal Yachting Association) is the sport's governing body for sailing and its courses are respected the world over. Simply enter your location details on the RYA website and you’ll be shown the clubs and training courses near you. Ideally, you want to train at a centre which offers various courses, so you can broaden your skillset as much as possible!
There are other ways to practise dinghy sailing, in addition to joining a sailing club. The Dinghy Cruising Association (DCA) welcome beginners on their cruising rallies and the best part is, you don’t need to own a dinghy to take part.
However you choose to sail, the key is not to try and learn everything at once. Be realistic about what you can achieve in your first few sessions and don’t get too down on yourself if you capsize a few times!
For more information on the basics of dinghy sailing, check out this instructional video from the RYA below.
Buy a dinghy – and consider these factors…
Once you’ve gained some knowledge and experience of dinghy sailing, it’s time to buy your first dinghy!
There a few factors you should consider first, though, as buying a sailing dinghy is an important investment.
The main thing you need to consider is where and how you’ll be using your dinghy. Will you be using it for recreational sailing, cruising, racing or a combination of all three? Will you be going out on inland waters, the sea or both?
Another key consideration is your budget. This will dictate whether you buy a new or second-hand dinghy (there are pros and cons to both) and how much you can afford to spend on maintenance and accessories later down the line.
If you buy second-hand, make sure you buy from an experienced dealer. This way, you know the boat you’re buying is of the highest quality and has passed comprehensive checks by professional technicians.
There’s also the question of whether to buy through a broker or buy privately. If you buy privately, you won't be protected legally if the craft has a hidden history or faults, so it's down to you to ask the right questions and ensure the boat is in a suitable condition.
We would always advise you to try before you buy if you see a dinghy you like. If it’s sailed at a club, ask a member if you can try their boat. Some manufacturers will let you try a boat before you purchase it.
Finally, it helps to have a second pair of eyes. If you know a seasoned dinghy sailor, take them along to your boat viewing. They might spot certain things that you won’t.
Get specialist dinghy insurance
If you’ve bought a dinghy, you need dinghy insurance. Without this insurance, you could hit the rocks financially and your dinghy sailing dreams could be over.
Dinghy insurance covers you for several eventualities, including theft, damage and injury to another sailor.
At Insure4Boats, we provide Boat (Hull & Machinery) & Third Party Liability Dinghy insurance to protect your dinghy against theft, accidental damage, malicious damage and salvage charges. You’re also covered for races that are organised by your sailing club, as well as those organised by other local clubs.
What’s more, we provide up to £3 million Third Party Liability cover as standard on all our dinghy insurance policies. This cover protects your liability if you have an accident that damages another boat, property or injures a person.
Our dinghy insurance doesn’t just apply to the UK, either. If you’re thinking of dinghy sailing abroad, we provide European cover as an optional extra. This ensures you can sail your dinghy for up to 60 days at any one time in Europe’s inland and coastal waters.
Better yet, we even offer a Lowest Price Guarantee, so you can be sure you’re getting the best value dinghy insurance.
Once you’ve ticked off the above, our final tip is simply to enjoy yourself! Get out there, see the sights, feel the wind against your face – and relish the freedom of dinghy sailing.