September 14

A beginner’s guide to dinghy sailing

Keen to give dinghy sailing a go? You’d be joining an enthusiastic community, with around 82,700 people having participated in sailing in England in 2021. You can sail at any time of year on lakes, reservoirs, rivers and, if you’re experienced enough, the sea. Here’s what you need to know to get started with your dinghy sailing venture.


Before you get near the water, you should confirm that your vessel is in good condition by carrying out a thorough survey and performing any necessary maintenance. The planning stage of your journey is also the time when you should check whether you have suitable levels of specialist dinghy insurance. Without it, you’re exposed to more risk of having to pay for unforeseen damages.

You’ll also want to make sure that you’re stocked up on the essentials. Additional equipment that dinghy sailors use and wear includes:

  • A wetsuit
  • Buoyancy aids
  • Dinghy boots
  • Sailing gloves
  • Sunglasses
  • Flotation devices

Especially if you plan to be on the water for a long period, it’s wise to be as well prepared as possible. Some people even choose to wear helmets for added protection.


When choosing a sailing location, you’re spoiled for choice with beautiful destinations in the UK. The Lake District is a popular area thanks to its stunning beauty but, alternatively, you might want to soak up the beauty of Loch Lomond in southern Scotland or experience sailing in an SSSI area at Graftham Water in Huntingdonshire. The Isle of White, Cornwall and Swansea all offer similarly brilliant lakes, reservoirs and other bodies of water.

To try something a little different, you could go dinghy sailing on rivers, such as the Thames.

Find a sailing club

Start your dinghy sail venture by finding a sailing club. This enables you to benefit from being part of a sailing community and to find support as you get started.

The Royal Yacht Association provides a variety of training courses you can enrol in. These include sailing, racing, cruising and more. Working with others on a course helps you get the most out of your experience while ensuring that you’ll be sailing safely. You’ll learn all about rigging, launching and landing in no time at all. Being part of a sailing club also means you can practice outside of your course and seek out tips from others with more experience.

Sailing etiquette

Just like following the Highway Code when driving, there are rules and good sailing etiquette to abide by while out on the water to make it safe and enjoyable for everyone. You need to understand who has right of way, which is determined by the weather conditions and the size of the boats involved. Knowing how to overtake safely and generally understanding the terminology used in dinghy sailing is important too – if you don’t know your boom from your rudder then you might not have the confidence required to be safe out on the water.