Sailing started as a necessity for survival, but as time went on, it has grown to become a privilege of the chosen ones. Nowadays, however, the times when sailing was an extremely unaffordable hobby are long gone. So, if your soul is asking for the sea, here is a beginner's guide about how to learn to sail, especially for you.
The world of sailing is full of contrasts: from extreme sports and intense racing to calm relaxation and leisure time, from burning hot to ice cold, unrestrained fun and stress. This type of recreation is as diverse as one could only imagine.
It is also accessible to a big target audience, including young adults and the older generations. Entry-level yachting rights are issued from the age of 18. The conditions for obtaining them are not to be color blind and be able to swim. Sounds good! But where to begin?
The Journey Begins
To start a trip, even with the smallest boat in the nearest lake, you need to feel the strength of the wind and get the first portion of spray on your face.
1. Find a yacht club in your city and take some lessons with an instructor.
The first step requires a minimum of equipment: a windbreaker, simple gloves, closed waterproof shoes.
After the first few lessons, it is good to evaluate your preferences and possibly set some future goals to make the learning process more consistent.
2. Do you want to participate in sailing races, or maybe you want to learn it just for traveling?
- If the first option – sign up for a sailing section.
- If the second – to a yacht school. Having received a skipper certificate, you can rent a boat and manage it yourself.
How to gain knowledge and practice?
The most efficient way to gain experience is to find people who are going on a sailing trip and build a team with them. A lot of boat owners do not chase expertise but would take you onboard in exchange for feasible help: sewing, dyeing, sanding, cooking, etc.
3. To do this, you should get a certificate as a Competent Crew or International Crew Member from a yacht school.
The curriculum corresponding is designed to learn how to knit knots, operate a ship during the daytime. It also lets you know the rules of conduct in emergencies.
The course usually lasts for an average of a week and allows you to decide whether to take your sailing fever seriously or stay on the shore.
4. The Bareboat Skipper Sail certificate is the next step.
It is similar to receiving a driving license: you have to pass the theoretical part, spend about ten days in the open sea, and sail around 200 nautical miles.
Practical experience is the central area of focus for the future sailor: situations on the water never repeat; every boat has its peculiarities; each route requires specific skills. During the study time, it is good to keep in mind that the first experience often gives a false sense of self-confidence. In total, the theoretical course takes an average of 32 hours and is supported by about a week of open-sea practice. Professionals do not recommend taking an intensive or remote version of such courses.
After the Bareboat Skipper Sail training, some immediately rent a boat and sail to their dream destination. Most teachers, however, advise going on a cruise first under the supervision of a competent captain and then going on an independent charter to the places already covered. After that, one should be well-prepared for future adventures.
Skipper courses in different yachting schools differ in price, which depends on the season, region, and school expenses for the maintenance of boats, as well as the type of certificate that is issued after the exam. The Bareboat Skipper Sail course costs between 1,000 and 1,600 euros. According to the standards of training, the price should include everything except your flight and meals onboard while studying. All other costs – parking, fuel, paperwork, and the maintenance of the yacht – should be borne by the school.
As a beginner, you might be encountering a variety of abbreviations when it comes to sailing certification.
In yacht schools, classes are conducted in accordance with the training systems developed by companies and organizations. It is difficult to say which certificate is better – there are endless debates about this topic, but knowing their differences, you can always choose the right one for you.
Here are some of the most well-known qualifications:
- RYA (Royal Yachting Association). Classes at the training centers of the public organization “Royal Royal Yachting Association” are taught in English. RYA training center diplomas are issued in many places around the world. A distinctive feature of this training system is that there are two programs: one involves practice in tidal waters, and the other in waters where there are no tides. Therefore, having studied, for example, at the RYA yachting school located at the Mediterranean Sea, you will receive a certificate for the right to operate a sailing vessel only in a non-tidal zone. RYA certificates are legally approved in an official document called the Blue Code MCA, but this document only applies to boats registered in member countries of the British Commonwealth. However, the certificate allows you to take a yacht on a charter all over the world on your own; and based on this document, you can automatically get the European “yacht rights” of ICC, which we will discuss below. It is worth noting that all theoretical courses are identical for sailing and motor yachts.
- IYT (International Yacht Training) is a privately held corporation headquartered in Canada, a world leader in issuing yacht certificates: it offers more than 150 authorized training centers in 58 countries. Certificates issued by IYT yachting schools are recognized by most leading charter and insurance companies.
Unlike the Royal Yachting Association, the IYT system allows training courses in the native language of students. However, the use of nautical terminology in English is a prerequisite for passing the exam. The IYT license gives you the right to rent yachts and sailboats in the European Union.
- ISSA (International Sailing School Association) is an international non-profit organization engaged in the development of requirements and recommendations for training in the field of sailing and recreation, as well as windsurfing. Today, nine yacht schools with their representative offices in Turkey, Poland, Russia, Montenegro, and Lebanon have ISSA accreditation.
Compared to IYT and RYA certificates, ISSA certificates are accepted by fewer charter services – for example, in Croatia, ISSA is not recognized. It is essential to know that some ISSA yachting schools do not have the best reputation: in particular, a pair of Russian and Turkish schools that lost their IYT accreditation for various violations during the training and examination passed this certificate.
- ICC (International Certificate of Competence) – The International Certificate of Competence is a set of standards developed by the Committee of the United Nations Economic Commission of Europe. It is recognized worldwide and has categories covering sailboats and motorboats (up to 24 m) in inland and open waters.
The certificate is recognized in absolutely all countries all over the world that have signed the international maritime convention. ICC allows you to control the following types of vessels: jet ski (scooter), motorboat, RIB bot, powerful boat and speed boat up to 10 meters without limiting engine power, motor yacht and sailing yacht up to 24 meters long.
All in all, theory and certification are, undoubtedly, critical, but as soon as they are fixed, what matters is experience. The first steps in sailing, as challenging as they might appear, should be taken with patience and eagerness to learn. After that, you are free to choose your next adventure and, as Zora N. Hurston wrote: “No matter how far a person can go, the horizon is still way beyond you.”