A BEGINNERS GUIDE TO DINGHY SAILING
Looking for a new exciting watersport to fill your summers with? Dinghy sailing is a rewarding sport and really accessible way into the world of sailing. I took a course in Perth on holiday a few years back and became hooked. I picked up a cheap second-hand dinghy on the Internet and have since been exploring Australia’s lakes, harbours and coastal waters whenever I get the chance. I couldn’t recommend it enough. Here’s a beginner’s guide giving you what I think are the most important details you need to know to give it a go yourself.
WHAT IS DINGHY SAILING?
Dinghy sailing is the term given to sailing a small open boat with no fixed keel. They are typically between 3 and 5 metres long and have a shallow draft. They are the perfect place to start for anyone who has an interest in learning to sail. You can learn the basics in using a sail to harness the wind’s energy to take you in the direction you need to go. Learning how to rig and control a small vessel isn’t as easy as you might think, and often as a result, a small dinghy is the place you find yourself learning the basics of handling a capsized boat. That is important should you wish to graduate onto a bigger vessel.
WHAT DO I WEAR?
Everyone on the boat should wear some form of buoyancy aid however, helmets are optional, with some sailors preferring to use them. You will get wet, it’s all part of the fun, so wear some quick dry clothes or swimming shorts. I have a good pair of sailing gloves now because the constant grabbing at wet ropes was irritating my hands, but this is totally optional and most beginners start out just fine without them.
Wearing a life jacket is an absolute must and there isn’t really much more to discuss. Law or not, it is the right thing to do.
There are two main classes of dinghies, racing dinghies and cruiser dinghies. Beginners will start with a cruiser dinghy. Cruisers are perfect for learning and offer families and small groups a good day out on the water if the conditions allow for it. But for enthusiasts looking for a bit of an adrenaline rush, racing dinghies are the way to go. More agile and a lot more challenging, they are loads of fun. You can really refine your scaling skills. I’ve noticed it doesn’t take long for a lot of people to get interested in getting a little more competitive.
SAILING TERMS TO GET YOUR HEAD AROUND BEFORE YOUR FIRST LESSON
• Aft – the back of the boat
• Bow – the front of the boat
• Port – The left side when you are looking out of the front of the boat towards the horizon
• Starboard – the right side of the boat
• Boom – the horizontal pole which controls the angle of the sail
• Rudder – the flat piece of plastic, wood, or fibreglass at the back of the boat which steers the dinghy
• Mainsail – the biggest sail on the boat
• Jib – the smaller triangular sail at the front
• Sheets – the ropes which pull the sails in and let them out
WHERE TO LEARN TO SAIL
Australian Sailing, the official national body for the sport of sailing, run a load of introductory 24-hour courses to get the basics of off the beach dinghy sailing. Once you have completed an introductory course, you are qualified to sail on your own in light winds without an instructor. For most inshore, fair-weather sailors, this is all you will need.
Once you have the introductory course under your belt, if you have been bitten by the sailing bug, the next course is designed at giving you the skills to handle your dinghy is stronger winds. There is a whole host of courses specifically designed for getting kids into sailing and most of the really seem to love it
You can find out more details on courses from Australian Sailing, although there are numerous providers across the country.
Do you have anything to add to this article? Are you a dinghy sailing enthusiast? Do you have any recommendations on where to learn to dinghy sail? Please share your experience and knowledge through the comments section below.