Small boats like dinghies are a simple and easy way to learn to sail. The instruction is separated into youth beginner’s courses and adult beginner’s courses. Young people and adults often use boats that differ in size and stability from each other. Dinghies are very responsive and you immediately feel what you did and if it was the right choice. If there is a change in helm or in sail trim you get direct feedback from the boat. Changes in weight position affect the stability of the boat and sometimes you have to move quickly to prevent capsizing. You are close to the water and it is fun to feel the speed and the heeling of the boat. The helmsman trims the mainsheet himself and gets a better feeling for the sails this way.
But on the other hand dinghies sail wet and it might be a little narrow in the cockpit. You do not sit very comfortable. You have to jump around from one side to the other for example when tacking and you might get bruises. And a dinghy can capsize (which might actually be fun though) Because of the small size of a dinghy there will probably be no instructor on board. He might follow you with a powerboat and shouts his instructions if needed and possible. There is no instant feedback and communication is difficult. But anyway in my opinion you learn the basics of sailing best in a dinghy.
The design of the dinghy beginner’s courses is a little bit different from country to country and they are even not the same in every sailing school. But be sure you will learn to sail everywhere. To ensure a good and safe education the national sailing associations developed schemes and standards for the sailing courses. They issue special certificates that prove your skills. And they certificate the instructors too.
The Royal Yachting Association (RYA) designed a special scheme for dinghy beginner’s courses. It is into use in sailing schools and training centres that are recognized by the RYA in Britain and all over the world. The scheme is comprised of a series of two-day courses so that you can reach a higher level every weekend for example. Or you do all three levels in just one week.
For the first level you do not need any previous knowledge. You learn how to sail in all directions and after two days you should be able to sail in light winds under supervision. The second level is based on the first level. Sometimes it is combined with level one to a 4 or 5 days course. You learn how to rig a boat, how to leave and return to the dock and all the important sailing manoeuvres. In the third level you practice all level 1 and 2 skills to be able to sail in good conditions and make your own decisions. If you completed all levels you can improve your skills in advanced courses like “Day sailing”, “Sailing with spinnakers” or “Performance Sailing”.
Comparable to the RYA courses are the American dinghy courses and certifications. The American Sailing Association (ASA) and their recognised schools offer the “Basic small boat sailing course”. After that you should be able to sail a centreboard sailboat in conditions clearly defined by the ASA. The US Sailing Association offers similar courses called “Small boat sailing”.
Beginner’s sailing courses are offered after work or on weekends. It is also possible that a course is done in one piece and lasts a week. You can join it alone, with a friend, with your partner or with the whole family. Combine the beginner’s sailing course with a holiday. For example in the sunny South, on native coasts or on inland waters. There are a lots of opportunities.
As said before the design of the course in real life might be different to my description. Use the Internet-links at the end of the book for more detailed information. If you do not live in Britain or in the US check the conditions of your national sailing association. There are some links at the end of the book too.
All Sailing courses: The Taster Course | Beginner’s sailing course | Dinghy beginner’s course | Keelboat beginner’s course | Sailing with others | Starting Yachting | Yachting | Professional Qualifications