Your First Time

What to wear?

First time sailorsFor your first time out sailing it’s not necessary to buy any specialist sailing clothing. Dress in comfortable casual clothes and wear non-slip, non-marking, closed toe shoes (old runners are ideal). Shorts and a t-shirt are fine depending on the weather. Bring a rain jacket to protect you from the spray and wind. It can be cooler out on the water so wearing layers is recommended in cooler weather.

If you are dinghy sailing and have a wet suit you can wear that. Your clothes and shoes may get wet especially if you are dinghy sailing. The club will have changing facilities. If you require accessible changing facilities you should contact your local club to find out about their facilities.

Long hair should be tied back and don’t wear excessive jewellery that could get tangled up whilst you are sailing. If you are on a keelboat you can bring one small bag. It’s important to have your hands free to get on and off the boat and to be able to sail. It’s best not to bring mobile phones or other valuables onto the boat as they may get damaged or lost.

Life jackets or personal floatation devices are provided by the club, Discover Sailing Centre or boat owner you are crewing for. On a dinghy they must be worn at all times and on a keelboat whenever the conditions are appropriate.


What do I need to know?

Most people who sail for the first time don’t know the bow (front) from the stern (back). Don’t worry if all the terminology seems daunting because if you are taking part in a Discover Sailing Experience or Discover Sailing Course there will be a qualified Instructor that can help you learn new skills at your own pace.

If you are interested in developing your knowledge by reading about sailing everything you will initially need to know can be found on this website.


Tips for your first time sailing

First time sailors at the Royal Melbourne Sail Training Academy

  • Dress warmly and appropriately. Make sure you have your own hat, sunscreen, waterproof jacket, and non-slip, non-marking, closed-toe shoes.
  • Use the toilet facilities at the club before you get on the boat.
  • Safety is important – the club will provide you with a life jacket. Life jackets are essential on a dinghy and recommended on a keelboat in certain weather conditions and locations.
  • Be careful not to stand on ropes or sheets and don’t wrap them around your hands.
  • Keep your hands and fingers clear of blocks and winches where ropes or sheets are.
  • Hold onto something on the boat. One hand for you and one hand for the boat is a common saying.
  • Don’t leave a mobile phone (or even a wallet) in your pocket as they may be lost overboard.
  • Follow the skipper’s instructions and ask questions if you don’t understand.
  • Don’t drop or throw anything overboard.
  • Let the club, skipper or Instructor know if you have a disability, illness or injury that might influence your ability to participate. Contact the club beforehand if you would like to discuss exactly what the activity involves and what your limitations might be.
  • Skippers will give you a safety briefing before you head out, but if they forget, don’t hesitate to ask for one.
  • Have fun!

Your First Race  

When you have developed some basic sailing skills, racing can be an option you’d like to explore. Racing is the competitive aspect of sailing that involves sailing around a course or from one point to another over distance against other boats. The number of boats you are racing against usually depends on the size of the club or the event (regatta). The boats that race are referred to collectively as the ‘fleet’. There are various levels of sailing, from club racing to international races.

Racing in Keelboats

Keelboat Racing

Keelboat clubs often offer social or less competitive racing – often called Twilight racing which takes place on week nights or social racing on weekends during the summer. Twilight races last an hour or so and after racing sailors often congregate at the club for a casual barbeque or dinner.

If you want to make the step to more competitive racing, club racing is where you can progress to. If you want to find out more about club racing contact your local club. Go to our Club Finder to find your local club .

In both twilight racing and club racing you can participate as a crew member. Find out more about crewing.

Racing in Dinghies

Dinghie RacingModified rules racing in dinghies is a chance for people new to racing to participate with people of a similar level. It’s a chance to find out the basics of racing and develop your confidence. The rules are less strict and the emphasis is on participating without worrying about winning and losing. Someone from the club will explain what you need to do and will be around to help.

Go to the racing page for a more detailed description.