Dinghy sailing involves using open boats which are suitable for day sailing, both inland and on the open sea.
Dinghies are easy to rig, very responsive and provide an exciting and cost effective way to experience sailing. They are a great way to learn to handle a boat and develop understanding of wind and navigation. Unlike larger sailing boats, dinghies can be manned individually or in pairs, and are perfect for beginners and children just starting out in the sport. To excel in dinghy sailing, five essentials must be learnt: control of the sails, daggerboard and rudder, angle of the boat (the trim), side to side balance and choice of route. The latter two are particularly important and must take account of the wind and tides to ensure the boat can pick up speed and travel between selected points.
Most dinghies are made of synthetic materials, are fairly robust and require minimal care and upkeep. However, due to their size and price, most people opt to join a local club or take a sailing course, rather than investing in their own equipment. Alongside the boat itself, all that is needed is a lifejacket and a quick how-to session with a trained instructor.
Most learn-to-sail programmes for children use dinghies rather than keelboats because smaller boats are better suited to smaller people and Optimists (a wide-set type of dinghy) are notoriously hard to capsize. Other boats that kids regularly learn to sail in are the Topper and the Laser Funboat and Laser Picos. That’s not to say that the activity is limited to pre-teens, there are also a number of performance skiffs and boats suited to adult sailors. The fact that the activity can be undertaken at sea or inland on lakes, reservoirs and rivers makes it highly accessible, and full of adventure, teamwork and fun.
- Easy to learn – Great for youngsters
- Relatively easy to transport and store
- Dynamic racing
- Sociable sailing on most lakes and reservoirs
- Take time to rig
- Performance can be expensive
- Wind and weather dependant
Training & Qualifications
You can go dinghy sailing without formal training, however as with all water sports there are elements of danger and hence instruction is recommended.
Dinghy sailing in the UK is overseen by the Royal Yachting Association (RYA), with accredited centres offering internationally-recognised adult, youth and racing qualifications for all levels of ability.
There are a wide range of types of dinghy including Optimist, Laser and Wayfarer, suited to the needs of different types or racing and the rider’s experience.
Sailors should wear buoyancy aids at all times and often wear wet or dry suits depending upon conditions and temperatures.