How to start sailing for FREE!

By Gem Newman 

January 2024

Not sure whether sailing is for you? Well, the great news is that if you want to try before you commit to a course or a club membership, you can get a sailing taster session for absolutely nothing, zilch, nada! 

And to help you start your adventure into the world of sailing, I’ve found some fantastic links so that you can dive straight in and make your sailing aspirations a reality…

Bow of a sailing yacht cruising on the sea
Yes, you can really sail for free!

Free Sailing Taster Sessions

Free sailing taster days are a great way to get a taste of sailing without any commitment. Many sailing schools and clubs offer free taster sessions where you can experience the thrill of sailing firsthand. These sessions are usually short and introductory, allowing you to learn the basics and get a feel for being on the water. It’s a fantastic opportunity to see if sailing is something you think you’ll enjoy before investing in a full course.

To find free sailing taster days near you, you can check with local sailing schools and clubs. They often organise these events during the summer months or on specific dates. Keep an eye out for advertisements or announcements by subscribing to their social media channels or mailing lists.

A simple search for “Free sailing taster session in [location]” into a search engine will give you a good list to start with.

If you’re in the UK there is an event called Push The Boat Out where participating clubs offer free sessions. Find out more here.

Sailing Club Open Days

Sailing Club Open Days are another excellent opportunity to try sailing for free.  Open days tend to be at the start of the season or half way through the Summer in order to encourage people to join as new members or enrol in a sailing course. Open days are usually free (or heavily subsidised) and offer a range of water-sports activities for all ages.

During Sailing Club Open Days, you can expect to have the chance to go out on the water with experienced sailors who will take you on a “joyride” and guide you through the basics of sailing. It’s a fun and relaxed environment where you can ask questions, meet fellow sailing enthusiasts, and feel part of the sailing community. 

Usually a search for “sailing school”, “sailing club” or “yacht club” in Googlemaps (or a similar maps app) will give you some local options to start with. Or, if you’re in the UK, you can use the RYA service to find local clubs here.

Volunteer as a Crew on yachts

If you’re looking for a more immersive sailing experience, volunteering as a crew on yachts is a fantastic option. Many boat owners and sailing teams are often in need of crew members for their trips or races. By offering your help as a volunteer crew member, you can not only gain valuable sailing experience but also make connections with seasoned sailors and learn from their expertise.

To find opportunities, you can check out local yacht club websites, sailing associations, or online sailing communities. They often have crewing boards or forums where boat owners post about their need for crew members. Try these links below for some examples of crewing opportunities, and post your availability today!

Facebook Group: Sailing Crews

Facebook Group: Cruising Opportunities

Facebook Group: Yacht Crew Wanted

Facebook groups are a great way to find crewing opportunities for free
Facebook groups are a great way to find crewing opportunities

Attend sailing events, regattas and boat shows

Attending sailing events is not only a great way to watch exciting races and peruse wonderful boats but also an opportunity to try it yourself. Many events welcome spectators and some offer the chance to go out on the water as a guest or volunteer because they are promoting “grass-roots” sailing – i.e. Encouraging new people to the sport.

By attending these events, you can witness skilled sailors in action, observe different sailing techniques, and immerse yourself in the sailing atmosphere. It’s a fantastic way to learn from the best and connect with fellow sailing enthusiasts. Sailing magazines and sports governing body websites will have lots of information on upcoming events near you. Try Insailing.comWorld Sailing and Yachts & Yachting for events this year.

Join sailing forums and online communities

Joining sailing forums and online communities is a great way to connect with experienced sailors and find opportunities for free sailing experiences. There are numerous online platforms where sailors share their knowledge, experiences, and sailing opportunities, similar to the crew finding options above.

One of the largest areas of growth has been in Facebook Groups, where you can find both local and international advice groups, and some of these are tailored for beginner sailors.  Some of the groups allow industry posts from sailing clubs, so you’ll find out about local taster sessions within the group, rather than subscribing to loads of different club pages. Try these forums and groups for news of free events and special promotions.

Ask a friend to take you sailing!
Ask a friend to take you sailing!

Ask a sailing friend to take you out

If you are fortunate enough to have a friend who is into sailing, don’t hesitate to ask them to take you out on their boat. Many sailors are more than happy to share their passion and introduce others to the joys of sailing.

By going out with a sailing friend, you can experience sailing in a relaxed and familiar setting. They can show you the ropes, and give you a taste of what sailing is all about – all for the cost of an after sail beer!

Free sailing for children

From personal experience, both the Sea Cadets and Sea Scouts in the UK have fantastic sailing opportunities for children, and mostly they are free to try and heavily subsidised throughout. As well as sailing, there are opportunities to try power boating, kayaking, hiking, windsurfing and even tall-ship sailing! All of these activities are fantastic for children to adopt a growth mindset, develop new skills, make friends and find new hobbies that can stay with them for life.

Follow these links to get your child involved:

Sea Cadets UK:

Sea Scouts UK:

Sea Scouts USA:

Children can learn to sail with the Sea Cadets
Children can learn to sail with the Sea Cadets

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Gem Newman

Gem is a professional Dinghy Sailing Coach with over 20 years of experience teaching sailing instructors of all levels. She is the founder of and a professional Graphic Designer. If you’d like to collaborate or enquire about coaching services, get in touch…