The best place to start is by signing up to a short one day or weekend course. These taster courses, cover the basics where you can get to grips with the fundamentals of how to sail a yacht. By the end of the day you will know whether sailing is for you or not. For the more adventurous there are 'learn to sail' holidays. These type of holidays can be home or abroad. Learning to sail on the clear blue waters of the warm Mediterranean sea must rank pretty high in anybodies book. But just because they are called holidays or vacations it doesn't mean they will be all fun. Its a serious business and you will be expected to learn the necessary training and qualifications for proper sailing.
So you have decided to take up sailing. Whether its a new hobby you want to try or maybe participate in an ocean going race, the best place to learn is at a sailing club. Being part of a sailing club provides many advantages especially if your a beginner. They will teach you everything you need to know about how to sail a yacht, the skills, techniques and knowledge. You will learn about the health and safety issues regarding sailing, this is a very important aspect. Make sure that you are conversant and up to date with the right equipment, and if entering the water the weather conditions must be known, even if its just a short practise trip. Sailing clubs also provide the best and quickest routes to gaining your qualifications. You will not only learn the basics but also more advanced advice about rigging, tying knots, sailing manoeuvres, meteorology and wind awareness amongst other things. By being part of a sailing club you will have access to sail in their boats and yachts. As well as this once you have your qualifications there are always other yachts looking for crew members to help crew the yacht. You will find sailing clubs a great place to socialise with others sharing the same passion.
Of course, just like anything else thats new to you, Sailing terminology will be a little strange at first but you'll soon get the hang of it. Remember, repetition is the master of skill. Here are a few of the more basic terms that you will need to know:
Aft. This is the back of a ship. Also known as the stern If anything is located aft or stern, its at the back of the sail boat.
Bow. The front part of a ship is called the bow. You need to know the bow because its important for defining your left and right sides. These are two very important sailing terms: port (left of the bow) and starboard (right of the bow)
Starboard. When facing the bow (looking forwards) Starboard is always the right-hand side of the boat
Port. Port is always the left-hand side of the boat when you are facing the bow. Because 'right' and 'left' can become confusing sailing terms when used out in the open waters, port is used to define the left-hand side of the boat as it relates to the bow, or front.
Jibing. This basic sailing manoeuvre refers to turning the stern of the boat through the wind so that the wind changes from one side of the boat to the other side. The boom of a boat will always shift from one side to the other when performing a tack or a jibe. Jibing is a less common technique than tacking, since it involves turning a boat directly into the wind.
Tacking. The opposite of jibing, this basic sailing manoeuvre refers to turning the bow of the boat through the wind so that the wind changes from one side of the boat to the other side. The boom of a boat will always shift from one side to the other when performing a tack or a jibe.
Boom. The boom is the horizontal pole which extends out horizontally from the bottom of the mast. Adjusting the boom towards the direction of the wind is how the sail boat is able to harness wind power in order to move forward or backwards.
Rudder. This is one word that everybody will be familiar with. Located beneath the boat, the rudder is a flat piece of wood, fibreglass, or metal that is used to steer the ship. Larger sail boats control the rudder via a wheel, while smaller sail boats will have a steering mechanism directly aft.
The best way to master sailing is by practice. Try and get as much on the water experience as you can. When you first start out practise sailing on calm and uncrowded waters. Stay away from busy areas with large vessel's and high rolling waves. Start in a small boat, smaller sailing boats are much more manoeuvrable and responsive. Also, they are ideal when you practise capsizing. Capsizing is an important part of your training. Being able to get out off this situation in a calm and safe manner is of the utmost importance. Try to practise capsizing when ever you can, this experience will put you in good stead when the real thing happens. Familiarise yourself with the controls and learn to quickly adjust the sail settings.
Many people in the sailing fraternity started off dingy sailing, this is another good way to learn to sail. Dinghies are small one or two man craft. If your looking to buy your own boat dinghies provide a relatively cheap way to do so. You can be going solo in a dingy within a hour of stepping into one and the only fitness criteria is being able to swim. Dingy sailing is for all ages, can be small single handed craft or you can be part of a two person team in a slightly larger boat.
There are many good books on the subject of learning to sail. Also check out the internet as this is another great resource, even you tube is worth looking at.
Where sailing is concerned, experience really is the best teacher.