Sailing is something that everyone should aspire to do at least once in their lives - as Mark Twain declared, "Throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbour... Explore. Dream. Discover." As our sailing vacations travel guide explains, some trips are very hands on, and you'll be acting as a junior crew member, literally learning the ropes. On others, you're free to relax on deck, snorkel and spot wildlife while your skipper takes care of everything.
Sailing course vacations
map & highlights
Royal Yachting Association (RYA) courses can be completed in 44 different countries around the world. You’ll find many courses running in the Mediterranean and Adriatic. Greece and Croatia, each with 1,000+ islands, are fun to sail around, and the land masses act as buffers to the sea swell, so the waters are calm. If you’re looking for higher qualifications, pick more challenging waters. Swap coastal sailing for blue water (ocean) sailing, and find somewhere with strong tides, rough seas, heavy traffic, bad weather... is it starting to sound a little less than idyllic? That’s the idea! Rise to the challenge of the Bay of Biscay (notoriously boisterous), or the Channel (mind out for that 200m tanker!).
Bay of Biscay
1. Bay of Biscay
The Bay of Biscay has a reputation for being rough, but don’t let that put you off. It’s a great place for some exciting blue water navigation. For less seasoned crew, try the north coast of Spain, which borders the Bay of Biscay on its southern edge. Sail from delicious Galicia all the way to arty Bilbao, the port capital of Basque Country.
The British Isles
2. The British Isles
Yes, good old Blighty still rules the waves. A course in the Solent – the busy strait between mainland Britain and the Isle of Wight – will rapidly improve your sailing, and nearby Portsmouth and Southampton have wonderful naval history. From here sail the Channel, the Irish Sea, and even make your way to Scotland. If you’re UK based, taking a course here avoids a flight.
It’s all about the colour of the water around Croatia. Or is it all about the hundreds of islands? Look out over the long, leggy headlands of Croatia, lined up like the limbs of sunbathers on a beach. They’re closer together than Greece’s, so it’s really easy to hop between each one – from Vis Island off Split, northwards towards Zadar. Sailing is pretty idyllic here, as the sea is calm and the wind is gentle – perfect for a beginner course.
Greece has long been associated with sailing sojourns – blame Homer’s Odyssey. This seafaring nation offers wonderful cruising around its multiple island chains. Make like Odysseus himself and sail in the Ionian Islands around Lefkas, Ithaca and Corfu – it’s beautiful, and the sailing is easy-breezy. Elsewhere, the Cyclades are hotter than hot – temperatures jumping to the mid-30°Cs by June– but can get very windy later in the summer.
Our top Sailing course Vacation
Sail the Bay of Biscay speaking Spanish
From €490 to €750 5 days ex flights
Small group travel:
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Sailing course travel advice
Lucy Wade, from our specialist sailing vacation company Sunsail, says:
“We have options for both absolute beginners who have never stepped on a yacht before to people that have the basic knowledge and want to complete their training to qualify as a skipper. If you would like to take one of our yachts out without a skipper on board, you would need a sailing license. The minimum license required would be either the RYA day skipper or the ICC.”
Flotillas vs sailing school“The ‘learn to sail’ trip (also known as sailing school) is a chance for solos or couples to book a cabin on a sailing school yacht with others on board doing the same courses. The course runs over a five day duration with no set route. The ‘learn to sail on a flotilla’ (also known as the flotilla starter/hero) is booked by the whole yacht rather than just the cabin, so more suitable for families. They are part of a flotilla on a set route with up to 11 other yachts doing the same itinerary however they will have an instructor on their yacht teaching them how to sail.”
More about Sailing course
Whether you’re looking for a nautical introduction, you’re eyeing up your day skipper qualification, or you want to advance your skipper skills, read our sailing course vacations guide before you hit the deck.
If you’re interested in sailing courses, the RYA Start Yachting courses arene of the easiest, most relaxed qualifications you can get.