What age to start dinghy sailing?

Steve_Bentley

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Probably been asked before sometime, but...

It’s some way off yet as my eldest has only turned 5, but what are the forum’s opinions on a good age to start to learn sailing? I’m based at Hove so Hove Lagoon is an obvious place to start, and a sailing friend thinks they start at age 6, but I suspect there’s far more to it than simply being old enough. When do you know if they’re ready for it?

She has recently started swimming lessons and seems pretty fearless in the water (pools + sea), but would it be a struggle for a 6 year-old to learn everything? The last thing I want is for the whole exercise to be hard work or scary and put off for life. I’ve never done dinghy sailing myself so don’t have any experience in this area. I’ve just started taking the family on ‘Eurocamp’-type holidays in France and seen some pretty good sailing schools but apart from being warmer (and a holiday environment) I’m not sure if that’s a better option with possibly a language issue (and again, no idea of starting age)?

Of course, she may not like it, but if it’s introduced carefully I’m hoping it was start a life-long love of sailing and the sea. If I can ever scrape together the money for a family cruiser sharing the crewing might be handy too(!), but that’s really only an incidental issue.

Many thanks.
 

Lakesailor

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Speaking as someone whose boating is fuelled by the concept of not getting wet I would think that a gentle introduction would be best. Having seen the RYA and outdoor training centres' courses on the lake it seems that the 1st thing they do is make everyone capsize on the coldest day available.
That would certainly have put me off.
 

All_at_Sea

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No age too young to start. Most sea schools start them off in Optimists, and in the case of Emsworth the training pool is shallow enough for the teacher to stand in and help all the little ones!

We've taken ours sailing from age 0, ie mothercare car seats strapped into the cockpit, (a sailing cruiser) if they learn young enough it becomes normal!
 

VicS

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I would think that as soon as the school will take them and maybe start getting them used to it gently yourself a year before that.


All_ at _sea mentions the Optimist. Without doubt that is a super little boat for the young ones with a big class association and serious racing available if you want. There are not at all cheap though. If you are thinking of buying something more modestly priced and are not interested in the class racing keep an eye open for one OF THESE It should be a tiny fraction of the price of an Oppie and is a fabulous little boat. I've still got one. I have added a small skeg to mine so that it tows along more happily behind the "big boat".
 

seumask

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Firstly I have to admit to being a keen dinghy sailor. We have had our now 4 year old out sailing in our 11ft dinghy since he was 3 years and 3 months. OK I know whats going on, most of the time and initally we limited it to fairly short (less than 40 mins) at a time, but he now really enjoys coming out with me on various dinghys and our Yacht. He started on the the yacht at 3 weeks strapped into the car set. You've just got to be sensible about the weather, lenght of trip etc. each child is different, I know of 1 just 4 year old who can steer well, ours can't yet. the key is to make it fun, look for sea monsters, laugh about the high and low sides etc.etc.
 

phanakapan

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Hove Lagoon are great with kids; mine were older when they did a 'fun week' but enjoyed it immensely.
I imagine they say 6yrs old, as by then your sprog will have had a couple of years of school under their belt and be used to taking instruction, sitting listening etc etc.
I would recommend waiting until the hot weather, and doing a mixed week which includes dinghies, sit-on canoes, games, waterfights, pirates etc; from memory there might be bits in the middle of the lagoon which are deep enough for them to need to be able to swim.
 

davierobb

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The best age is when they show an interest.

If they don’t show any interest then the clever bit is generating some, simply sending them on a dinghy course would probably be the end of their sailing career. I've seen some kids around five having a great time in what looked like floating bathtubs, they also looked like they would be impossible to capsize due to their very small sails.

I would like to think that most sailing schools have stopped the throw them in, freeze them half to death and put them off stuff long ago.
 

Slow_boat

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At our inland 'pond sailing' club we put kids who want to in a Optimist as soon as they can understand enough to do as they're told. If they don't like it, we take them out again. From there, they graduate to a topper, again if they want to.

The club have a very good kids section, the 'Bucaneers' with kids sailing, including instruction and racing, for different age and experience groups.
 

fastjedi

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I've been pondering the same as the owner of a 4 year old! I've decided to let him choose.

He has been on the water from 3 months old. This season he has started taking command of the outboard on the tender (with some scarey results) but isn't showing any real interest in the yacht. We have a sailing kit for the Walker Bay whenever the time is right ... I'm guessing it will be another 2 or 3 seasons.
 

wooslehunter

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I have 2 kids, 8 & 5 and both have started. The best way age of course is when they show interest. But interest grows when they see other kids. My personal oppinion is not to go it alone. Get into a club with an active kids training program.

Here's what we do. We're lucky in that although we are a sea based club, we're at the top of Chichester harbour and right next to a millpond. The kids start on the millpond in oppies and go on from there.

The youngest group just learn about rowing around in a group in one of the rowing boats from around age 4 or younger. Once they start in oppies, they normally spend 2 or 3 seasons on the millpond before going "over the wall" and onto the sea in Chi Harbour. They need an RYA level 2 for this.

My 8 year old is now storming ahead and may very well go over the wall next year and loves it. The 5 year old has just started in an oppy and is doing great after paddling around last year.

Oppies can be reefed by just taking out the sprit and if that's too much then one trick for the really young ones is to make up a banner with two garden canes & a piece of cloth between. Once kid steers while the other hold up the banner as a sail. Once down wind, they get towed back. Great fun when you're only 5 and very safe but it teaches them to steer. Th ekey with kids is not to push them too fast too early. If they get frightened, it's a big demotivator.

We do end up with around 50% or less by the end of the summer though so if you start them off, don't be surprised of they want to stop and try again next year.

One other advantage of a club is that you don't end up teaching your own kids. Some people want to but IMO, it's better that you teach someone elses and they teach yours.
 

Steve_Bentley

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Some really excellent replies so far! It's started me thinking in lots of different directions so over the next few weeks I'll give these some further serious consideration and maybe visit a few different places.

All your replies are very much appreciated! Any further comments welcome!
 

arfa

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Lots of sensible replies earlier and all I would add is to try to pick a good weather day for the first time and leave them wanting more. I have a five year old and a two year old boy and take them out in our "21 foot dinghy with a lid" and I am trying to introduce the basics when they're interested - not often for the two year old though!
 

Micky

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I was led to believe it was insurance companies that lay down the rules of age.
Too young = no insurance.
 

Cheeky Girl

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Hi

My eldest started on Oppy last year when she was 8 in April when the water in the loch was very cold so would not have wanted her to be any younger. Son starts next year when he will be 8. But has been out with daughter already. Two of them will play in water all day in wetsuits and be blue in the face and still say they are not cold /forums/images/graemlins/confused.gif /forums/images/graemlins/confused.gif

They have been sailing in big boats since before they were born.

Graham
 

Steve_Bentley

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Thanks everyone- plenty to think about now, and your personal experiences are a valuable resource better than any magazine or book (or indeed perhaps from the training places themselves?).

Taking onboard the advice of going at her own pace, I might take her to watch a lesson or two to see how much enthusiasm she has. Then, all being well, a good wetsuit and sunny weather seem the order of the day to start with! Personally I look back on memories of breaking the ice in winter to go canoeing with v. limited enthusiasm! I received something from Sunsail this morning that apparently they start at 5 yrs, which confirms everything you guys have said about starting young. Details on alternative dinghies also v. much appreciated!.

Thanks everyone- just the high quality response I was expecting from the forum!
 
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