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Yacht Lady 12-11-2011 09:44 AM

Dinghy or Yacht Sailing First?
I have had several discussions with people on whether one should start dinghy sailing before yacht sailing to gather wind awareness. Just wondered what some of you guys think. I am convinced dinghy sailing is a must but others try to convince me otherwise.

skygazer 12-11-2011 09:58 AM


Originally Posted by Yacht Lady (Post 805350)
I have had several discussions with people on whether one should start dinghy sailing before yacht sailing to gather wind awareness. Just wondered what some of you guys think. I am convinced dinghy sailing is a must but others try to convince me otherwise.

Not a must, but I believe it really helps you understand and develop an inner feel for the complex interaction between sails, hull and rudder, wind and wave. Your responses become automatic from maintaining the balance needed.

You will however get wet. So those who can't swim and are afraid to tip may prefer a keel boat. The problem with larger boats is that it's hard to feel the nuances of balance, everything is big and slow and a bit masked by the size, in comparison.

I sailed on larger boats but felt I truly learned the limits in tiny center boarders, playing all day in them when a child.

Yacht Lady 12-11-2011 10:07 AM

Its true, I learned so much by dinghy sailing first that I believe it makes me the sailor I am today.

TQA 12-11-2011 10:23 AM

As others say go the dinghy route if you can to begin with.

You will learn more in a few hours on your own in a dinghy than in a month on a big boat.

Something around 12 - 14 feet with a conservative rig is ideal. But not an International Moth.

<table style="width:auto;"><tr><td><a href=""><img src="" height="101" width="144" /></a></td></tr><tr><td style="font-family:arial,sans-serif; font-size:11px; text-align:right">From <a href="">Hoot Mon</a></td></tr></table>

BubbleheadMd 12-11-2011 10:28 AM

I didn't learn by starting with dinghy racing and I turned out ok. However, I may have turned out better if I'd started on dinghies.

It's ok though, I bought a Hobie Cat to remedy this. :)

jackdale 12-11-2011 11:13 AM

I started on a 10 meter racing yacht. I am not a great dinghy sailor. Cruising is not just about be able to understand the wind and sail trim for which dinghy sailing will provide you a wealth of experience. Big boat sailing also involves navigation, boat systems, menu planning, anchoring, and many other activities not associated with smaller boats. In my experience what matters is helm time. Small boat sailing is, by its nature, less expensive.

Siamese 12-11-2011 11:24 AM

Start with the dinghy. I sail to have fun, and a dinghy is as much fun as sailing my 31 foot cruiser. The only reason I put up with all the expense and trouble of the bigger bat is that it extends my season here in Michigan, provides some extra comforts, and it has a bathroom. Otherwise, a dinghy is just fine.

So, assuming a dinghy is the better way to learn, which IMO it is, why not start with the dinghy. I certainly never heard anyone say they regretted doing it that way.

paulk 12-11-2011 03:29 PM

Mistakes you make learning on a dinghy can get you wet. Mistakes you make on a big boat can get you killed. Don't make any mistakes, and you'll be fine either way. Might get boring, though, being that careful all the time.

BarryL 12-11-2011 03:55 PM


I think it depends on what your sailing goals are. If you plan on racing a keel boat, then learning to sail on a dinghy would be helpful. If you plan on living aboard and doing long distance sailing, then I'm not convinced that learning how to handle the sails on a real small boat will offer much value. There is much more to 'sailing' then just handling the sails on a small boat. Docking, anchoring, engine usage, maintenance, are all skills that you need to operate a 'yacht' that you can't get from sailing a dinghy.


wingNwing 12-11-2011 04:00 PM

I think it depends on (a) what's your goal?; and (b) what's your style?

If your goal is comfortable big-boat cruising, then dinghy may not help that much. As jackdale pointed out, there are many aspects of big boat cruising that dinghy sailing won't teach you. At the same time, the subtle weight shifts, etc that make such a difference in dinghy sailing just won't have nearly as much effect on a big boat. If your goal is racing a medium-size boat, then dinghy sailing would be a more critical set of skills first.

What's your learning style? If you're a learn-by-doing type, then dinghying first would be more important because you'd "feel" the wind, weight distribution, etc. If you're a cerebral learner, a month of dinghy sailing won't give you the understanding that a few minutes looking at a vector diagram will bring (I know; I'm the latter type).

And if you don't know your style or your goals? Sailing is a great way to get you in touch with yourself; those long contemplative passages with nothing to do but think; and those moments of terror and limits (do you panic? how do you react?)

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