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Learn to Sail

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by M Ed (subscribe)
Freelance writer who enjoys staying active, social and making the most of what Perth has to offer.
Published June 18th 2011
To me, the idea of sailing calmly into the sunset, sipping on a glass of wine and taking in the fresh, salty air sounded pretty perfect. Well let me tell you that there is nothing relaxing about the first time you set out from the beach in your tiny dinghy, exchanging frantic words with your buddy and randomly tugging on ropes while you are thrown from side to side. But trust me, it gets easier.

While beginner sailing courses are run at yacht clubs around the city, we chose to enroll at Nedlands Yacht Club. The club house, boat shed and training room are set on a small beach on the Swan River, a perfect place to launch from (and for soft landings). The boats you learn to rig-up and sail are dinghies, which are perfect for beginners as they are relatively stable and with one main sail, less complex to maneuver.

The course teaches the basic theory behind sailing and then puts it into practice. You'll learn all the knots necessary to get your boat rigged-up, which will also come in handy for your next camping trip; how to read the conditions on the water and of course all the boating rules. For me, the first day of the course was probably the most amusing. We were paired up into boats and given the simple task of taking off slowly from the beach, sailing in light winds for about 30 seconds and then turning around and coming back in. While waiting on the beach as each pair took off, I became more and more convinced that this seemingly easy course was actually down-right impossible.

Screams and laughter followed by a big splash, only a handful of the group came back to shore dry. This brings me to another handy skill you will learn - how to get your capsized boat back up and sailing again. Another handy hint is to watch out for the swinging boom, which takes out anything in its path as the sail switches to the other side of your boat.

After eight weeks, it's a completely different story, we are confidently racing across the river and having a great time. This course is suitable for kids aged twelve and above, so it's a great family activity or you can round up a few mates and all have a laugh together. After completing the course, you can choose to continue with your sailing at the club by helping out as part of a crew in a club race or get involved with the social family sailing days. Alternatively, sail boats and catamarans are also available for hire if you want to go out on an adventure of your own.

The course runs on Sunday mornings at 8:30am and yes, I have proven that it can still be done after a big night out. You will probably get wet on most days, so bring a spare change of clothes and thankfully hot showers are available after the class.

For the younger ones, junior courses are available from eight years, as long as they can demonstrate a 25m swim. The junior courses are run on weekdays during the school holidays.

For course dates and enrollment information, visit the Nedlands Yacht Club website or alternatively visit the website of a yacht club near you.
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Why? Adventure on The Swan
When: Every summer
Where: Nedlands Yacht Club
Cost: $225 for non-members
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