Sailing is one of the UK's most popular sports, with an estimated 600,000* people participating in the sport on an annual basis. This compares with an overall total figure of around 3 million who participate in some form of watersport.
A trip to any seaside resort in the country will soon provide evidence of the sports popularity. It is an unusual location where there are no sails to be seen on the horizon. Even on a cold, blustery day in November there will usually be a few tiny white triangles dotted across the turbulent sea. Nearly every resort has some sort of space for the storage of boats of various types - either a harbour or marina or alternatively a hard standing or beach storage space. As often as not there will also be a shop or two selling yachting supplies and clothing. Although many of the people who buy yachting gear and clothing never get any closer to a boat than the quayside!
Britain has a strong maritime history and a long coastline with many locations that are suitable for sailing and so it is not so surprising that so many people take to the water. The range of craft in which they put to sea is also large and varied to reflect the different locations and interests of the sailors. We estimate that there are around 150 different classes of sailing vessel used in the UK - these range from the tiny Mirror dinghy to sea going motor-sailers and to full on racing yachts. The British Marine Federation has estimated that there are around 450,000 boats of all types, in the UK at present.
The Royal Yachting Association is the governing body of the sport in the UK and they oversee racing, training and the accreditation of instructors. As well as sailing boats they are also responsible for power craft - ranging in size from ski boats to motor cruisers and windsurfing and more recently jet skis. The RYA was formed in 1876 and had 117 members in it's first year of operation - today it has over 100,000 members.
If you are interested in sailing and want to find out more - the best place to start is at the RYA website - see below. On the website they have details of around 700 sailing clubs and training centres within the UK, most of which offer training in some aspects of the sport and many also offer certification, such as Yacht Master.
You can then join the thousands of Briton's who enjoy messing about in boats and the weekend and you may get the chance to compete with some of our best sports stars. Sailing has become even more popular recently after the achievements of the sailing team at the Athens Olympics, where we won two gold medals and after the outstanding achievements of Ellen MacArthur who set a new trans-globe single handed sailing record in February 2005 of - 71 days 14 hours. You can do it!
Royal Yachting Association - www.rya.org.uk/
International Sailing Federation - www.sailing.org/