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Where to sail

Hoist the mainsail and set a course for warmer waters. Here are four destinations that offer ideal sailing conditions for beginners. Report by Jo Mattock

Mediterranean
There are many places in the Mediterranean where you can sail, but three countries particularly lend themselves to learning: Greece, Turkey and Croatia. 

The Greek islands have been popular as a sailing destination for many years, which means there are many places to moor up overnight, where you can resupply the boat and refresh yourselves with a trip to a Taverna. During the day, you will hop between islands and visit ancient sites, picturesque fishing villages and secluded anchorages in beautiful bays.

Alasdair Boden, head of One Stop Sailing’s sailing school explains why Greece is good for beginners. ‘Islands serve as wave breaks, stopping swells from building up and providing lovely calm seas that are excellent conditions for learning to sail,’ he says. Gentle morning breezes combined with windier conditions in the afternoon will give you plenty of experience and help your training progress.

In Turkey, the sea is a little more open, but it is still quite calm and suitable for beginners. The weather can be hot in the summer, so Turkey is perfect for sun worshippers who want to top up a tan on board the boat. During the day, explore crystal-clear seas and rocky bays, then moor up in a colourful local town at night for dinner.

Croatia has become increasingly popular among sailors in recent years. Its sheltered archipelagos have the perfect conditions for learning to sail and the weather in summer is reliably warm without being scorching hot. Take in historic ports such as Dubrovnik and modern marinas or visit uninhabited islands, coves and beaches.

Sunsail has a sailing school in Kremik, surrounded by 800-year-old vineyards. Sailing north from here, you’ll explore the sheltered waters of Sibenik, Skradin and the Kornati National Park while honing your skills and building confidence.

Thailand
A surprisingly good value destination for sailing – and perfect for beginners. Thailand may be a long-haul flight away, but a sailing holiday there won’t cost too much more than going to the Mediterranean.

There are several places in Thailand that have all the necessary facilities for yachting, but Phuket is recommended for those who want to learn to sail. Phuket is easy to get to, has several sailing schools and many boats to choose from. Its picturesque beaches, bays and limestone stacks have featured in many movies. You can anchor in the cove featured in The Beach and spend the night there – a great way to see this spot without the tourist crowds. There’s also an island known as James Bond Island, after appearing in a film, plus countless unsung beauty spots to explore for yourself.

 ‘In Thailand, you’re sailing around places that can’t be seen from land – it’s a great way of seeing untouched Thailand,’ says Boden. ‘Many people combine a week’s sailing with a week on land.’

For more experienced sailors, Koh Chang is quiet with fewer tourists. Explore uninhabited islands and fishing villages built on stilts – this is a real step off the tourist trail. Sailing is also good in Koh Samui, where you can combine it with scuba diving – the coral reefs are some of the best in the area.

Caribbean
The steady winds and protected waters of the British Virgin Islands (BVI) make perfect conditions for learning to sail. Deep water and easy navigation mean BVI is suitable for all levels of sailor. Spend the day exploring the coral seas and secluded bays of more than 50 islands and cays then enjoy some Caribbean nightlife in the evening.

‘You can go sailing almost anywhere in the world, but it’s the facilities that are available that make somewhere easy for sailing,’ says Boden. ‘Many islands in the Caribbean don’t have places where you can stop or fill up with water – the British Virgin Islands do.’

This means you have more flexibility about where you can sail to, and more choice of where to stop for the night. The other advantage of the Caribbean for sailing is that you can escape the British winter – sailing is possible all year round, but the best time to go is November to July.

Australia and New Zealand
Sailing is an excellent way to explore the Whitsunday Islands in Australia. This archipelago of 74 islands sits right in the middle of the Great Barrier Reef. Protected by the outer reef, the waters around the Whitsundays are relatively still and the winds are reliable, giving perfect conditions for training. The scenery is magnificent, with turquoise waters, white sandy beaches and incredible wildlife – dolphins play at your bow, colourful tropical fish flit around the reefs below you and there’s even the possibility of a whale surfacing from the deep right by your boat. You can sail here year round, but the recommended time to come is during the Australian winter, between April and October, when the heat is less fierce.

Sailing is incredibly popular in New Zealand too. Auckland, built around an impressive natural harbour, is a haven for sailors. It’s the starting point for exploring the Hauraki Gulf, which has 76 islands and more than 200 anchorages. Further north, The Bay of Islands has great conditions for learning to sail – distances between islands are short and easy to navigate. The climate is also slightly warmer here – the best of the weather in New Zealand is the summer between November and April.

Sailing holidays explained
There are many ways to go about a sailing holiday. You can simply hire the boat, you can get a captain to take charge for the whole week or you can join a group of other like-minded holiday makers. We explain the jargon:

Bareboat charter: you hire just the boat. There’s no skipper and no crew. You need to have enough experience, but this option gives you total freedom and flexibility.

Skippered charter: a captain joins you onboard your boat for your entire holiday, leaving you free to relax without the stress of navigation or parking the boat. It’s the perfect option for beginners. Some skippered charters include teaching you to sail.

Flotilla: a small group of yachts that sail together. A lead boat is on hand to help if there are any problems and organises places for you all to moor at night. It’s also a very sociable way to sail.

Single berth: some companies such as One Stop Sailing offer holidays for individual travellers. You join a skippered boat, dedicated to cruising or where you can learn to sail along with other holiday makers.

Contacts
One Stop Sailing: 0800 030 4677
www.onestopsailing.com

Sunsail: 0844 463 6578
www.sunsail.co.uk

Tall Ships Adventures: 023 9283 2055
www.tallships.org

Rock Sailing:  +34 626 973 728 
www.sailinggibraltar.co.uk/

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