Photo: iStock

Looking for a beginner sailing course in a landlocked place like London? Luckily it is easier than you might think to learn to sail, thanks to a huge number of lakes with certified schools to teach you.

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When looking for a school, it is best to make sure it is RYA certified first. The Royal Yachting Association or RYA is the national governing body for sailing. They make sure centres abide by certain safety regulations and keep teaching standards high.

So how do you find your nearest sailing centre? The RYA has a great list of registered schools for learning to sail. All you need to do is work out which course you want to do, then the website will help you search for your nearest training centre by typing in your postcode. It’s as simple as that.


Photo: iStock

If it is your first time sailing, then we would recommend signing up to an RYA Dinghy Level 1 course. This will give you a good introduction to the sport - how to cast off, basic wind direction knowledge, steering and coming ashore again. This is a two-day course which can be easily completed inland, you don’t have to be near the sea.

Many centres run four-day beginner courses which combine the RYA Dinghy Level 1 award with the Level 2 award. Level 2 enables you rig a boat, launch it, sail in all directions as well as know how to capsize and right a boat. This is usually the minimum requirement for hiring a dinghy at a centre.

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For kids, there is a youth learn to sail scheme which is very similar to the adult scheme but breaks the stages down into smaller steps (Stage 1 to 4).

Once you’ve completed your Level 1 and 2, there is an intermediate course you can sign up for which is the RYA Dinghy Level 3. This will build on everything you learnt in your course - and focus on more advanced techniques like picking up a man overboard and basic racing knowledge.

The RYA have a great guide to the qualification pathways you can follow here.


Photo: Hillingdon Outdoor Activity Centre

There are 39 RYA certified sailing centres and clubs within a 30 mile radius of the City of London. We’ve picked five of the best schools for learning to sail in each corner of London. Some of these also offer kayaking and windsurfing courses if you are interested in those sports too.


Westminster Boating Base

Dinorvic Wharf, 136 Grosvenor Road, London, SW1V 3JY

Price for RYA Level 1: £175


Westminster Boating Base run a whole variety of beginner sailing courses for central Londoners. They run RYA Level 1 courses from April through to October for two days.

Because of the strong tidal flow, you will need to go through a familiarisation period with an experienced sailor from the club before manning a dinghy alone.

Don’t want to fork out for a full course just yet? Westminster Boating Base run taster sessions for those who want to give it a go for the first time.


Harp Sailing School

Welsh Harp, Birchen Grove, Wembley, London, NW9 8SA

Price for RYA Level 1: £195


Welsh Harp is one of the largest lakes in London with 170 hectare of open water, marshes, trees and grassland. Harp Sailing School run RYA Level 1 and Level 2 courses in RS Visions, a popular double-handed boat.

There are maximum 14 people per course and they run on consecutive Sundays only, which is handy if you don’t want to give up a whole weekend to do the course.

Photo: Welsh Harp Sailing Club


Croydon Sailing Club

South Norwood Lake, London SE25

Price for RYA Level 1: £180


Croydon Sailing Club is one of the few centres in south London with an emphasis on friendly competitive races. It’s been running for over 55 years. They only have a handful of dates for RYA Level 1 courses per summer, so make sure you book on well in advance.

As part of the course fee, you’ll also get six month membership to come back and practice your skills in the club boats.

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King George Sailing Club

Lea Valley Road, Chingford, London, E4 7PX

Price for RYA Level 1: £154 (or £308 if booked with Level 2 course)


King George V Reservoir is the biggest boating lake in north-east London. Raised 20m above the ground, it has good consistent winds for beginners learning to sail right up to enthusiastic racers.

They run four day courses combining RYA Level 1 and 2 (as well as individual courses) from May until October. You will learn in a double-handed Wayfarer with up to three students per boat. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can learn to sail in a single-handed Pico.

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Hillingdon Outdoor Activity Centre

Dews Lane, Harvil Road, Harefield, Middlesex, UB9 6JN

Price for RYA Level 1 and 2: £230


Hillingdon Outdoor Activity Centre is a friendly community hub in west London near Uxbridge with a wide range of courses for adults and children. They run three different types of Learn To Sail courses. The first two options are a single-handed course or double-handed course (both running on Saturdays for four weeks).

Alternatively you can go for a mid-week course on a Wednesday night from 6pm to 8.30pm where you can reach your Level 1 and/or Level 2 over the course of the summer. Minimum four sessions required to gain your qualification - and it costs £100 for four sessions.

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