Things to consider before your first sail!

The preparations for your first sail should include making sure someone accompanies you, to help you rig... and assist, if it all goes wrong. Other matters worthy of consideration include :


"Fashion" and "image" are words that are not associated with Landsailing - at all, mercifully - so wear what is comfortable, and won't matter if it gets wet or mucky.

Consider where the pulleys are on your yacht, and make sure that you are not wearing loose or baggy clothing that could get possibly get caught in any of the pulleys. If any clothing gets caught in the pulleys, the pulley will jam... and you will capsize.

If there is a pulley behind your head, make sure that any long hair cannot get caught in the pulley.

If it is a cold day, it will probably be colder out on the beach than it is in the car park.

  • Windproof clothing is a good idea, to avoid wind chill.
  • Waterproof clothing - or waterproofs over your clothing - is another good idea. You might set out with every intention of staying on the dry areas, but you will probably end up on the wet bits... and it is surprising how much splashing is involved, if you end up sailing on wet sand.

If the beach is narrow - so there is a risk of sailing into the sea - or the beach has streams flowing across it, wear waterproofs. If your beach is very wet, a dry suit might be a good idea … but they cost £250+.

A well prepared sailor who is dry and warm will be able to stay out on the beach having fun much longer than the ill-prepared sailor who is cold and wet.

If it is a warm or hot day, do not be tempted to wear shorts or T shirts. Apart from sunburn, and sand getting where it shouldn't, the sand is incredibly abrasive if you fall out of the yacht - which is a possibility, until you have mastered the basics.

  • Shoes - As with the clothing, waterproof is best, and you can do a lot worse than wear wellies for your first foray. Avoid shoes with long laces, that might get caught in something. If the wind is light, and there is a risk that you might have a long walk back to base, then perhaps stout walking boots might be better.
  • Helmet - A motorcycle type crash helmet is a good idea, in the first instance. The risk of hitting your head on the sand when you fall out is high, particularly on your first go, and the helmet also helps reduce the risk of damage to your head caused by the boom flapping about, especially if it is windy.
  • Gloves - The rope that pulls the sail in is invariably wet and sandy, and will shred your hands. Wear old gloves, and you will be amazed how quickly the rope wears through them. Gloves also help reduce abrasion from the sand if you fall out.
  • Goggles - If you wear glasses normally, you should wear them for sailing, too. Wear an old pair, as the sand can scratch the lenses when you wipe them.

Beaches have a surprising variety of hazards on them, including holes, posts, rocks and broken bottles. You need to be able to see these hazards, hence the need to wear your glasses. Goggles will help keep wet sand - or airborne sand when it is windy - out of your eyes, but wet sand will also stick to your goggles. Sand in the eyes can be very painful, so it is worth trying goggles … but they scratch easier than glasses, so try a cheap pair first.

You are now suitably attired, and ready to sail.

Hopefully your yacht is rigged and ready to go, too.

Your First Sail

If you have a Potty Minilandyacht, there are detailed assembly and rigging instructions on the Potty section of this website, which may assist you if you have something similar.

When you buy a yacht, do get the seller to show you how to assemble it.

Most of them are relatively simple and logical to put together, but a little tuition removes the trial and error element.

  • Once the yacht is assembled, turn it on it's side so the mast is pointing downwind, away from you. Hold on to the boom, and let the wind unroll the sail for you... slot the end of the mast pocket over the top of the mast, and pull the sail gently down the mast. If you feel any resistance, stop and investigate. If the sail is old, there may be holes in the mast pocket.
  • Once the sail is fully on the mast, stand the yacht upright and rotate it through 90 degrees, so it is pointing into the wind. Thread the rope through the pulleys, check everything is tight and as it should be, and the yacht is ready to go.
  • Sit in the yacht, make yourself comfortable, put your feet on the steering pedal, fasten the seat belt, pick up the rope and … note that you are not going anywhere, because you are pointing into the wind. This is the Safety Position - pointing into the wind - and you need to remember that the wind is blowing from the sea - or wherever - because, if you find yourself going too fast or you don’t like what is happening, you need to let go of the rope and steer the yacht into the Safety Position - pointing into the wind - for it to stop.
  • Please re-read the last sentence - to make sure you have fully understood the relevance of the Safety Position - as it is very important. If you feel you could explain it to someone else, you’re ready to go.
  • Let go of the rope so that the sail can flap freely, and move the yacht through 90 degrees so it is positioned across the wind ... just lean the front wheel over and push yourself backwards with your feet to do this, as it saves undoing the seat-belt and getting out. You should now be sitting with the wind blowing from the side, with the sail flapping loosely, sticking out to one side.
  • Pull gently on the rope and the sail will fill with wind, and the yacht will feel as though it wants to move forwards. Don't pull any harder on the rope yet ... reach round and give the ground behind the axle a push with your free hand to get you rolling if necessary, or get someone to give you a helpful push & you should be rolling along at a walking pace.
  • Pull the rope in a bit more and you should start going faster. If that feels good, then try pulling a little harder & you will go faster again. The general principle is ... the harder you pull, the faster you go.
  • If you pull the rope too hard too quickly and there is enough wind, the yacht will tip up onto two wheels, so let go of the rope, which gets the airborne wheel back on the ground. … and try pulling more gently next time.
  • If you are ever in doubt, or don't like what is happening, let the rope out.
  • Now you are going forwards, hopefully fairly quickly, and the time has come to turn. Let the rope out slightly to slow down, then turn the front wheel, using your feet on the steering bar, and steer the yacht into the wind, so the wind is blowing straight into your face, (the Safety Position) then keep on steering round so that the yacht is pointing back to base, where you set off from. The wind will blow the sail across, and the boom will pass over your head as you change direction. Keep a gentle hold on the rope — the sail, after flapping around as you go through the turn, will once again fill with wind & you will feel the sail pulling back on the rope. Pull gently to accelerate, and let the rope out to slow down, or to get an airborne wheel back on the ground.
  • Let the rope out to slow down as you approach base and turn the yacht into the wind (the Safety Position) well before you reach base – to roll to a controlled halt.
  • Then you go and do it all again and again, only getting faster. Try turning a little tighter and quicker - especially if you rolled to a halt mid-turn last time - try pulling the rope a little harder to make a wheel lift off the ground deliberately … and let the rope out to let it down again. Easy isn't it, hence why everyone's an expert within ten minutes and an ear-to-ear grin is guaranteed. Remember to let the rope out to slow down when you return to base, and to steer into the wind to stop.
  • If you enjoyed that, then don't bother returning to base but try sailing that course again in the opposite direction. This time you will be turning away from the wind (downwind) so ease the rope out a little to slow down slightly and turn gently down wind, continuing the turn until you are pointing back the way you came, letting the sail out gradually until the boom has passed over your head, and is filling with wind again as you complete the turn, then pull the rope gently back in to accelerate away.
  • Try taking the downwind turns a little tighter and quicker and you will find yourself sliding and skidding sideways – at which point you should let the rope out a little and steer in the direction that you want to be going. This is called "applying opposite lock" & may sound technical but comes instinctively to nearly everyone. If it does not come instinctively, the yacht continues to slide ... and, if you don't like the sensation, simply let go of the rope and you will stop.
  • If you overdo things completely – easily done in strong winds – the yacht might try to spin. If so - and it is an alarming feeling, so you will know - let go of the rope - drop it completely - and grab hold of the sides of the seat with both hands, and keep your feet firmly on the steering bar pointing straight ahead. You will skid to a halt within 10 to 15m of losing it. If you hang on to the rope during a spin - which is instinctive - there is a risk that you will end up stopping across the wind with the sail pulled in tight - in which case the yacht may well get blown over. It will also tip over if you overdo the wheel-waving and over-balance it. If the yacht does tip over you will in fact be moving very slowly - the seat belt holds you firmly in place and you will come to no harm. If you do tip it over, unclip the seat belt, stand yourself up, then stand the yacht back up and hop back in before anyone notices ... then go and try that manoeuvre again, only without tipping it over this time.
  • Remember to always wear the seat belt – it keeps you in the yacht if it spins.
  • If you stop for a break, make sure you stop the yacht in the safety position, and tip it over on it's side ... to prevent it being blown away on it's own.

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