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What Is Sail Training?

  • An exciting, rewarding and fun outdoor sailing adventure.
  • Experiencing hands-on sailing and being at sea, learning about every role on board.
  • Working as part of an inclusive and enthusiastic team, made up from people of all ages, nationalities and abilities.
  • Having a unique experience depending on the type of vessel and part of the world you choose. For example, sailing on board a large Class A vessel can be like stepping back in time… and you’ll quickly get over your fear of heights. While joining the crew of a smaller Class C or D vessel is often more intimate and exhilarating.
  • Sailing on board a vessel that could be run by a charity, school, university, or private individual or company.
  • Ultimately, sail training is a life-changing adventure.

What Will I Do On Board?

You’ll quickly become a valued crewmate and will soon feel like part of the team. You’ll get involved with every task on board, including:

  • Taking part in a watch, so that the vessel can run throughout the day and night. Don’t worry, you won’t be on duty all the time. Each watch usually lasts between two to four hours.
  • Hoisting sails.
  • Climbing the mast.
  • Navigating and steering.
  • Cleaning the decks and cooking in the galley.

Why Should I Do It?

  • The opportunity to sail a ship across an ocean.
  • Visiting new countries and making lifelong, international friends.
  • Confronting and overcoming exciting physical and emotional challenges.
  • Taking personal responsibility and working as part of a group.
  • Learning about yourself, discovering your strengths and talents, and building your self-confidence.
  • Oh… and learning about sailing.

When Can I Do It?

  • All over the world and all year round.
  • The average duration of a sail training voyage is six days, but they can last from one day to more than three weeks.

Who Can Do It?

  • Anyone can take part.
  • There’s a vessel out there for everyone. It doesn’t matter how old you are, your experience or ability level, your religious beliefs, or your nationality.
  • Some vessels have an upper age limit, some specialise in supporting people with physical or emotional disabilities, and many particularly welcome 16-25 year olds.
  • You don’t need any experience to take part. The full-time crew will explain everything to you and give you the opportunity to try your hand at all aspects of sailing.
  • People with experience are also welcome – you can help other trainees while you learn.
  • We encourage people to get involved and make new friends. If you’re shy, sail training can be a great way to meet people and build your self-confidence.

What if I Have a Physical or Social Disability?

  • We don’t want a disability to restrict anyone from taking part in a sail training adventure. People in wheelchairs can take in the views from the top of the rigging, just like those who climb up.
  • Certain vessels cater specifically for people with disabilities. Check the vessel’s page before you book.

Will I Be Safe?

  • We take safety at sea very seriously. Check out Safety and Welfare for more information.

What Are the Rules?

  • Sail training encourages you to take personal responsibility. So, looking after your kit and belongings is down to you.
  • Avoid using your smartphone, iPod or tablet – you’ll be too busy sailing and making new friends anyway. There will likely be rules about when you’re permitted to use them, and you might not be able to charge them easily. When you are allowed, try to take lots of photos and videos to share with your friends and family, on social media, and with Sail Training International when you get back (a GoPro is great). We love to see them.
  • On board, the skipper is the boss. Bear in mind that behaviour issues could result in you being dismissed from the voyage. Treat everyone with respect and you’ll get the best from the experience.
  • Your skipper will decide whether smoking is permitted on deck, and whether over 18s can drink alcohol.
  • Drugs won’t be tolerated on any vessel. People who break this rule will be sent home or reported to the authorities.

Where Can I Do It?

    • On Tall Ships, for demanding work aloft and on deck.
    • On Small Ships, within more intimate teams.
    • As part of the annual Tall Ships Races and Regattas.

How Much Is It?

    • Berth prices vary according to size of vessel and length of trip – check our vessels pages for more details.
    • Funding and bursaries are available, particularly for those who might struggle with the cost. You can also raise the money yourself – check out our helpful ideas for fundraising.
    • Some sailing charities offer subsidised places – ask your NSTO for more information.
    • Ports hosting a Tall Ships event offer subsidised trainee places to local residents – contact the port directly for more information.

How Do I Book?

  • Visit our Find Your Adventure section to discover the right vessel for you. Here, you’ll be able to view and compare the vessels that have entered upcoming races, and decide when and where you’d like to take part.
  • Once you’ve decided on your adventure, contact the vessel directly for more details and to book your place.

What If I Have a Problem On Board?

  • If you have a problem or you’re worried about anything, don’t feel nervous about talking to your watch leader or officer. They’ll do what they can do fix it. If you’re still worried, talk to the skipper – he or she is ultimately in charge and is responsible for your wellbeing.

What If I Get Seasick?

  • The permanent crew will be used to dealing with seasickness – it’s no big deal. Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to admit that you feel unwell.
  • Seasickness is nothing to worry about. Most people will experience it at one time or another, and it’ll quickly pass.
  • If you know that you suffer from seasickness or you get travel sick, bring medication with you and mention this when you book.
  • Check out our blog post, 10 Top Tips to Avoid Seasickness, for more helpful hints.

Are There Toilets On Board?

  • Absolutely… but they’re called “heads.” They’re a little bit different from regular toilets, as you use a hand pump to flush them. However, many larger vessels will also have traditional toilets, without a hand pump.
  • The most important thing to remember is not to put anything down them that you didn’t eat first – this includes toilet paper – with no exceptions. No dental floss, feminine hygiene products, or old parking tickets. Don’t worry, you’ll be shown how to use the heads when you get on board.
  • And yes – there are lots of videos out there all about how to use a marine toilet/the heads. This is a clean one.

Are There Showers On Board?

  • Most vessels have showers, although some might not. If you’re worried, check with the vessel before you book.
  • Showers on board might not be quite what you expect… they could consist of a shower hose in the heads, or separate cubicles. There won’t be much space, you’ll need to watch how much water you use, and they might not be as hot as you’re used to at home.

Can I Go Alone?

  • Yes. Many people travel alone, but small groups are also welcome.
  • Sail training is friendly and inclusive, and people of all nationalities and ability levels are encouraged to take part.
  • You’ll get to know other people and make new friends quickly, particularly when you keep watch together, play games on board, and meet people from around the world.

What If I Get Homesick?

  • Sail training is fast paced, fun and exciting. Like anything new and unfamiliar, it might be a little bit scary at first. Perhaps it’s the first time you’ve stayed away from home, or you’ve never travelled abroad before. Don’t panic – embrace the adventure. You’ll quickly get used to living on board, and you’ll soon feel like you’re part of the crew.
  • If you do find yourself missing home, the best advice we can give is to get stuck in. Before you know it, you’ll be having the time of your life.

Will My Dietary Requirements Be a Problem?

  • Many vessels are able to deal with special dietary requirements. Check out the individual vessel’s page for more information.
  • Smaller Class C and D vessels may provide set menus with exact food requirements for the trip.

What If I Only Speak English?

  • Many crews will use their country’s language. But don’t worry, the “operational language” on board is usually English.
  • The crew and other trainees will speak lots of different languages, so you’ll have the chance to learn a few new phrases.
  • If English isn’t your first language, the crew will be happy to explain anything, or someone in the group will be able to translate for you.
  • Some vessels aim to have as many nationalities on board as possible, which creates a unique cultural experience and is all part of the magic of sailing in a Tall Ships Race or Regatta.

What Will I Need to Organise Before My Trip?

  • Sail training vessels will advise you on your insurance requirements, which will cover you while you’re on board.
  • Make sure you have your own medical insurance for home and abroad. Don’t forget to start your cover before you travel, so you’re protected on your way to and from the vessel. It’s also a good idea to include “loss of luggage” and “third party liability,” too.

Can I Use Sail Training For My Duke of Edinburgh Residential?

  • Yes. It’s an approved activity for your Residential, Gold Level.
  • Mention this when you book and your skipper should be able to help you out.

Do I Need a Seaman's Discharge Book?

  • No, you don’t need a Seaman’s Discharge Book or Seaman’s Card because you aren’t paid to take part in sail training.
  • If you do have a Discharge Book or Card, you can use sail training to build up your sailing time. Just let your skipper know, and ask him or her to sign it off at your port of disembarkation.

Can I Use Sail Training For My IB Creativity, Activity, Service?

What Should I Bring/Not Bring?

  • Your sail training vessel will provide all appropriate safety equipment, such as life jackets, but you’ll need to bring the basics.
  • Check with your vessel what you need to bring, but it’ll usually include toiletries and towels, warm and waterproof clothing, trainers or sneakers, swim wear, medicines, sunscreen/hat/sunglasses, and plastic bags to store wet clothing.
  • Your vessel will also be able to inform you whether you should bring your passport, identification and health insurance card.
  • Depending on the event you’ve entered, it’s useful to bring a small amount of spending money. Don’t bring large amounts of cash, though.
  • Fresh water and food will be provided. Water is stored in holding tanks, but the supply is limited, so only use as much as you need. Don’t worry about going hungry on board because there’s plenty of filling food. You’ll get involved with cooking and washing up, but don’t panic if you can’t cook, you’ll learn quickly.

Where Can I Find Out More?

  • Click “Find Out More” on a vessel’s page for more information about dates and costs.
  • Contact your NSTO for more information about sail training in general, and to discover local opportunities to take part in your country.
  • Check out Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram for more information.
  • If you’d like help finding and booking your adventure – we’re here to help you every step of the way. Even if you haven’t quite decided on what you want to do, and where you want to go, we can guide you through the process. Email the Sail On Board support team on