Which are our top British boarding schools for sailing?
Sail training develops confidence, perseverance, leadership and teamwork; key transferable skills which enhance students’ ability to perform in all areas. Little wonder then that it is often offered as part of an independent education. Here we feature our top British boarding schools for sailing.
Ryde School offers sailing within the curriculum, allowing all pupils, from beginner to elite, to experience and develop sailing. Years 7-8 sail weekly in the summer term, while Years 9-13 can choose sailing as a weekly games option. Working with partners across the Isle of Wight, it maximises opportunities for sailing, having diversified into keel boat racing, entering a J70 to the Cowes racing series and Round the Island Race. This opportunity is offered to students in Year 9 and 10, and provides a supported and coached progression from dinghies to yacht racing. Students in all year groups and all abilities are also offered the opportunity of a trip to Lake Garda to develop their skills, and for the more advanced sailors the opportunity to sail foiling boats.
Sevenoaks School’s sailing teams have won national championships for 16 of the past 20 years. For 11 years they have been the international schools’ champion, and were the first team to be chosen to represent GBR at the Team Racing World Championships. Sailing continues all year round from Year 9 through to the Upper Sixth, and complete beginners are welcome to have a go. The school has excellent sailing facilities, with its own fleet of 26 fireflies and 24 RS Fevas, six RS Aeros, 10 Topper Argos, five 420s and two SB20 Keelboats. Sailing takes place four days a week at Bough Beech Sailing Club and Bewl Water, with sessions run by the school’s three full-time coaches and other excellent instructors. In Years 9 and 10 sailors mainly compete in fleet racing on the RS Feva circuit, while in Year 11 and the Sixth Form the focus switches to team racing, where the school teams compete on both the school and university circuits. In recent years, they have beaten the 1st teams from Oxford, Cambridge, Bristol and Southampton universities.
The Royal Hospital School (RHS) offers excellent sailing provision to all pupils, with the opportunity to get on the water three or four times per week. Primarily using Alton Water reservoir on the fringes of campus, within a ten-minute walk from school, means pupils can sail in games lessons, after school and, for sixth formers, in their free periods. Pupils joining in Year 7 take part in a learn to sail week in their first term, and all pupils can sail in beginner, intermediate or race training groups in each games lesson. The Sailing Academy is a Royal Yachting Association (RYA) Recognised Training Centre and British Youth Sailing Recognised Club, with three highly qualified and experienced full-time staff alongside three part-time staff delivering its extensive activities. The Academy maintains a fleet of 60 dinghies, catering for every level of sailing; from beginner boats like the RS Tera to team racing Fireflies, Olympic pathway craft such as the ILCA and 29er, and, with the latest in one-design foiling, the Waszp, RHS is the only school in the world offering weekly foiling activities to its pupils. Competitively, RHS has enjoyed extraordinary success in recent years, producing back-to-back Youth National Champions in the ILCA 6, a Youth World Champion, and winning the UK school, UK under 19 open and UK under 19 women’s team racing titles. Alongside competition, there is also the opportunity to work towards instructor qualifications and take part in weekend sailing expeditions using the school’s fleet of Cornish Shrimpers. Sailing Scholarships are awarded to talented and committed young sailors.
Windermere School’s lakeside water sports centre is another RYA Recognised Training Centre and British Youth Sailing Recognised Club. Pupils’ sailing aspirations are supported, whether that is to represent GB at the highest level or to enjoy sailing solely for pleasure. The centre has a number of boats used for sail training to suit experience and size, while the mixed team of boys and girls race in Tera and Feva dinghies, competing against other schools in local races, as well as at Grand Prix series around the country, at the National Championships, and at the World Championships. Highly qualified coaching and sailing staff seek to provide as wide a range of sailing opportunities as possible.
While these and some others may be top British boarding schools for sailing competitions, two deserve a mention for their innovative use of striking vessels to support their wider curricula.
Unusually for a land-locked school, Dauntsey’s has a long association with, and passion for, sailing; the school’s sailing club was founded in 1971 and the association with Jolie Brise began in 1977. A Category 0 vessel, she is allowed to go anywhere in the world at any time and Dauntsey’s pupils have sailed her across the Atlantic six times, crossed the Bay of Biscay 10 times, and navigated up to 200 miles inside the Arctic Circle. Named after France’s equivalent of the Beaufort scale force five wind, Jolie Brise was launched at Le Havre in 1913. She was the penultimate Gaff Cutter in the Pilot Service before the change from sail to steam and the last boat to carry the Royal Mail under sail. She has won the Fastnet Race three times, including the first race in 1925 and, more recently with Dauntsey’s pupils on board, she has been overall winner of the Tall Ships Races four times.
Sailing is a key element of a Gordonstoun education. Every student takes part in a programme of seamanship as part of the curriculum, starting on locally built cutters prior to voyages on Ocean Spirit of Moray, a fully equipped ocean-going yacht (an Oyster 80-foot ketch), whose sole function is as a sail training vessel for students. The school also has a fleet of Toppers, Lasers, Vagos and powerboats, which sail from Hopeman Harbour, a fishing village three miles from the school. In the summer holidays, Ocean Spirit takes a student crew further afield to the Arctic, the Azores and also regularly takes part in Tall Ships Races.
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