Learning to sail will present a range of possibilities when it comes to planning your next holiday - whether you want to cruise around the Caribbean, explore the Greek islands or discover Croatia's coastline. To take a course in the activity before your break, head to the Solent.
This stretch of water off the south coast of England separates the Isle of Wight from the mainland and is renowned the world over as a premier sailing destination. It is approximately 4 miles wide and can experience strong surface currents. As the Solent is protected from the rest of the English Channel by the island, it is the ideal place to learn to sail on holiday in the UK.
While experienced sailors love the thrill of sailing around the Isle of Wight, there is plenty in the area for novices as well, making it a popular choice for anyone who wants to brush up on their skills before heading off on a yacht charter holiday elsewhere. The sailing conditions in the Solent make it a haven for sailors of all abilities, with sheltered areas such as Langstone Harbour perfect for those who are new to the sport.
One of the best parts about learning to sail on the Solent is that you won't have far to go to test your new skills or to really challenge yourself once you get confident on the water, allowing you to experience a range of conditions under the watchful eyes of your instructor.
Another reason to consider travelling to the Solent to learn to sail is that it is within easy reach of much of the south of England. Whether you are usually based in London and want to escape the big city for a few days of relaxation on the coast or live in one of the towns outside the capital, you will only be a couple of hours' drive away from a sailing school in the UK.
This means you will not need to book time off work in order to complete your training, as, in many cases, the basic sessions can be conducted within a weekend. In addition, many water sports centres will be prepared to spread longer courses out over several weekends, enabling you to learn the ropes without having to use much of your precious holiday time.
As you'll be able to pick up all the qualifications you need in order to take control of your own vessel, either by booking a yacht charter in the United Kingdom, or by jetting off to an exotic location abroad. Always make sure you pick a centre that offers Royal Yachting Association (RYA) courses, as these are recognised the world over and will mean you can hire a boat and cruise around wherever you go.
The Solent isn't only a great place for beginners to learn the basics, though; it's also an ideal location for more advanced sailors to improve their skills by taking courses such as the RYA coastal skipper practical qualification, which prepares you for offshore and night sailing, among other challenges.
A range of shore-based training sessions are also run at sailing schools on the Solent, helping those with a passion for the water to learn more about everything from maintaining and fixing diesel engines to operating a boat radio and first aid at sea.
Once you have got to grips with the basics of crewing or captaining a yacht, you won't have far to travel if you fancy a daytrip on the sea to put your new skills to the test and visit some picturesque destinations along the way. With the Isle of Wight within easy reach of the mainland, this is the logical choice for your first excursions at the helm of a yacht.
The island is home to ports such as Cowes - which hosts an annual sailing regatta. Here you will find a natural harbour at the mouth of the Medina River where you can moor up and head ashore to explore. There is a variety of shops and restaurants along the town's main street, while you will also find the Maritime Museum in the Cowes Library, in which you can view a range of displays dedicated to the island's seafaring heritage.