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Sailing is by far one of the most popular pastimes in Salcombe with both visitors and locals alike. Salcombe sailing offers the ultimate way to appreciate and make the most of Salcombe’s exquisite natural beauty. There is no better way to discover the magnificent coastline with its sheer cliffs, hidden coves and creeks, or secluded beaches only accessible by the water.

Salcombe Sailing 1

Here is our comprehensive guide to all you need to know about sailing in Salcombe.


Types of sailboats

Sailing of any kind is a truly exhilarating and breath-taking experience, giving you the opportunity to take in the dramatic scenery and fresh sea-air in South Devon. Whether you are seeking relaxation or exhilaration when sailing on the open water, the choice of sailboats are as plentiful as fish in the sea.

Salcombe Yawl

The Salcombe Yawl is a small sailing dinghy that has been a very important part of Salcombe’s sailing history. Dating back to the late 1800’s its origin is derived from traditional fishing boats from the area. The Salcombe Yawl is famed for its craftsmanship, fine balance and manoeuvrability. Hand built from mahogany wood, with the three distinctive sails, this tenacious little boat is designed for speed.

Salcombe Sailing Yawl
The Salcombe Yawl has developed and evolved a long way since then, but the spirit of the sailboat is still the same. Modern Salcombe Yawls are built for racing and have outstanding sailing characteristics. Their refined design makes them exceptionally fast and great for challenging racing.

The Salcombe Yawl Owners Association have a strong presence in Salcombe, with training weeks, open meetings and the Salcombe Yacht Club hosting Saturday club racing. Find out more about SYOA’s upcoming Yawl racing fixtures and other Salcombe based events on their website.

Dinghy sailing

Dinghy sailing spans across a number of various types of sailing vessels. Sailing dinghies come in a range of sizes and shapes and there is a vessel to suit any budget. From Solos, Lasers, Optimists, Gulls, Wayfarers and many others, the intrinsic design involves a small open boat with a sail, which is used to harness the power of the wind.

Salcombe Sailing dinghy 4
Dinghy sailing and racing makes for one of the favourite maritime activities in Salcombe. Fleets of dinghies are a regular sight heading out along the estuary and into the channel.

Luxury sailing yachts

Salcombe Sailing Sailfunk

For the ultimate sailing experience, luxury yachts are the crème de la crème of the boating world. Sail powered, these spectacular watercraft are decked out to the ‘gunnels’ with creature comforts a plenty. Be sure to keep an eye out this summer – you will be sure to see these luxury cruisers dotted along Salcombe harbour.

Sailing events in Salcombe

The Salcombe sailing calendar is brimming with various maritime events. Whether you are a spectator or one of the lucky ones to be taking part, Salcombe boasts some of the best sailing spectacles in the South West.

Salcombe Sailing 2

Here is a quick glimpse of Salcombe’s 2019 sailing calendar

  • Merlin Rocket Silver Tiller 13-14 April
  • National Twelve & Salcombe Yawl Open 4-6 May
  • Solo, RS400 & Salcombe Yawl Open 25-27 May
  • Salcombe Gig Regatta 2 June
  • Historic Lifeboat Rally 15-16 June
  • Merlin Rocket Week 7-12 July
  • Salcombe Town Regatta 3-10 August
  • Salcombe Yacht Club Regatta 11-17 August
  • Salcombe Yawl & Aero Open 7-8 September
  • Salcombe RNLI – 150th Festival Weekend 20-22 September
  • Lark Masters & Laser Open 5-6 October
  • Solo and Phantom Open 19-20 October

Learn to sail in Salcombe

From beginners to advanced sailors, everyone can learn to sail or improve their sailing skills when visiting Salcombe. Whether you’re looking for a first-time taster experience, a variety of sailing from performance and racing boats of leisure sail, Salcombe has experiences to whet your appetite. It’s the perfect chance to see what sailing is all about.

Salcombe Dinghy Sailing – Dinghy, Keelboat and Multihull

Salcombe sailing dinghy 3

From complete beginners, to more advanced sailors wanting to refresh their skills, there is something for everyone at Salcombe Dinghy Sailing. Dinghies, multihulls and small keelboats provide an exciting and cost-effective way for the whole family to get afloat.
Salcombe Dinghy Sailing offer a range of Royal Yachting Association (RYA) accredited sailing courses, as well private tuition which covers the required level of practical skills to complete certificates of competence and move across to the advanced modules for both youth and adults.

Private tuition:

A great place to start sailing is with private tuition. If you are a novice and sailing appeals to you, there’s a chance to get to know the basics from the RYA accredited instructors. Salcombe Dinghy Sailing offer a basic understanding of how a boat sails, with some experience of steering and handling the boat. Tuition ranges from 1.5 hours through to a full-day lesson, with the option of ‘learning the ropes’ together as a family.

RYA Practical Sailing Courses:

Salcombe Dinghy Sailing offers both youth and adult sailing schemes, consisting of various stages and levels based on practical experience, which enable you to move up through the stages as and when the levels are completed. Youth sailing runs from stages 1-4 while adult sailing is across levels 1-3. Both youth and adults need to complete these stages prior to progressing on to ‘cruising courses’ such as day-sailing, racing or sailing with spinnakers.

Salcombe Sailing dinghy sailing 2

Adult level 1: Start sailing – This is the introduction to sailing and all you need to ‘get afloat’. It covers a basic understanding of how a boat sails, with some experience of steering and handling the boat while sailing under supervision in light winds.

Adult level 2: Basic skills – Sailing skills to the standard of level 1 are required prior to taking this course. You’ll learn all about rigging, launching, sailing in all directions and the ability to make decisions in good conditions.

Adult level 3: Better sailing – This is coaching of level 1 and 2 skills with taster sessions from the more advanced levels. All of which will leave you confident in sailing skills and techniques, equipped and ready to progress onto the advanced modules of seamanship skills, day-sailing and racing.

Contact Salcombe Dinghy Sailing

Island Cruising Club – Sail Cruising Courses

The Island Cruising Club is a historic Salcombe yacht sailing school and has been in operation since 1951. The club is founded on the idea that sailing should be available to all, without the need to buy your own boat.The Island Cruising Club offers the opportunity to further your sailing experience, with an instructor on hand to give advice, encouragement and to ensure your safety.

With RYA practical training skill courses of level 1 and 2, you have the opportunity to train both on the water and ashore between the cruising and theoretical navigation courses. After which, you’ll be able to take a trip out of the marina, cruise along the coast or venture further offshore.

Cruising courses:

Start Yachting – A short introduction to sailing for complete beginners which will have you experienced in steering a yacht, sail-handling, ropework and safety.

Competent Crew – This is a course for beginners who would like to become active crew members rather than just passengers aboard a boat. By the end of the course, you should be able to steer, handle sails, keep a lookout and assist in all day to day duties on board.

Day Skipper Course – This course is over five days or three weekends, with the suggested minimum pre-course experience of five days sea time, 100 nautical miles and four night hours at sea. You are required to have basic navigation and knowledge of tides, preferably learnt through a RYA shorebased navigation course. The standard intended to be reached through the course is the ability to skipper a small yacht in familiar waters by day.

Coastal Skipper – Advanced skippering techniques for yachtsmen and women with an already considerable knowledge of sailing and navigation. The course consists of skippered passages in a variety of sailing conditions, boat handling and emergency situations, giving you the ability to skipper a yacht on costal passages by day and night.

Navigation Courses:

Essential Navigation – This is a great introduction to navigation and safety awareness for new or inexperienced skippers and crew, or those wanting to refresh their skills.

Day Skipper Shorebased Course – This shoreboased course is a comprehensive introduction to cruising. It includes the basics of seamanship, coastal navigation, chartwork and tides which forms an ideal foundation for the practical Day Skipper Course.

Coastal and Offshore Yachtsman Theory – Advanced and intensive training for more experienced skippers, building on previous courses. It’s aimed at sailors who are looking to undertake more complex passages, perhaps offshore and aspiring to blue water cruising.
Learning to sail is a must if you want to immerse yourself in Salcombe life, so join in the fun and make sure you book a lesson next time you’re in Salcombe.

Contact Island Cruising Club

Salcombe sailing boat hire

Sail a Salcombe Yawl

For those seeking a more traditional sailing experience, you can hire a Salcombe Yawl to explore the stunning Salcombe estuary. Yawl and Launch Hire is run by the infamous and talented Fred Hitchen (nicknamed Scratch).

Salcombe Sailing Scratch

There is the option for total beginners to have lessons with this local instructor and lifelong sailor. Call Scratch on 01548 561619 or 07966 840436 to find out about tuition and boat hire.

Read our Q&A with local legend Scratch: The Salcombe Yawl: Q&A with Scratch.

Salcombe Dinghy Sailing

Operating from Whitestrand pontoon in the centre of town, Salcombe Dinghy Sailing offer flexible sailing to suit any group size or sailing ability. Their fleet includes Wayfarers, Lasers and Optimists. The business is run by a young dynamic duo who also offer sailing tuition.

Salcombe sailing dinghy 4

Salcombe Yacht Club

Salcombe Sailing 4

The Salcombe Yacht Club runs regular regattas for all classes of boats. They also warmly welcome visiting yachtsmen so ‘get thee to the bar for rum!’ The views from the yacht club terrace have to be some of the best in Salcombe which is perfect for watching the racing.


Salcombe Sailing Sailfunk 2

Why not spoil yourself and enjoy a luxury sailing experience aboard a skippered yacht or catamaran around the South Coast and beyond. Sailfunk allow you to lounge in luxury, whiling away the hours over a leisurely lunch and taking in magnificent scenery.

Devon Sailing Experiences – yacht charter

Whether you enjoy sailing or have never tried it, they have fantastic package options for your needs. Yacht Charter in Salcombe offers access to bays and anchorages, including a steady day sail to Burgh Island where you can stop off at the historic Pilchard Inn. They offer a range of weekend packages and skippered day-sails on board their 41′ yachts, or if you prefer one of their 36’ bare boat charters.

Essential information about sailing in Salcombe

Whether you are a seasoned seafarer with your own vessel or a novice that is keen to learn, sailing in Salcombe has certain specific information that all sailors need to know.


Lat: 50° 14; N; Long: 03° 46’ W

Directions into Salcombe harbour

Prior to sailing into Salcombe harbour, be sure to check the most up to date pilot charts or contact the Harbour Master for the latest sailing information.

  • Westerly approach – Pass Bolt Head and be sure to clear a suitable distance to avoid Little Mew Stone, after which the harbour will start revealing itself.
  • Easterly approach – Once past Prawl point, be sure to keep a fair distance off the coast before you swing over to the west in the region of Starehole Bay, and turn onto a northerly heading.
    It is important to note that entrance to the harbour is obstructed by a shallow sandbar which in normal conditions is not a problem, but in adverse weather could cause a difficult approach into the bay.


Salcombe estuary is tidal and it is essential to check the tides before sailing. These are all considerably affected by wind conditions and barometric pressure.

Check the tide time table on the Tide Times website. Alternatively, pick up a free Salcombe-Kingsbridge Estuary tide table from our Coast & Country Cottages Salcombe office.

Birthing, mooring and anchoring

Salcombe sailing estuary

There is no main marina in Salcombe, so the options are to lay your own anchor or take a Harbour Authority mooring. These moorings are always busy during the summertime and when there are events. There is the option of two berths further out on the Whitestrand Commercial pontoon.
The berths in the centre of Salcombe have all the amenities needed – electricity, water and access to showers. Further into the harbour and away from the town, anchorage is available in an area known as The Bag. Tucked in behind Snapes Point, the Harbour Authority maintains a large deepwater pontoon for visitors. The advantage of moving beyond Snapes Point is that of a peaceful berth, undisturbed by lumpiness and less frenetic small craft activity. The disadvantage is a long dinghy ride to the town.

Speed limit

The harbour can be extremely busy, particularly in the high season, so be sure to navigate with care and consideration, adhere to the speed limits (six or eight knots), minimise wake, wear lifejackets and be sure to connect a kill cord when on a vessel with an outboard engine.

Harbour guide

Download your Salcombe harbour guide here

  • The Salcombe Harbour Master can be reached on VHF channel 14 or by calling 01548 843 791.
  • Yacht taxi can be contacted on VHF Channel 12.

Boating safety

Like every other outdoor activity, there are essentials that you should know before embarking on your journey. Whether on a short trip across the estuary or heading out on a day cruise, there are certain items that are required for a safe and enjoyable ride.

  • Wear correctly fitted life jackets or buoyancy aids.
  • Any boat with an outdoor motor should have a kill cord.
  • Know your harbour speed limits. Within the busier areas of moorings and pontoons there is a six-knot limit, but this is not a target.
  • Keep your wake low in the harbour.
  • Navigate with due care and attention.
  • Do not navigate under the influence of drink or drugs.
  • Be aware of other vessels on the water, including paddleboards and kayaks.
  • Powerboats usually give way to sailing boats, with the exception being if the sailing boat is trying to overtake it. However, staying out of the way of large vessels and ferry boats is advised due to their difficulty in changing direction.

With beautiful waters to explore, a wide range of sailing schools and boats for hire, a plethora of restaurants and pubs along with plenty of fantastic accommodation options, you’d be hard pressed to find a better place to visit.

Book your sailing holiday in Salcombe today