Harriet Ward keelboating

Keelboating 101

What is keelboating?

Keelboating refers to small or mid-sized boats with a keel. This could be anything from a 40ft yacht with 10 people, to an Etchell which has about 4 people. Usually when someone talks about ‘keelboating’ rather than ‘yachting’, they are referring to smaller keelboats that are sailed inshore by 2 or more people.

Yacht sailing can be daunting for sailors who have come from dinghies as they are much bigger, more powerful and dangerous. Keelboating is perfect for sailors who are looking to bridge the gap between dinghy sailing and yacht sailing.

As well as the different types of boats, Keelboating has different types of racing: Fleet racing, match racing and team racing. This gives plenty of opportunities to see what you like, and what suits you.

We spoke to Harriet Ward, a competitor in the Women’s Match Racing World Tour, to get the low down on why she likes keelboating, how to get involved and what to wear for it…

Why do you enjoy keelboating compared to other boats?

‘The main difference between keelboating and dinghies is the size, usually you have only 1 or 2 people sailing a dinghy whereas keelboating you can have anything from 2 to 10 people on board. This makes keelboating much more social. I prefer keelboating to dinghy sailing because I like working as part of a bigger team. As there are more roles to do on the keelboat, you get to have a specific part to play, rather than having to do all the roles yourself, like on a dinghy. Also, keelboating is great because you stay much drier than you would on a dinghy.’

How did you get into keelboating and how do you suggest other people can get involved?

‘I first got into it through university. Before that, I had competed in youth dinghy sailing. Through most sailing clubs at university, they offer opportunities to get involved in keelboating, such as the BUCS yachting nationals, and match racing. I also joined the RYA Keelboating Academy which is a training programme offered to sailors aged 18 and 24 who are looking at getting into keelboating.

If you’re not at that stage of life, I would recommend joining a sailing club and doing a course or 2 to get up to scratch, and then joining various facebook groups for people who are looking for crew to join their boat, making contacts and gaining experience through there.’

What do you usually wear when you go keelboating and why?

‘A staple part of my kit is usually some waterproof trousers, even if it is a super sunny day, because it does get wet from the waves and splash, and I wouldn’t want to get cold. On my feet I go for a pair of Helly Hansen sailing trainers in the summer, or my Dubarry Boots in the winter to keep my feet warm. As for my top half, on a sunny day I wear just a t-shirt because I get quite hot when jumping round the boat. When it’s cold, I bring lots of layers in my dry bag so that I can adjust my clothing for how hot/cold I’m feeling.  These layers include a midlayer and a waterproof jacket.


Shop sailing gear here.

Published on 27th May 2022 in Sailing

Visiting from United States?

US Flag Continue to UK

Your browser is extremely out of date. We strongly recommend that you try a different browser for the best experience when using our website. Close.