The following guidelines for sailing are for off-the-beach craft only.

Small, open off-the-beach sailing craft include dinghies (monohulls) and catamarans (with two hulls). Off-the-beach craft are fitted with centreboards and require the skipper and/or crew to act as ballast. Separate guidelines have been developed for Windsurfing, Water Skiing, Canoeing, and Sea Kayaking


Staff - any adult approved by the principal who provides supervisory, instructional and educational elements of the activity or excursion.

Teacher - a staff member registered with the Victorian Institute of Teaching who provides a supervisory role on a program.

The following roles can be filled by school staff, a teacher or an external provider. An assistant instructor role may be filled by a volunteer, see: Volunteers in Schools:

  • Designated instructor - the appointed staff member on a program who provides the lead technical expertise and supervision for the activity.
  • Instructor - a staff member who provides professional, technical expertise and supervision for the activity.
  • Assistant instructor - a staff member who provides assistance to the instructor(s) in the provision of technical expertise and supervision for the activity

Transport Safety Victoria - Maritime Safety provides the following definitions of waterways in Victoria to provide guidance for minimum safety equipment and preparation:

  • Inland waters - rivers inside the seaward entrance, creeks, canals, lakes, reservoirs and any similar waters either naturally formed or man-made and which are either publicly or privately owned but does not include any navigable rivers, creeks or streams within declared port waters.
  • Enclosed waters - any declared port waters inside the seaward entrance. See Victorian Recreational Boating Safety Handbook for all listed port waters.
  • Coastal Inshore waters - all waters other than inland waters or enclosed waters.
  • Coastal offshore - all waters greater than two nautical miles from the coast.


Water environment

Water environments are subject to a wide range of environmental conditions. Sailing activities may be affected by conditions such as size and turbidity of the body of water, the strength of tides and currents, the presence and power of waves, and the temperature of the water.


Due to the unique nature of each location, a specific assessment of suitability should be made prior to the trip.

Your choice of location should be based upon the recent and first hand knowledge of at least one member of the planning and supervising staff. Where this is impractical, planning and supervising staff should be thoroughly familiar with the general characteristics and conditions found in similar locations, and have consulted with people who can supply recent and first-hand knowledge of the locations being considered.

When assessing the suitability of a location, consider:

  • the potential to support your educational objectives
  • the level of access to the resources, services and facilities that you need or would like to use. These might include campsites, water, walking trails, toilets, shelter from extreme weather, or interpretive information
  • the level of access to communications and external assistance, in the event of an emergency, or extreme weather conditions. The more effectively remote your location is, then the more self-contained and self–reliant your group must be
  • the potential exposure to environmental hazards and difficulties
  • the activity ability and fitness of students.

Contact with relevant authorities should be made in order to access up-to-date management information and to determine any access and permit requirements.

These authorities may include:

Groups need to be aware that extreme weather conditions may develop prior to or during the proposed trip. Staff should be prepared to cancel, modify or relocate the activity at any time.

A suitable launching and recovery point should be identified along with other potential recovery sites.

Beginner groups should be introduced to sailing in sheltered waters with clearly defined boundaries and in weather conditions appropriate to their level of sailing skills.


Your communication strategy should enable you to receive weather forecasts and warnings, communicate with the school, and engage support in the case of an incident or emergency.

  • Choose communication equipment based on current communication technology.
  • Develop a communication strategy for the group during the program and to enable communication with outside parties including the school and emergency services.
  • Be aware of the limitations of your communication strategy.

Check the weather forecast for the location in the days leading up to the program and on the day the program commences. If the program extends overnight, monitor and assess the weather throughout and based on that information access daily weather forecasts and warnings.

Weather conditions can change rapidly. Monitor and assess the weather throughout the activity and be prepared to cancel, modify or relocate at any time.

Weather warning telephone services:

  • Coastal, Land Weather and Flood Warnings: 1300 659 217
  • Full State Telephone Weather Service: 1900 955 363 (call charge applies)
  • Coastal Waters Telephone Service: 1900 969 930 (call charge applies)
  • Victorian Bushfire Information Line: 1800 240 667

These telephone numbers may be useful to have available on your program.

Web links:

Assess wind strength, wind direction and wave conditions before the activity and decide whether to proceed with, postpone or cancel the activity.


The transportation of groups to and from activity locations must be carefully considered.

  • Vehicles used to transport students must comply with VicRoads registration requirements.
  • Drivers must comply with all licensing requirements.
  • Equipment carried inside vehicles must be securely stowed.
  • Students must be supervised by a minimum of one adult, in addition to the bus driver, during travel.

Drivers of vehicles with up to and including 12 seats (including the driver) require a current drivers license.

Drivers of vehicles with 13 or more seats (including the driver) require a current license appropriate for the vehicle and must:

In circumstances where a teacher or staff member is to drive a vehicle transporting students, the program should allow for them to have adequate rest prior to driving consistent with the national driving hours regulations.


Student skills

Sailing should begin with an assessment of students’ current knowledge, skills and experience and an activity briefing given by the instructional staff.


Equipment must be in a safe condition and suitable for the activity.

First aid kits

First aid kits appropriate to the location and level of training must be carried.

Life jackets

The wearing of a securely fitted Australian certified life jacket is required under Victorian marine safety law on all sailing craft that are underway on all Victorian waters. Students and staff must wear, as a minimum, a securely fitted Australian Standard Type 2 lifejacket if sailing within two nautical miles of the coast, and an Australian Standard Type 1 lifejacket if sailing more than two nautical miles from the coast.  For more information, see Life jacket laws.


Helmets may be provided to students participating in a sailing activity at the discretion of the instructor after consideration of students’ sailing experience and skill level.

Helmets specifically designed for water activities must comply with the following safety characteristics of lightweight protective helmets:

  • holes to allow for water drainage
  • adjustable chin strap
  • hard outer shell
  • firm fit, either by use of an adjustable harness securely attached to the helmet or a fixed helmet in a range of sizes
  • either foam padded or constructed with a suspension harness
  • capacity to float.

Rescue craft

Rescue craft appropriate to the location and in good working condition must be readily available during any sailing activity for rescue and towing purposes.

Individuals in the rescue craft must wear an Australian Standard Type 1 life jacket.

Powered rescue craft must comply with the minimum safety equipment listed in the Recreational Boating Safety Handbook, see: Transport Safety Victoria.

Sailing craft

Each boat’s rigging and equipment should be thoroughly checked before entering the water and must comply with the Australian Sailing standards for off-the-beach yachts. Each boat should include:

  • a towing point
  • a bailer (if not fitted with a self-bailing cockpit)
  • sufficient hull buoyancy to float itself on an even keel when swamped and to support not less than 25 kg for each crew member (in the case of catamarans this figure applies to each hull)
  • the facility to lower the mainsail with ease in both the upright and capsized position
  • a mast that is completely sealed or drainable at its base.

Clothing is the individual’s primary protection against severe and variable weather conditions.

Clothing lists need to be appropriate for the activity, the environment and the season.

To protect against sunburn use broad-spectrum, water-resistant SPF 30+ sunscreen on all exposed parts of the body, applied according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.

Participants must dress in a manner that will not hinder flotation. For example, heavy boots or bulky clothing must not be worn, nor a waterproof jacket over the top of a personal flotation device.

Participants must wear footwear. Glasses should be secured in some way and no loose jewellery worn. Wearing rings is not advised unless they are taped.

A complete change of clothes should be available at the location.


Staff and students must be easily identifiable.

Staff must determine the most suitable system/s of identification, based on the assessment of the environment, students’ skills, the type of activities to be undertaken and the age and number of students.


All touring parties must have a full trip plan that includes contingency plans and strategies for dealing with delays. This plan must be left with the school contact person and the local authorities. Local authorities must have the name and contact details of the school contact person. Some local authorities may require indemnity forms and permits.

For open water touring, staff must be knowledgeable about the changeable nature of the water environment they will be visiting. Do not underestimate the amount of time that may be needed.

To determine whether students may participate in touring, consider:

  • the physical fitness and skill level of each member of the group
  • unpredictable delays such as capsizes and craft repair
  • time for rest periods
  • forecast and seasonal weather conditions including tides and current, wind and waves.

When planning sea or open water touring, the instructor needs to take into account the cumulative effects of tidal influence, winds and sea breezes, potential hazards and distance from shore. Sound judgement about weather conditions, high winds and lightning needs to be exercised if open crossings are planned.

All expedition parties must carry with them the appropriate safety and rescue equipment.

Ensure all essential dry equipment (food, clothing, sleeping gear, stoves, camping equipment, toilet gear, first aid kit, communication equipment, matches and repair kits) is evenly distributed amongst the craft and carefully stored.

In addition to equipment listed earlier in this document, a paddle should be included when touring in sailing craft.



Staff members are those adults who provide the supervisory, instructional and educational elements of the program. All staff members must be approved by the principal.

All staff members must comply with current Departmental police check requirements or the Working with Children Check.

A teacher registered with the Victorian Institute of Teaching and either employed by the Department or the school council must be present and have overall responsibility for the activity.

Where not directly responsible for the instruction of the activity or assisting the instructor, the teacher present must understand the activity and the environment in which it will be conducted. This teacher must confer with the designated instructor about the supervisory role and establish areas of responsibility. If the teacher is not the designated instructor he/she is to act on the advice of the designated instructor on technical safety issues.

Any staff member with a known medical condition that might compromise the group’s risk management plan should make accompanying staff aware of this condition. Issues of confidentiality and privacy will be involved in any such disclosure.

Experience and qualifications

Staff involved in the planning and conduct of the activity should have sufficient knowledge and experience of the activity and the activity environment to operate in all foreseeable conditions.

The designated sailing instructor/s must have one of the following:

  • a current Australian Sailing Instructor Certificate
  • Australian Sailing ‘Get Into Small Boat Sailing – Better Sailing’ level and have documented experience in sailing instruction
  • equivalent documented training and experience to the Australian Sailing Instructor Certificate or the Australian Sailing ‘Get Into Small Boat Sailing – Better Sailing’ level.

The designated assistant to the instructor must:

  • have experience in the activity at the level being offered to students
  • be familiar with the requirements of the activity
  • be able to assume a supervisory role during the activity
  • have the ability to participate competently in emergency response procedures
  • have conferred with the instructor on the safety requirements of this role.

The staff member responsible for the rescue craft (which must be present at the activity) must hold a Marine Licence. For more information see: Transport Safety Victoria - Marine Licence

Documentation of staff qualifications and experience (doc - 151kb) can be used to document staff qualifications/experience in lieu of qualifications.


Supervision is a critical factor in managing risk in the outdoors.

A minimum of two staff members must be present for each activity, one with responsibility for activity instruction and the other able to assist the instructor.

The following table shows the minimum staff-to-student ratios that must be used for sailing.

Sailing activityStaff numbersStudent numbers
Inland and Enclosed waters2


Up to 17

17 - 24

Open waters




Up to 12

13 - 18

19 - 24

Note: Each staff member should not be responsible for supervising more than three craft.

It may be necessary to increase the number of staff allocated based on:

  • age, maturity and gender of students
  • ability and experience of students
  • individual needs
  • dynamics of the student group
  • experience, qualifications and skills of staff
  • location conditions.

Reasons for increasing staff allocations must be documented.

The teacher in charge is responsible for the supervision strategy, which must be endorsed by the principal as part of the excursion approval process. Staff members will supervise students according to that strategy.

Students not directly participating in the activity must be separately supervised in line with school policy Staffing and Supervision.

Informed consent

The school must receive informed consent from parents or guardians that their child may participate in adventure activities.

Informed consent should be based on an understanding of:

  • the educational purpose of the activity
  • the nature and details of the activity
  • the supervision strategy
  • other information deemed relevant by the school or by parents/guardians.

Informed consent must be given in writing, including signatures, by parents or guardians.

First aid qualifications

At least one member of staff responsible for each group of students must hold, as a minimum, a current (within 3 years) level two first aid qualification, a current (within 12 months) Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) qualification, and have a first aid kit applicable to the level of training.

Staff members must consider carefully the nature and location of the excursion as well as the medical history of the students to determine the level of first aid training required by staff. For example, if any student in the group has a history of anaphylaxis and may require the use of an epi-pen, appropriately trained staff must be present.


This list identifies risks likely to be inherent in any sailing activity. A program-specific risk management plan must be completed that takes account of the specific conditions and unique participants of the excursion/program.

Sample risksSample controls

Capsize and entanglement

Teach students the capsize drill prior to participation

Closely supervise craft that have capsized

Rescue craft readily available at all times

Collision with other craft

Thorough pre-activity briefing and instruction

Clear boundaries and appropriate location choice

Close supervision

Rescue craft readily available at all times

Exposure to cold temperatures and wind

Appropriate clothing

Observation of students’ condition during the activity.

Consideration of the appropriateness of water temperature and potential impact of the ambient temperature

Access points in the activity locations

Identify the points at which shoreline can be accessed throughout the activity

Rescue craft readily available at all times


Sailing resources
General resources