Voyage Filters

Make, finish and repair traditional sails

Course price

Price per person



Embark Disembark Vessel DurationVoyage No
Mon 17-03-2025, 08:30Boat Building Academy Lyme Regis Wed 19-03-2025, 17:30Boat Building Academy Lyme Regis The Boat Building Academy 2 NightsBBA170325

Learn to make sails from scratch on 5 day course

Learn to design and cut shapes, using a machine for the fabric panels but also how to hand sew bolt ropes, stitch and corner rings and add leather to sail edges and corners for more traditionally rigged vessels.

Learn how to use a sail making sewing machine that can punch through several thick canvas layers or modern sail materials in tan and cream that look like canvas. Machines used are portable, but heavy duty sewing machines that could be used on board a yacht or at home.

Learn how to cut sails to put 3D shape into them. Create strengthening panels on the load bearing corners. Add reefing points, edge tapes, leechlines and how to put in eyelets and grommets. Learn how to patch and repair sails.

It should be possible to make at least one sail from start to finish, perhaps more if the group is bigger.

It may be possible to make sails for yourself, please contact us for details – there will be an extra charge for materials used.

This course is taught ashore at the Boat Building Academy, Lyme Regis. The college is right on the waterfront at Monmouth Beach, yards from the sea and the famous Cobb Harbour, immortalised in the film ‘The French Lieutenant’s Woman’. The college building has a real buzz to it with career students from all over the world on longer courses in professional boat building or furniture making.

You might like to combine this course with another and save 5% on course fees. See the voyage description for combination suggestions. There is a traditional sail making course if you want to learn hand stitching and edge finishes like bolt ropes, as well as the basics of creating a sail from panels of fabric.

There is no upper age limit or skill requirement to join a short course or the longer courses. Accommodation is not included but plenty of options locally.

  • Voyage
  • Vessel

Ideal Course for:

Absolutely anyone with an interest in making or repairing their own sails.

A gift for a friend or a treat for yourself

Course Content

  • Learn about the theory of sail design 7 shape
  • lead by a guest lecturer who is a professional sail maker
  • small group teaching for 5 full days
  • workshop tours – see boat building in action
  • learn how to create a sail from start to finish
  • learn to use industrial sewing machines & eyelet punches
  • hand sewing techniques like rope edging, leather corners and hand stitched eyelets and grommets

The Boat Building Academy

Vessel type / Rig Educational Establishment
Guest Berths 18
Beam Workshops
Draft Two Story
Deck Length Shorter
Overall Length Long
Year Built 1997
More about the Vessel

Voyage Description



This short course in traditional sail making has arisen out of demand to learn more about the hand finished details you might need when making a sail for a historic replica, or for the pure satisfaction of learning centuries old maritime skills. This might be the best course if you want to make a lug sail, spritsail or gaff sail, with vertical panels, and quite a bit of shape the the sail.

The 40 week professional boat building course includes a week learning to make sails from scratch. That week is pretty similar to the 5 day short course in modern sail making, and that tends to focus on Bermudian rigged triangular sails, often with sail battens and flatter shapes.

Understanding how a sail works

There are a lot of decisions to make, if you are having to both design and make a sail for a new boat. How much sail area for the likely conditions and boat design. What Fabric? – modern performance sail cloth or something that looks historically right for an older boat?

Different rigs put strain in different parts of the sail, but fundamentally there will always be areas to strengthen, usually corners of the sail.

How to cut the cloth to create a 3-D curved surface.

Putting curves in the sail panels and shape in the luff, leech and foot all help create shape. In someways this is even more important in loose footed traditional sails that cant rely on a modern sail batten for their aerofold shape. Square riggers and Viking longships were not powered by limp shaped rags!

Thumpty Thump

Using an industrial sewing machine is fun. THE BBA uses portable but heavy duty sailmakers machines and their walking foot will pull several thick layers into the needles path. Apart from the thumpty thump of these powerful machines you can also insert eyelets and grommets with a hammer and eyelet set. Alternately you can hand stitch corner rings or insert metal thimbles into 3 strand bolt rope.

Leather Corners

Learn to add neat leather edging as chafe protectors on sails.

The Background to the Courses

The Boat Building Academy is located on Monmouth Beach, Lyme Regis so you are a stones throw from a beach full of fossils, spectacular Jurassic Coast cliffs and the famous Cobb Harbour. The college building has a real buzz to it. There are students there from all over the world. The majority are living on site and on a 40 week professional boat building course or 12 week furniture making course. They may have started their career change path on a short course at the college, just like you.

You might like to combine this course with another and save 5% on course fees. See the voyage description for combination suggestions.

There is no upper age limit or skill requirement to join a short course or the longer courses. Accommodation is not included but plenty of options locally.

Even if it is just a dream at the moment, if the 40 week professional boat building course appeals to you, then trying a short course is probably the best way to investigate if this major commitment would be a life changer for you. Whilst you are on a short course, the breaks are a great time to quiz the residential students and lecturers about their career paths and dreams and how they are finding their longer courses. There are a small number of bursaries towards the costs for the professional courses now the Boat Building Academy is a charity.

Start & End Port

Boat Building Academy Lyme Regis


‘I am a boat builder’.

When I heard about the BBA – only a few miles along the coast from Weymouth, I had to investigate.  To be honest, when I visited, it all seemed wonderful, but so far from anything I’d ever done before that I didn’t know if it would be the right place for me, but then some friends offered to lend me half the fees, and I just couldn’t refuse their generosity.

Before the BBA, I’d never used a jigsaw, nor a plane or chisel, and I have almost no memory of woodworking class at school, however the instructors were so helpful and clear in their instruction that I quickly picked up the basic skills. Then came lofting, and my ever migraine, but it was still an amazing experience! I had been sailing off the West coast of Scotland before going to the BBA, and had fallen in love with the old wooden boats I’d seen, and wanted to work on something traditional, so it was great to be able to participate in the build of a 17′ 8″ clinker Pilchard Larker; an open working boat….

I feel very lucky to have been able to attend a school like the BBA, and then to go on and be employed by two of the world’s top luxury boat builders, without having any other previous experience in the industry.  The BBA gave me a mass of skills (many of which I had never heard of before); a love of making things, and a career and a direction for my life.  I may not be living on a boat yet, but when people ask me what I do, I can now confidently say; ‘I am a boat builder’.

After the course Ben worked for Spirit Yachts and Sunseeker.

For me, attending the BBA was one of the best decisions I have ever made. The pace is massively intense and the teaching is very no nonsense with a commercial focus but it is up to each student to put as much in as they want to take away.  I put in a massive amount and graduated with so much from a beautiful boat to a life changing career and some great friends.  It is also great to still have a link with the BBA when I return to carry out our epoxy talks and see what other students are building with our products.

The full boat building course was an amazing experience, it challenged me both mentally and physically. When I began the course I had absolutely no wood working skills and by the end of the nine months at the BBA I was able to confidently work with wood and was the proud builder/owner of a 13′ larch on oak clinker rowing punt.

The course provided me with a range of practical skills that has enabled me to gain a foothold in the wooden boatbuilding industry and latterly has enabled me to be offered a three year funded PhD researching the Shetland Boat: its history; folklore and construction.

I left the BBA in December 2008 and I have been impressed by the continued encouragement and support the team have provided me.  When in Lyme Regis I always enjoy popping-in for a welcoming chat and a cup of tea.”  Marc’s boat ‘Defiant’ was centrepiece of the ‘Boats that Built Britain’ exhibition at the National Maritime Museum Greenwich that accompanied the BBC series of the same name.

Information of Marc’s NMM exhibition appearance can be found on the National Maritime Museum website.  Read his PHD blog here

The 10 month course really appealed to me as I didn’t want to spend several years at college not earning.  I wanted to be exposed to new tasks quickly and pick up the skills then move on to the next job.  Sometimes in education you feel that the tutors are talking for the sake of talking.  I never got that feeling at the BBA.  They are all like minded people who have had to get things done as quickly and as easily as possible in the real world and want you to be able to do the same. 

The second half of the course is mostly building boats from scratch. Whilst doing this you are learning all the time, even if you don’t realise it.  You can be sanding for 5 hours but you have learned not to put so much filler on next time!  Your personal progression is clear from the quality and speed at which you complete jobs as the course moves on.  First time it might take a whole day, second time you might be finished by lunchtime and you wonder what took you so long before.  Before you know it you are tackling something you would never have dreamed of doing and it turns out really well.  Being immersed in the whole boat building environment and just walking around the workshop is a valuable experience each day.  You can see how others have approached similar tasks and benefit from their mistakes and vice versa.

Your college has set the benchmark for the future of training craftsmen, which has long been the biggest worry of traditional boat builders and repairers. You  deserve to go from strength to strength, and I for one will recommend it to anyone looking for a career in our industry.

Tom Richardson, Owner of Elephant Boatyard, Hampshire

My visit to the Academy was truly inspirational. I found the energy and commitment of the staff to be second to none. Their dedication to their craft and the students, and their passion for excellence in design and technical skills, clearly explains the success rates that the Academy has, and the very high level of results achieved by the students. You truly are a centre for excellence in your field!

Chris Humphries, then Director General of City & Guilds

I attended a three day Clinker Boat Maintenance and Repair Course some years ago. The knowledge has proven extremely useful. The skills I am still working on !

Adam Purser, Director Classic Sailing

Vessel Gallery

The flagship 40 week Boat Building course teaches men and women how to build boats to industry standards.

Other Voyages


Sail SW Greenland & Cape Farewell TC180925


Thu 18-09-2025

Nuuk, The Capital of Greenland


Sat 04-10-2025

Reykjavik, Iceland

Tecla Webinars: The Northwest Passage




Channel Islands & Brittany Adventure - PM070924


Sat 07-09-2024

Brixham, UK


Fri 13-09-2024

Brixham, UK

Limited Spaces Available




Darwin200 Leg 19 Tahiti Exploration OS230724


Tue 23-07-2024

Papeete, Tahiti, French Polynesia


Fri 02-08-2024

Papeete, Tahiti, French Polynesia

Darwin200 Voyage with Classic Sailing

Voyage has sailed

Recently Viewed Voyages

The Boat Building Academy

Traditional Sail Making Techniques - 3 day course with sailmaker BBA170325


Mon 17-03-2025

Boat Building Academy Lyme Regis


Wed 19-03-2025

Boat Building Academy Lyme Regis

trying out a spritsail main