UK Sail Cruising Directory
The PPR course is now compulsory for commercally endorsed yachtmasters







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The Complete Yachtmaster
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The PPR course is now compulsory for commercially endorsed yachtmasters
RYA Sail Cruising Courses - An Introduction

The only organisation in the UK offering a widely recognised comprehensive training scheme for the cruising yachtsman is the Royal Yachting Association, more usually referred to as the RYA. If you need a qualification that is universally recognised, which will (for example) open the door to bareboat chartering in most parts of the world, then you should be aiming for an RYA qualification.

There are a series of theory courses available either via night classes offered at many local colleges and other establishments, by distance learning or through self-study with the help of widely available commercially produced materials. There is an examination at the end of the course, and a certificate is awarded. For more detailed course content see the RYA website. Local evening class courses, if available, usually offer the best value, while many sea schools also offer concentrated theory courses over a week or three weekends.

One point to notice is that while theory courses are universal practical courses come in two varieties - Tidal or Non-Tidal. The Non-Tidal courses apply primarily to those who intend to spend their cruising life in the Mediterranean or on some other non-tidal stretch of water. They cover every aspect of practical seamanship with the exception of matters relating to tides. Many schools abroad, particularly in the Mediterranean, offer RYA practical courses, but these are non-tidal and resulting qualifications may not be favourably looked on if you wish to charter in tidal waters (eg the UK). If you like the idea of training abroad but want a tidal qualification, then it is worth knowing that schools operating in the Straits of Gibraltar usually offer tidal certificates, as do schools in the Canaries

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An Outline of RYA Practical Courses, Examinations and Qualifications

Competent Crew
No previous experience required. At the end of the course you will have the confidence and practical skills to be a useful member of a yacht's crew. A course completion certificate is issued, but there is no examination as such.

Day Skipper
The minimum pre-course experience required is 5 days living on board, 100 miles logged (in tidal waters for tidal courses) and 4 hours night sailing. Possession of the RYA Day Skipper Shorebased certificate is desirable but is not essential if you have a sound understanding of the principles of navigation and tides. At the end of the course you should have the confidence to skipper a small yacht in familiar waters by day. A course completion certificate is issued, but there is no examination as such. If you have completed this course and have the shorebased certificate, then this may be accepted as proof of competence for bareboat charter - provided your personal sailing experience is considered adequate for the vessel and waters in question. This certificate is also acceptable in an application for an International Certificate of Competence (see below).

Coastal Skipper
The minimum pre-course experience required is 15 days on board (2 as skipper), 300 miles logged and 8 night hours. You should have the RYA Coastal Skipper / Yachtmaster Offshore Shorebased certificate or be of equivalent standard. It is assumed that you are already a competent helmsman and have the basic skills of seamanship. At the end of the course you should have the confidence to skipper a yacht on coastal passages by day and night. A course completion certificate is issued, and a separate practical examination can be taken which leads to a Coastal Skipper qualification (see below).

Yachtmaster Preparation
There is no such thing as an RYA Yachtmaster Offshore practical course, but many establishments offer what they call Yachtmaster Preparation courses. These are usually five day courses designed to prepare you to pass the yachtmaster assessment at the end of the course. The school in question will usually let you use their yacht for the exam, which will be carried out by an external examiner. (See below for details of the examination).

RYA/DoT Coastal Skipper Certificate of Competence
This is carried out by an external RYA examiner (i.e. not by the school running the course, although you can usually use their yacht). You have to provide a seaworthy yacht over 25ft LOA plus a crew. The minimum pre-exam requirements are 30 days on board (2 Days as Skipper), 800 sea miles and a minimum of 12 night hours. (The requirement for holders of the Coastal Skipper Course Completion Certificate is reduced to 20 days on board [2 as Skipper], 400 miles on board and a minimum of 12 night hours). You must also hold the Restricted (VHF only) Radio Operators Certificate or its new replacement, the SRC (Short Range Certificate) and a valid first aid certificate. Having gained your Coastal Skipper certificate you can have it commercially endorsed provided you hold a valid certificate of medical fitness and have attended a sea survival course. The commercial endorsement enables you to skipper vessels up to 24m in length for sport or recreation on a commercial basis up to 20 miles from a safe haven.

RYA/DoT Yachtmaster Offshore Certificate of Competence
The Yachtmaster Offshore is defined as an experienced yachtsman, competent to skipper a cruising yacht on any passage during which the yacht is no more than 150 miles from harbour. Before taking this practical examination candidates must have 50 days sea time, 2,500 miles logged, including at least 5 passages of over 60 miles from the port of the departure to the destination. They must have acted as skipper for at least two of these passages, tow of which must also have involved overnight passages. A minimum of 5 days experience as skipper is required, plus a Restricted (VHF only) Radio Operatorís Certificate or the replacement SRC (Short Range Certificate), and a first aid qualification. You have to provide a seaworthy yacht over 25ft LOA plus a crew. The examination is given by an RYA Examiner and takes 8 - 12 hours. It is worth noting that most candidates for this examination have substantially more than the minimum experience detailed above.

You can have this certificate commercially endorsed provided you hold a valid certificate of medical fitness and have attended a sea survival course. The commercial endorsement enables you to skipper vessels up to 24m in length for sport or recreation on a commercial basis up to 60 miles from a safe haven.

Anyone interested in sitting an exam should make sure they possess the latest edition of the RYA Cruising Logbook G15/98.

International Certificate of Competence (ICC)
To sail a yacht in many European coastal waters including Poland and the Baltic states, Portugal, Italy, Greece, Croatia and Turkey now requires an ICC (International Certificate of Competence), which represents a minimum level of competence in helmsmanship, navigation and collision avoidance. A course completion certificate for Day Skipper practical or above is sufficient evidence for operating a sailing vessel with an auxiliary engine, and obtaining an ICC generally only requires attaching a photocopy of the certificate. If you want to navigate inland waterways (eg if you are planning going through the French canals to the Med) you will also need a CEVNI certificate (which involves sitting an exam demonstrating a knowledge of European inland waterway regulations) as well. Many RYA centres now offer this. For further details see the RYA website. (Search ' whole site' for ICC).

If you need any further help or advice on training or related matters, please either post a message on the bulletin board or e-mail us and we will try to answer your query.