How Long Does it Take to Get an RYA Day Skipper Ticket?

This is a question our instructors get asked an awful lot and, whilst it’s a reasonable enquiry, it betrays a slight misunderstanding of how we should approach our relationship with the sea.  I say relationship because, if you get the bug, it is just that. Sometimes stormy and petulant, sometimes tranquil and relaxing. Either way, it should always be remembered, the sea doesn’t know or care what certificates you have. You need to know enough to keep you (and your crew) safe.

Too many of us today rely upon absolutes, and this gets us hung up on what qualifications we need to do this, that and the other, when what we really should be thinking is “Am I safe and capable and experienced enough for this passage?”.  Of course, the RYA certification system is our best way to formalise this thought process and certainly, when you look at the definitions of what an RYA Day Skipper should be able to do compared with a RYA Yachtmaster Offshore, the syllabi and certification process does a pretty good job at it.

That said, when we are asked “how long will it take to get my RYA Day Skipper ticket?” it’s always tempting to remind the candidate that it’s a level of experience that we should be aiming for and not just the ticket so that we are free to charter a yacht.

A certified RYA Day Skipper should be able to manage and handle a small yacht in familiar inshore waters. That means she will need a rudimentary knowledge of the boat and systems. She must be able to take charge of the crew (this doesn’t mean barking orders like captain Bligh!) and know how to prepare the yacht and crew for sea, be able to make the right decisions on passage planning and keep the yacht and crew safe, using their knowledge of navigation and seamanship. 

As skipper on board a yacht there is a very real responsibility upon you to keep your crew and vessel out of harm’s way. It’s likely that, as skipper, you know more about sailing and navigation on the yacht than anyone else. You need enough knowledge and experience to be able to know what is safe and what is not. Ideally then, you need more than a few days on the water before you start the five day course!

Understandably, for some of us, a ticket to charter a yacht for two weeks on flotilla in the sheltered waters of the Greek Islands is all that’s required - and it’s hard to argue against the plan! Flotilla sailing is a great way to build confidence, have fun and work on getting those legs a few shades darker. So for those of you (and there are plenty out there, we know) here are the basic pre-course requirements to start an RYA Day Skipper Practical course;

  • Candidates should be a minimum of 16 years of age
  • have a minimum of 100 sea miles logged before course start
  • have a minimum of 5 days on a yacht including
  • a minimum of 4 night hours at sea

It is furthermore assumed that you have a minimum theoretical knowledge equivalent to the RYA Day Skipper Theory Course. Undoubtedly the best way to achieve this is to actually do the RYA Day Skipper Theory Course - no surprises there then. 

A word of caution here; trying to pass the practical RYA Day Skipper Certificate of Competence without having properly studied and understood the theory beforehand is a mistake. The practical course is intensive enough without having to introduce theory whilst trying to learn how to skipper a yacht in a lumpy seaway. 

For those that don’t have ‘the skipper ticket’ but do have sailing experience and want to get it done quick, we offer a 9 day RYA ‘Day Skipper Fast Track’ Course which takes you through both the theory and then straight on the water to practice the practical. We find this is a very popular option for the time poor amongst us - which is basically most of us! So much so that we have now added the RYA Competent Crew Course to the beginning of the fast track day skipper course for those with very limited sailing experience looking to get on the water and get chartering as quickly as possible.

Whichever course you decide upon, Jolly Parrot offers a unique location in the tidal waters of the sunny western Mediterranean. We offer Day Skipper candidates the opportunity to practice stern-to mooring (a necessity for that holiday in the Med) and entering and leaving ports, not only in different countries, but on different continents! North Africa is only a few hours away.

If you’re unsure of which RYA Sailing Course to take, feel free to contact us on 02380 970824.