Minimum requirements for RYA yachting courses

Many people looking to take an RYA yachting course find it difficult to choose the right course for them. Here we list the minimum criteria required to take each course.

RYA Start Yachting & RYA Competent Crew

The RYA Start Yachting comprises a two-day practical course on the water. It is aimed at complete novices with little or no sailing experience.  The RYA Start Yachting Course can also be added to further days of structured learning in order to make up the RYA Competent Crew Course.

The RYA Competent Crew course is, when it stands alone, a five day practical course aimed at the complete sailor with little or no experience. Holders of the RYA Start Yachting certificate can add to their existing experience with additional days of structured practical learning with the objective of obtaining an RYA Competent Crew Certificate.

What’s Covered on an RYA Competent Crew Course?

Preparation for an RYA Competent Crew Course.

RYA Day Skipper

The RYA Day Skipper Practical Certificate is obtained by taking a 5 day practical courses. The course is continually assessed by the instructor and successful candidates will receive an RYA Day Skipper Certificate. Holders of the RYA Day Skipper Certificate may qualify for the issue of an International Certificate of Competence (ICC). This certificate is now mandatory if you wish to skipper a yacht in many parts of the EU.

Minimum Criteria for candidates wishing to take the Day Skipper Practical Course include;

  • 5 days on water sailing
  • A minimum of 100 miles logged
  • A minimum of 4 night hours on board a sailing yacht

A candidate’s assumed knowledge before the course includes that required to pass the RYA Day Skipper Theory Course. This, in itself, is a 40 hour classroom-based or distance learning course.

What is Covered on an RYA Day Skipper Course?

Recommended Preparation for the RYA Day Skipper Course

RYA Coastal Skipper Course

The RYA Coastal Skipper Certificate is aimed at the more experienced skipper looking to improve his skill set. Most Coastal Skippers will have been sailing as skipper for a couple of years or more but in any event there are minimum criteria required to take the course. They are;

  • A minimum of 15 days of on water sailing
  • of which at least 2 days must have been as skipper
  • A minimum of 300 miles logged 
  • A minimum of 8 night hours

Candidates taking the course are assumed to have the boat handling skills expected of a RYA Day Skipper and their navigation skills should be to the standard of a candidate that has passed the RYA shorebased Coastal Skipper/Yachtmaster™ Offshore theory course and examination.

Again, the course is continually assessed by the instructor who must be a qualified RYA Yachtmaster Instructor.  There is a minimum age for candidates of 17 years.

What is involved in an RYA Coastal Skipper Course?

Preparation for an RYA Coastal Skipper Course.

RYA/MCA Yachtmaster Coastal, Offshore & Ocean Exams

The RYA Yachtmaster qualification is at the pinnacle of the RYA Training Structure and as such it is often the aspiration of many experienced sailors.  The qualification is an advanced one and as such candidates are expected to have a base level of experience and knowledge.

The Yachtmaster Coastal, Yachtmaster Offshore and Yachtmaster Ocean certificates are all examined by external examiners appointed by the RYA. The RYA do not specify specific practical course syllabi for these qualifications although many RYA Training Centres, including Jolly Parrot Sailing, offer candidates week-long ‘preparation courses’ aimed at coaching candidates prior to their exam. 

At Jolly Parrot we can also arrange the examination for you and provide you with use of a yacht for the duration of the examination. Most examinations will take between 8 - 12 hours per candidate with a maximum of 4 candidates per exam.

Minimum criteria for each examination candidate to apply for the examination are;

Yachtmaster Coastal Exam

  • 30 days sea time
  • with 2 days as skipper
  • 800 miles logged with 12 night hours. 
  • If you hold the Coastal Skipper practical course completion certificate (see above) then this is reduced to 20 days, 2 days as skipper, 400 miles, 12 night hours.
  • Half the qualifying sea time must be conducted in tidal waters and all qualifying seatime must be within 10 years prior to the exam.


Certification required:

  • A GMDSS Short Range Certificate (SRC) or higher grade of marine radio certificate
  • A valid first aid certificate

Yachtmaster Offshore Exam

  • 50 days sea time
  • with 5 days as skipper
  • 2,500 miles logged with 12 night hours
  • At least 5 passages of 60 miles or more along the rhumb line and with at least two being overnight and two as skipper.
  • At least half the mileage must have been in tidal waters

Certification required:

  • A GMDSS Short Range Certificate (SRC) or higher grade of marine radio certificate
  • A valid first aid certificate

Yachtmaster Ocean Exam

All examination candidates must have completed a qualifying passage within the past 10 years as skipper or mate in sole charge of a watch on a suitable vessel, which meets the following criteria:

  • The candidate was fully involved in the planning of the passage, including selection of the route, the navigational plan, checking the material condition of the vessel and her equipment, storing with spare gear, water and victuals and organising the watch-keeping routine.
  • During the passage a minimum non-stop distance of 600 miles must have been run by the log, the yacht must have been at sea continuously for at least 96 hours and the yacht must have been more than 50 miles from land or charted objects capable of being used for navigation/position fixing while sailing a distance of at least 200 miles.
  • To be eligible as an ocean qualifying passage the distance between departure and arrival points by the shortest navigable route must be more than 600 mile.

The examination will comprise both an oral and written test as follows;

Oral Examination

The candidate must provide the examiner with the following information 48 hours prior to the exam: 

  • A narrative account of the planning and execution of the qualifying passage providing all relevant details.
  • Navigational records, completed on board a yacht on passage, out of sight of land showing that the candidate has navigated the yacht without the use of electronic navigational aids. 
  • The records must include as a minimum, planning, reduction and plotting of a sun run meridian altitude sight and a compass check carried out using the bearing of the sun, moon, a star or planet. 

During the oral test the candidate will be required to answer questions on all aspects of ocean passage making in a yacht, including passage planning, navigation, worldwide meteorology, crew management and yacht preparation, maintenance and repairs.

Written Examination

The written exam will include questions on sights and sight reduction and worldwide meteorology.  Candidates who hold the RYA/MCA Yachtmaster Ocean Shorebased Course Completion Certificate (final exam must have been invigilated at an RYA RTC), or a MCA issued full STCW Certificate of Competence as a Deck Officer (Unlimited) will be exempt from the written examination.

Certification required:

  • The candidate must hold an RYA Yachtmaster Offshore Certificate

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