Rules of the Road knowledge for RYA Yachtmaster Offshore

This blog gives you an overview of what you need to know in preparation for the RYA Yachtmaster Offshore exam, not the rules one by one, seeing as there are over 40.

Understanding the International Rules to Prevent Collisions at Sea (IRPCS) also known as COLREGs or rules of the road, at Yachtmaster Offshore level expands on the RYA Day skipper level by understanding a vessel’s night lights, sounds and day shapes.

You must also be able to take the correct avoidance manoeuvres in reduced visibility using electronic aids, mainly radar.

Let’s start with the most important rule, we always say to crew keep a good look out at all times, one person watches one side and perhaps the other the other side etc, warning the Skipper of any vessels or obstacles you can see. Even when sailing on a starboard tack, someone should always be looking under the sails for any approaching vessels or buoys for that matter. There is no exception for not keeping a good look out at sea.

Next, you will need to be able to determine if there is a risk of collision and to take appropriate action.  Hopefully this has been practiced over time and you have your set routine, but if not, it’s a good idea to teach any regular crew how to do it and get this down to a tee yourself using a handheld bearing compass or a fixed point on the boat.

You will of course need to know how to determine which vessel is the “stand on” or “give way” vessel and understanding the actions of a stand on and give way vessel.

A Yachtmaster is also required to determine what tack a sailing vessel is on and to also understand what day shapes a vessel might be showing and what action should be taken to avoid a collision. To do this, you will need to know the order of priority of vessels, i.e. is it fishing, trawling or constrained by draught? Can you tell when a vessel is overtaking, can you explain this to your crew?

You will need to be able to prioritise sailing vessels.

Also how to navigate a traffic separation scheme (TSS). Making sure your heading is at right angles to the TSS, not your ground track.

Narrow Channels; be aware that power does not necessarily give way to sail when both are navigating in a narrow channel.  Similarly to the TSS, if you need to cross, your heading should be at 90 degrees to the channel, if you stay in the channel keep to the starboard side and keep out of the way of shipping.  You should also avoid anchoring in a narrow channel.

We hope this has given you a good idea of what is required, there are so many great Apps now, as well as online resources and of course books, but the best way to learn is to get out there and learn from practical experience.

Just remember the best advice is to avoid collisions at all times!

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