Interestingly, there is still no legal requirement in Britain that requires a private boat owner to have any qualification whatsoever before they take their loved ones to sea.
He or she may be foolhardy, but no International Certificate of Competence (ICC) or RYA certificate is required by law. That said, insurance companies may have their own minimum expectation of a skipper’s experience, especially as the boats get larger and more expensive to repair and replace!
The newspapers generally report on the antics of the landlubber with no desire to learn a little about the sea or their vessel before trusting their lives to it. On a periodic basis there are reports of the RNLI rescuing bewildered landlubbers as they navigate their way haphazardly around the Isle of Dogs with little more than an AA road map, resolutely keeping land to the left and wondering why they are seeing the same scenery every few hours. They are usually easy to spot and best avoided, as well as offering the less generous amongst us entertainment whilst sitting in port watching their antics from a safe distance.
Of course, if you take your yacht further afield you may be required by law to have a minimum level of competence (the ICC being the most common requirement throughout most of Europe). Furthermore, once you start charging others to come sailing you are likely to be deemed to be running a commercial vessel. As such, your yacht must be inspected and coded by the MCA and anyone skippering it must be properly qualified (dependent on its size and the area of operation) and commercially endorsed. Failure to meet these requirements is a serious criminal offence.
For the private boat owner we would recommend the RYA Day Skipper qualification as a minimum starting point, with the RYA Yachtmaster Offshore a sensible target for the more adventurous amongst you. And remember, if going abroad, you may need an ICC in Europe, available from the RYA or an accredited RYA Training Centre like Jolly Parrot Sailing.