Unlike the rest of continental Europe, the U.K does not require boat owners to have any formal qualifications in order to buy a yacht. However, you’ll require formal qualifications if you plan to charter a yacht or sail to another European country.
Most charter companies will require that anyone chartering a yacht from them has an RYA Day Skipper practical certificate as a minimum. If you are planning to skipper any yacht to a European port or in European waters then you’ll also need an International Certificate of Competence (ICC) although if you have a Day Skipper certificate you can get an ICC without undertaking the ICC test by simply applying to the RYA and including your certificate, a photograph and a fee.
If you plan to buy a yacht and you won’t be sailing outside UK waters then you might not want to bother with formal qualifications, especially if you've been sailing a long time. However, having an ICC as a bare minimum gives you more options in terms of cruising areas and you will probably find that many insurers expect you to have some formal training and qualifications.
Given that you are likely to be taking friends and family to sea, it seems prudent to make sure you have some form of qualification and the RYA Day Skipper certificate can be obtained (assuming you've already passed your theory test) by attending (and passing) the 5 day course. The Day Skipper syllabus covers much, from how to make a passage plan and obtain and understand weather forecasts through to how to sail, reef and handle a yacht under sail and power. Chartwork and navigation is covered in the theory course but it is also tested during the week.
In addition to a sailing qualification, you’ll also need a VHF Radio Licence if you plan to use a VHF radio. This can be obtained by attending and passing a one day RYA VHF radio course. Using a VHF radio without such a certificate is an offence.
In addition to the courses mentioned above, you might consider a one day RYA sea survival course and a one day RYA First Aid at Sea course. Both will be useful and will give you the basics needed if the worst happens whilst you are skippering your yacht at sea.
If you plan to sail further afield or offshore, you might consider studying for RYA Coastal Skipper or RYA Yachtmaster Offshore and if you aspire to ocean crossings you can learn how to navigate by the stars and the planets with the 5 day RYA Ocean course.
Whatever you decide to do, Jolly Parrot Sailing can help you achieve your goals in a relaxed and pleasant environment. You never know, you might just enjoy yourself whilst you're learning too. We have a habit of letting that happen!