Many UK-based sailors choose their home waters (in many cases the sheltered waters of the Solent) to take their RYA Yachtmaster examination. The temptation to ‘make things easy’ by choosing a sea area you can sail by line of sight might be great, but it’s worth considering just how you might be selling yourself short by taking this apparently ‘easy option’.
By the time a candidate is ready to take the external RYA Yachtmaster examination they should be confident enough to sail any small yacht on passage from one port to another safely and efficiently. Their skillset should be complete and their experience varied. They also need to have an appropriate level of confidence and an understanding of how their yacht works, how to fix it and what to consider when preparing for a passage.
Once you have your RYA Yachtmaster qualification, what do you intend to do with it? After all, if you step off the examination yacht with a pass, are you automatically a better or more confident sailor than when you got on board? Of course not. And if you perceive that you have stacked all the cards in your favour by taking the examination in very familiar waters, how will that help you increase your confidence? Short answer? It won’t.
Where else to take your exam then? If you are UK based, you probably need to ensure your examiner’s first language is English. After all, there is no sense in making communication an issue in an already stressful test environment. The sea area you choose could be anywhere, but the further North you go, especially in winter, the more likely you are to encounter poor weather, especially outside of sheltered bays.
Gibraltar, on the other hand, offers the Yachtmaster candidate a fresh canvas. Unfamiliar and yet iconic waters offer the RYA Yachtmaster candidate scope to illustrate their understanding of the syllabus. The Mediterranean and Atlantic are your playgrounds with Gibraltar, Spain and Morocco all within a day sail. A night crossing of the Strait or rounding of significant tidal headlands on passage are both excellent ways to illustrate your abilities to the examiner. Dealing with significant shipping traffic through the Strait also instils confidence in the new Yachtmaster.
Stern-to and alongside berthing methods are used in the marinas around Gibraltar meaning that Yachtmaster candidates can feel confident that they know what to do in all parts of the World. Customs procedures are also enforced as you sail between Spain, Gibraltar and Morocco. What better way to prepare for your Yachtmaster exam than in the warm sunshine and deep blue waters of the Western Mediterranean? It sure beats a wet Wednesday in Gosport!
We would still recommend that candidates undertake a Yachtmaster Preparation Week immediately before their examination, and we can arrange this for you. Most importantly though, at the end of your preparation and examination, when you pass, you will do so confident that you are a Yachtmaster. You can command and sail a yacht safely and efficiently in unfamiliar waters. The World is now your oyster!