RYA Day Skipper Practical


Skippering a yacht for the first time can be an intimidating yet exhilarating experience. The RYA Day Skipper Practical Course is designed to teach you how to take charge of a yacht safely and confidently. A skipper does much more than navigate. They are also responsible for the complete safety and well being of the yacht and crew. These responsibilities include weather forecasting, victualing, engine maintenance, sail selection and handling, passage planning, watch keeping, navigation and pilotage.

This course gives you the chance to take charge and skipper the boat on short passages, under instruction, with plenty of advice and support from our instructors. Time is spent demonstrating and practising basic seamanship with emphasis on boat handling skills. We explore the practical solutions to navigation and build confidence during pilotage exercises.

Students live aboard for the duration of the course in single occupancy or shared cabins and visit many different harbours and anchorages to practise pilotage techniques. You will complete at least 4 night hours sailing to experience night pilotage and identify lights.

Students who have successfully completed the Day Skipper course are awarded the RYA Day Skipper Completion certificate. In addition they can apply to the RYA for the International Certificate of Competence (ICC), which is an internationally recognised qualification and ideal for future Flotilla holidays or progression to ‘bareboat’ yacht charter.

Safety is paramount on all RYA courses. To learn more about our standards and our school, see the RYA Training Centres page

Course Requirements

Minimum: Aged 16 or over with 5 days at sea, 100 miles and 4 night hours. Navigation to Day Skipper Shore-based standard and practical sailing ability to the level of Competent Crew.

Recommended: To get the most out of this course we recommend that you have some recent sailing experience within the last year or two and have completed either the online or shore-based day skipper navigation theory. We recommend some theoretical revision prior to the start of the course.

This is a significant step up in difficulty from the previous Competent Crew course. Past courses are aimed at beginners, and this course is meaningfully different as it qualifies you as a skipper entitling you to an ICC.

You do not need a competent crew or any previous RYA courses to take this course, although the Competent crew course is an ideal week-long introduction to the RYA scheme.

The pass rates for students who met the minimum and recommended requirements are high. However, this course can be challenging if you are not appropriately prepared. If you are unsure you are ready, feel free to call us for advice.

Having the required knowledge is an integral part of making sure you are ready. There is not enough time during the course to teach the complete shore-based syllabus. For those who need to do the shore-based course, you receive a £50 discount from our practical training when you buy the online companion course. If you have already done this course, then a bit of revision before you start will help you enormously.

Please note that when booking a Day Skipper practical course with us, you will be assessed upon arrival to ensure that you are at the correct level to take the course. Should your instructor feel that you lack the appropriate knowledge, whether practical or theoretical, then the Competent Crew or mile building course will be delivered to you. 

Where you can take this course

The RYA Day Skipper course has a minimum duration of 5 days and can be completed over 3 weekends at our Southampton UK school.

For both of our schools in the Mediterranean this 5 day course is delivered over 6 days as part of a week long holiday giving the opportunity to combine some swimming and longer breaks into the course.

To help choose where to do this course see our Training Centre overview page

Next Steps

After this course, you will be given a full debrief from your instructor who will be able to provide you with advice on the best next steps for you.

You will receive your Day Skipper certificate immediately from the instructor, and you will now be able to hire and skipper any of our Yachts.

We recommend most students take a flotilla holiday, this is a great way to learn independent sailing skills with the advice and practical support from our lead crews. Learn more about flotilla here.

Course Syllabus

  • Preparation for sea – Is able to prepare a yacht for sea, including engine checks, selection of sails, securing and stowage of gear on deck and below.
  • Deck work – Can reef, shake out reefs and change sails to suit prevailing conditions. Can prepare an anchor, mooring warps and take charge on deck when mooring alongside, coming to a buoy, anchoring, weighing anchor and slipping from a buoy or an alongside berth.
  • Navigation – Taking and plotting visual fixes – Use of electronic navigation equipment for position fixing – Use of waypoints – Working up DR and EP – Estimating tidal heights and tidal streams – Working out course to steer to allow for tidal stream, leeway and drift – Knowledge of IALA buoyage – Maintenance of navigational records – Use of echo sounder and lead lines
  • Pilotage – Can prepare and execute pilotage plan for entry into, or departure from, harbour – Understands the use of leading and clearing lines – Use of transits and soundings as aids to pilotage.
  • Meteorology – Knows sources of forecast information – Can interpret shipping forecasts and use a barometer as a forecasting aid
  • Rules of the road – Has a working knowledge of the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea.
  • Maintenance and repair work – Understands and is able to carry out routine maintenance tasks – Knows the properties and uses of common synthetic fibre ropes.
  • Engines – Knows how to change fuel and water filters, pump impeller and to bleed the fuel system.
  • Victualing – Understands how to victual a yacht.
  • Emergency situations – Is able to take correct action as skipper for recovery of man overboard – Understands distress flares and how to use a life raft – Can operate a radiotelephone in an emergency and send a distress message – Understands how to secure a tow – Understands rescue procedures including helicopter rescue.
  • Yacht handling under power – Can bring a boat safely to and from an alongside berth, mooring buoy and anchor under various conditions of wind and tide.
  • Yacht handling under sail – Can bring a boat safely to and from a mooring buoy and anchor under various conditions of wind and tide – Can steer and trim sails effectively on all points of sailing.
  • Passage making – Can plan and make a coastal passage, taking account of relevant navigational hazards and limitations imposed by the type of boat and the strength of the crew.

The completion certificate is included in the cost of your course.

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