How To Pass your RYA Day Skipper Theory Exam

How To Pass your RYA Day Skipper Theory Exam

How To Pass your RYA Day Skipper Theory Exam

The RYA Day Skipper Theory course is a comprehensive introduction to chart work, navigation, meteorology and the basics of seamanship for Competent Crew who are interested in becoming a skipper.  Although not essential to complete your RYA Day Skipper Practical course, you will find this course invaluable if you wish to start making decisions on board a boat as a skipper or navigator.

The RYA Day Skipper Theory Exam comprises of two papers – Chart Work and General Knowledge 

Chart Work Paper
The Chart work paper has a time limit of 1.5 hours, there are 4 questions so take your time. You should ensure that you bring your RYA Training Chart 3 and 4, RYA Almanac and don’t forget a 2b pencil, eraser and paper to write your answers out.  You should try to include as much information in your answers as possible (show your workings) as a small error can result in a wrong answer, but if your instructor is able to find the mistake then you may have got the question right in principle, even if the answer is wrong.

In general you will need to ensure you are familiar with charts, common features such as depth, depth contours, channel buoys, cardinal buoys, special marks, isolated dangers and safe water marks.

For the Chart Work exam you will need to ensure you are familiar with the following processes:

Position Fixing
Take your time and ensure that you convert any magnetic (M) bearing into true (T) bearing before you plot them on your chart. You will need to apply the variation to any magnetic bearing so make sure you check what the variation is (this can be found on the chart normally but for your exam you will be given the variation).

Magnetic to True you Add East and Subtract West.

If your position lines do not match up and result in a cocked hat, double check your bearings and try again.


Estimated Position (EP)
As with fixing your position, ensure that you convert any magnetic bearing (M) to true bearings (T) and allow for leeway (wind on port add, wind on starboard subtract) before you plot your heading line from your fix.   Measure the distance you have travelled along your heading and mark this, this is your Dead Reckoning Position (DR).



You will need to calculate the tidal stream and plot this from your DR position.  After measuring your tide you will have your Estimated Position (EP).


The bearing and distance between your start point and your EP is your Course Over Ground (COG) and Speed Over Ground (SOG).

Course To Steer (CTS)
From your fix you will need to draw a line to your intended destination or waypoint, a good habit is to make the line longer than required.  This will be your Course Over Ground (COG).


Calculate your tidal set and rate and plot this from your fix.

Measure your boat speed using your dividers, this is the distance you will travel.  Take care if you are doing a half hour fix as you will need to use half your boat speed.  The tide and you boat speed are the potential distance you will travel in the time period, add your boat speed to your tide and arc this off onto your COG line.

This bearing is your CTS as a true bearing.  Ensure you apply your variation and include leeway (Wind on Port Subtract, Wind on Starboard Add).  This will give you your Magnetic CTS.

Calculating Tidal Heights
You will need to be able to calculate the height of tide for a standard port.  Using a tidal curve you will be able to calculate the height of tide at a given time or what time a height of tide will occur.

Make sure you chose the correct low water (LW) for calculating the height of tide.  If the time you are looking for is before high water (HW), use the LW that is earlier, if the time you are looking for is after HW, use the LW that is later.

Least Depth to Anchor in – Fall of the tide + Draft of boat + Clearance
Height of tide required to enter a shallow harbour  – Draft of boat + Clearance – Chart Datum
Height of tide require to pass over a harbour sill – Draft of boat + Clearance + drying height

Top Tip:
As part of your revision process, go through the questions you have completed during your course, especially if you made mistakes.

General Assessment Paper
The General Assessment Paper is a collection of questions to ensure that you have a good understanding of what is expected to skipper a yacht safely, this will be short answer question similar to what you have been doing in class.  You should insure that you bring your RYA Training Charts 3 and 4, RYA Almanac and your plotters and dividers and you will have 1.5 hours to complete the paper.

You should ensure that you have revised the following topics.

Safety equipment
Fire precautions
Sending a Distress
Cardinal Buoys including flashing characteristics and how to pass
Pilotage techniques
Collision avoidance and IRPCS
What to do in fog
Day Shapes and lights of sailing yachts and motor boat up to 50m

The course is comprehensive, there are a number of topics to cover, everything in the exam should be covered during your course. If you have any queries throughout your course then you should speak to your instructor.

And finally, passing your theory is only the first step, you must make sure that you remember it during your RYA Day Skipper practical and any time you go sailing.

Wondering what to do next?

Why not continue your RYA qualifications and attend a RYA Day Skipper course.
Have a taste for sailing and would like some more experience? Why not come out cruising with us.
Fancy something a little faster? Why not come out racing or on a race training course.

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Learn more about the One Day Courses we offer.

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