Becoming a skipper

Becoming a skipper

RYA practical and theory courses can help you become a skipper

People will have different reasons for wanting to become a skipper; some do it for confidence, some do it to charter in the UK and overseas.  Whatever your reason we can help you achieve that goal.

As a skipper you are in charge of the boat and crew and it goes without saying it is important you have knowledge to support the decisions you will be required to make. Although it is not essential to attend a theory course they are recommended for most people as the knowledge learnt on the course can help you can get more from your practical course.

RYA Day Skipper Theory course

The RYA Day Skipper Theory course is a comprehensive introduction to chart work, navigation, weather and seamanship.  It is advisable that anyone wishing to attend the RYA Day Skipper practical course completes the RYA Day Skipper Theory course first to get the most from their time on the boat during RYA Day Skipper practical course.  The theory course provides a level of invaluable knowledge to allow you to start making decisions on board a boat.

Prior to the course you should have a working knowledge of the parts of a boat and nautical terminology, as well as properties of synthetic ropes in common use on boats.
During the course you will learn about:

  • the characteristics of different types of anchor and what considerations should be taken when anchoring a boat. What safety equipment is carried on board and its uses, fire precautions and use of personal safety equipment.
  • Know when and how to send a distress signal by VHF and other ways to send a distress signal.  Have sufficient knowledge to apply the rules of the road (IRPCS – International Regulation for Preventing Collisions at Sea).
  • A large proportion of your course will be spent learning and practising chart work- how to plot your position using visual references and GPS and the use of a hand bearing compass to aid navigation.
  • You will also learn how to prepare a boat and plan a passage, taking into consideration wind, tides, crew, boat, and the importance of keeping a record on passage.

Please download our Equinox Sailing Manual for further information and examples of VHF distress signal, IRPCS and passage planning.

The RYA Day Skipper Theory course can be completed in a classroom over evenings and weekends but is also available as an Interactive Online Course that can be completed at your own leisure.  Full instructor support is provided with the interactive course should you have any problems.  This online course is a very useful revision method for rusty skippers or those preparing for their RYA Day Skipper practical.

Please have a look at our article, Is the RYA Day Skipper Theory course right for me? for further information.

RYA Day Skipper Practical Course

The RYA Day Skipper course is for those people who wish to skipper a boat on short coastal passages by day. It is widely recognised and would enable you to charter a boat in the UK or overseas. It is advisable that anyone wishing to attend the RYA Day Skipper practical course has completed the RYA Day Skipper Theory course first.

The RYA Day Skipper course is run over 5 consecutive days and visits different and harbours and ports each night.  Most evenings will be spent alongside in a marina, with one night spent at anchor or mooring buoy.
During the course you will

  • learn how to prepare a boat for sea including selecting appropriate sails for the days passage and preparing above and below deck before slipping your lines.  You will learn how to come alongside a pontoon, anchoring and picking up a mooring buoy.
  • Learn the art of pilotage: planning entry and exit from harbours and anchorages, using transits and leading lines and the importance of depth soundings to maintain the boat in safe water – for example checking if you have enough depth to pass over a sand bar. Good passage planning can allow a skipper to enjoy sailing as much as the crew, practice plotting your position by using fixed objects, and see how different it can be on a moving boat.
  • Learn to combine modern GPS techniques and traditional paper navigation and how they can complement each other.
  • Practise tidal heights and streams from first principles during your 5 days aboard and become more confident in using them.
  • Weather forecasting is of vital importance and you will learn how to interpret a weather forecast and how a barometer can be used as an aid to forecasting.  You will make decisions on where to go and sail selection to suit the prevailing conditions.
  • Learning to sail in a busy area like the Solent means you have to be sure about the rules of the road – take the rules you learnt in the classroom and put them into practice under the watchful eye of an instructor.
  • Learn how to recover a man over board and how to operate a VHF radio to make an emergency call.
  • For some skippers controlling a boat in the confines of a busy marina can be a daunting task, learn how to control a boat taking into consideration the wind and the tide.
  • You will practice your sailing skills during your passage; learn how to anchor and pick up a mooring buoy under sail, increasing your wind awareness and confidence under sail.  Good sail trim can decrease a passage time to avoid adverse weather or to get you into port before the pub closes.  You will practice your sail trim and learn how to control the shape of the sails to suit the prevailing conditions.
  • Gain an introduction to night sailing; sailing at night can be confusing with all the back ground lights, identifying marks at night can be fun and rewarding and is essential for a safe passage and pilotage.

Please download the Equinox Sailing Manual for further information and examples of how to trim sails, points of sail and MOB recovery.

By the end of your course you should have the skills and confidence to skipper a boat by day in familiar waters and have received a widely recognised qualification which allows you to apply for your ICC (International Certificate of Competency), recognised by charter companies both in the UK and overseas.

For a more detailed look at the course please have a look at Is the RYA Day Skipper course right for me?

ICC (International Certificate of Competency)

It is possible to obtain your ICC without attending a RYA Day Skipper course.  The ICC is suitable for experienced sailors with knowledge and experience to the RYA Day Skipper level or above and involves a 3- 4 hour exam.  Attendees will be required to demonstrate they understand basic safety on board while in harbour and at sea.  To achieve the ICC you will also be required to demonstrate you can handle a boat under engine to safely depart and bring a boat alongside a pontoon, hoist the sails and be able to sail the boat efficiently on all points of sail.  You will also need to demonstrate you can pick up a mooring buoy and anchor under engine and what actions should be taken to recover a man over board.

The ICC exam can take place on your own boat or you can charter our Sigma 38 “Rho” but you will need to arrange crew (suggested minimum of 2) to crew for you throughout the exam.  If you would like to charter Rho we suggest you take ½ a day to familiarise yourself with the boat under instruction.

Intensive RYA Day Skipper (Theory and Practical)

A combined course for those short on time or who wish to put their theory into practice as soon as possible.  The course is run over nine consecutive days, the theory work is covered in the first four days before heading out on the water to put the theory into practice.

Further Information

Contact Us

If you have any other questions please contact us or check out our FAQ page.

For a more detailed look at the course please have a look at Is the RYA Day Skipper course right for me?