Becoming a RYA YachtMaster

Becoming a RYA YachtMaster

The RYA/MCA qualification allows the holder to work professionally in the boating industry.  Whether you’re interested in becoming a delivery skipper or working on a super yacht, this RYA/MCA certificate of competency is recognised worldwide.

A RYA YachtMaster is someone who is a competent skipper and this can only be achieved by combining knowledge training and experience.

RYA/MCA YachtMaster Examinations

There are three levels of RYA YachtMaster – Coastal, Offshore, and Ocean.  The RYA YachtMaster Coastal and Offshore are practical examinations on the water while the RYA YachtMaster Ocean involves a 90 minute oral exam.

Do I need to become a RYA YachtMaster?

If you wish to work professionally as a yachtsman then you must become a RYA YachtMaster. If you are not interested in working in the yacht industry you may wish to take the exams to demonstrate you are a safe, responsible and competent skipper.  The certificate of competency is recognised around the world and is accepted by every charter company as evidence of suitability to charter a boat.

Quality of experience

It’s relatively simple to visit harbours and anchorages with which you are familiar and have local knowledge.  A competent yachtsman should be able to enter any harbour in which there is sufficient depth, given an adequate chart and sailing directions.  The skill of interpreting published information on unfamiliar harbours is best acquired by practice and every opportunity should be taken to visit small harbours and anchorages.  Entering a harbour by night calls for an acquired skill in identifying navigational lights or picking out unlit marks against the background of the shore lights, practice is the key to success.

With crowded moorings and increased reliability of auxiliary engines many skippers have limited experience of handling a yacht under sail in confined waters. Knowing how a yacht handles under jib or main sail only is important – if there is a broken down engine or a fouled propeller the yacht is not totally disabled. Practising approaching and leaving a mooring or anchor, recovering a man overboard and sailing in narrow channels are all essential in order to ensure if necessary the manoeuvres can be carried out without the use of an engine.

Adverse Weather

Skippers and crew are thoroughly tested when they have to cope with gale force winds or fog at sea. Today, with better weather forecasting and self-imposed limits, we often make passages which place the yacht more than a few hours from a safe harbour which invariably limits experience in adverse conditions. We are not suggesting setting out in adverse conditions just to experience a gale or fog, but practising responses to adverse weather and how to ensure everyone makes it back ashore in one piece.

Long Passages

It is possible in many sailing areas to cruise a wide area without making a passage more than 18-24 hours.  Short durations can be completed without the need of an active watch system. To fully understand how a crew and yacht should be organised you should endeavour to gain experience of longer passages sailing day and night for 2-3 days. Consider joining a mile building trip or perhaps offshore racing to gain more experience.


The ability to sail a yacht efficiently in terms of helmsmanship, sail setting and trimming are skills you are encouraged to acquire.  The best way to measure and improve these skills is by taking part in a yacht race. There are also skills such as the ability to sail so that the yacht places the minimum demands on her gear and crew. If your experience is heavily race-based then you may need to experience short-handed passage making to develop these skills.

Filling in the gaps

If you are considering taking your RYA YachtMaster exams then it might be a good idea to attend a preparation week. The RYA YachtMaster preparation will help focus your skills and allow you to work on any areas that you are weak in. Your instructor will coach you through the syllabus and pay particular attention to the area where you require more practice. You will get time to brush up on your theory as well as the practical skills.

More Information

Please follow the links below to see more details on the pre-requisites and preparation needed before booking your RYA YachtMaster exam:

Further Information

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