RYA Training Courses

To understand the Yachtmaster qualification we should first know something about the RYA training system. The RYA Sail Cruising training course sequence is: Start yachting – Competent Crew – Day Skipper theory and Practical and finally Coastal Skipper Theory and Practical. The sequence for Motor Cruising is the same except that the Start Yachting and Competent Crew courses are replaced by the Helmsman course.

For full details of this training structure:

Sail or Power

Each of these courses has a defined syllabus and if you complete them satisfactorily you receive an RYA Course Completion Certificate. The practical courses do not include a formal examination. Students are assessed continuously and, provided you complete the course and show that you have learned the important elements, you can expect to receive a certificate. It is important to note that these course completion certificates alone are not formal licences. In the UK there is no licence requirement to skipper your own boat for private pleasure. If you want to charter a yacht, the day skipper and coastal skipper practical course certificates are widely recognised by charter companies as sufficient evidence of competence. If you want to sail your own yacht in European waters, you will need an International Certificate of Competence (ICC). If you have an RYA Day or Coastal Skipper Practical certificate then you can apply to the RYA for issue of an ICC.

Further Details of the ICC: Sailing or Motoring.

Day Skipper Certificate of Competence

Your RYA Day Skipper Course Completion Certificate may be commercially endorsed, allowing you to work in defined circumstances.


The Yachtmaster Certificates of Competence

The RYA, in association with the UK Marine and Coastguard Agency (MCA) issues Certificates of Competence to cruising yacht skippers who pass a formal, independent examination of their knowledge and skill. There are 3 levels reflecting skill and experience.

They are:

  • Yachtmaster (Coastal). Valid up to 20 Nautical Miles of a safe haven.
  • Yachtmaster (Offshore). Valid up to 150 Miles of a safe haven.
  • Yachtmaster (Ocean). Unlimited.

Yachtmaster (Coastal) and (Offshore) certificates are awarded after success in a practical examination conducted at sea. The Yachtmaster (Ocean) certificate is awarded following a satisfactory Oral examination – but of course the candidate must already hold the YM (Offshore) certificate. The Yachtmaster (Offshore) Certificate is the biggest single achievement and the last formal examination at sea. In all cases the examinations are conducted separately for Sail and Power and Certificates are endorsed accordingly.

Examination Candidates – Pre-requisite Experience and Qualification

Yachtmaster (Coastal) Yachtmaster (Offshore) Yachtmaster (Ocean)
Minimum Seatime 30 days. 2 days as skipper. 800 miles. 12 night hours. (If you have the Coastal Skipper course certificate the minimum seatime is reduced to 20 days and 400 miles. At least half of the qualifying time and miles must be in tidal waters. 50 days, 2,500 miles (including qualifying passages), 5 days as skipper. At least half of the qualifying time, miles and passages must be in tidal waters. Qualifying Ocean Passage
Qualifying Passages Nil specific 5 passages over 60 miles measured on the rhumb line. At least 2 of these passages must have been completed as skipper and at least 2 must have been overnight. An ocean passage over 600 miles (measured on the log) including at least 200 miles sailed further offshore than 50 miles. The candidate must have sailed as skipper or mate of watch and participated in planning and execution.
Form of Exam Practical at sea Practical at sea Oral and written assessment including calculations from astro sights taken at sea. A certificate of completion of the RYA Ocean Yachtmaster shorebased course gives exemption from the written assessment.
Certificates required before the exam VHF Radio Operator’s certificate (or higher)
Valid First Aid certificate
VHF Radio Operator’s certificate (or higher)
Valid First Aid certificate
VHF Radio Operator’s certificate (or higher)
Valid First Aid certificate
Exam durations 6 to 10 hours (1 candidate)
8 to 14 hours (2 candidates)
Typically 36 hours for 3 candidates
Typically 42 hours for 4 candidates
8 to 12 hours (1 candidate)
10 to 18 hours (2 candidates)
Typically 36 hours for 3 candidates
Typically 42 hours for 4 candidates
1.5 hours
Minimum Age 17 18 18
RYA website Reference RYA Website Reference RYA Website Reference

Yachtmaster Examination Syllabus

The examination syllabuses are shown in the RYA Cruising Log books – G15 for sail and G18 for power.

Arranging a Yachtmaster Examination

Anyone who considers that they fulfil the minimum pre-requisite experience and qualifications can apply directly to the RYA for examination. However, most people, even with a lot of experience, would arrange at least a short preparatory training/evaluation session to ensure that they are at the required standard.

Elite Sailing offers a Yachtmaster Preparation Course followed by an examination on one of our training vessels. For Sail the prep course is usually 5 days followed by an exam of up to 2 days (depending on the number of candidates). For power, the prep course is usually 3 or 4 days followed by an exam of up to 2 days. If you book a YM Prep course and Exam we take care of all the details such as RYA application forms, booking the examiner etc.

If you prefer to have the preparation course and exam on your own boat that’s fine too.

Yachtmaster Preparation Course and Exam – Full Details

Are You Ready? – Evaluation Sessions

If you have sailed with us recently we should be able to give you objective advice about your readiness to take the examination and chances of success. If not, then we can easily arrange a checkout. If you have your own boat this can be just a day’s Own Boat Tuition with one of our Yachtmaster Instructors. To have a checkout on one of our boats we would recommend that you book a place on a sail training weekend. In either case the specific objective would be evaluation of skills and knowledge appropriate to the examination and, if appropriate, recommendations for any further practice or training. You would receive some useful training too.

Commercial Endorsements

A commercial endorsement is printed on your RYA Certificate of Competence to show that you have undergone additional training and a medical fitness examination so that you can work on commercial vessels. There are two kinds of endorsement.

The standard commercial endorsement allows you to work on British-flagged vessels subject to the codes of practice for small commercial vessels. For this you will need to complete an RYA Sea Survival course (1 day) or an STCW Personal Survival Techniques (PST course – 1 day) course and have a personal medical examination recorded on either an ML5 or Eng 1 form. This type of commercial endorsement is sufficient for the vast majority of skippers working in sailing schools, yacht charter and delivery companies in the UK and overseas.

The MCA commercial endorsement enables you to work on non-UK maritime authority vessels worldwide. It will also enable you to work as crew on large commercial and private vessels worldwide. For this you will need to take 4 additional short courses (STCW courses) comprising Personal Survival Techniques (PST – 1 day), Personal Safety and Social Responsibilities (PSSR – 1 day), Elementary First Aid (EFA – 1 day) and Fire prevention and Fire fighting (FPFF – 2 days). You will also need to have a personal medical examination recorded on either an ML5 or an Eng 1. If you hold a full set of STCW course certificates your RYA Yachtmaster (offshore) or (Ocean) certificate can be endorsed ‘MCA Master of Yachts 200 tons’. This certificate then has no length restriction.

Your certificate can be endorsed when it is first issued, or later. In either case you need to complete a commercial endorsement application form and pay a small fee.

For comprehensive information about commercial endorsements, including application forms, we refer you to the RYA website.

Medical Examinations

The ML5 form is sufficient for a commercial endorsement for operation within 60 miles of a safe haven. The ML5 can be completed by your own doctor – or indeed any UK General Practitioner.

The Eng 1 form must be used if you need to work outside 60 miles of a safe haven. The form must be completed by an MCA approved doctor.

Where can you work with RYA qualifications?

RYA qualifications with a standard commercial endorsement are suitable for private or commercial vessels of up to 24 metres in length. With an MCA commercial endorsement the RYA Yachtmaster Offshore or Ocean certificates are suitable for commercial use as Master of Yachts up to 200 tons. The qualification required depends on the area of operation of the vessels concerned. For example, the Yachtmaster (Coastal) Certificate is sufficient for operation up to 20 miles of a safe haven while the Yachtmaster (Offshore) Certificate is sufficient for operation up to 150 miles from a safe haven. The rules are fairly complex.

For a complete explanation we refer you to the RYA website.

Deck Manning Requirements for British – flagged vessels are defined by the UK Marine and Coastguard Agency and published as Marine Guidance Notes (MGN). The manning requirements for small vessels in commercial use are in MGN 280 Table 1.