RYA stands for Royal Yachting Association which is a United Kingdom national governing body for all forms of boating including yacht cruising and racing. The RYA exists to get more people into watersport activities, promote safe boating practices and raise the standards of yachting and sailing.
While the RYA is a UK-based organisation, their qualifications are recognised across the world and many countries have adopted their own training programs based on the frameworks established by RYA courses.
RYA offers many training programmes and courses, which cover all the essential seamanship skills – from understanding nautical jargon to carrying out all the work to keep your boat sailing safely and performant. The courses are sound and practical. They saved lives and helped thousands to enjoy their time at sea.
Why take an RYA Course?
RYA courses are highly regarded worldwide due to the high standards maintained by the RYA training centres and RYA instructors. They provide the full range of practical and shorebased courses to help you gain all the necessary abilities and skills to enjoy yachting with confidence. The courses will get you prepared to sail as a competent crew or skipper on a yacht independently and safely. You should also consider taking a practical preparation course. There is no official RYA prep course, but many sailing schools offer on-the-water preparation courses.
Our trips are focused on training based on the RYA syllabus and can get you prepared for the RYA exams. Many of our participants passed the RYA certifications and keep returning year after year to us to become yet more confident and experienced. Our practical on-the-water training builds confidence, teaching you everything from basic terminology and safety tips to how to skipper a yacht and manage its crew.
RYA Training and Certification Ladder
Achieving RYA accreditation will open many doors for you in the sailing world.
An introduction to sailing and life on a boat. Perfect for trying something new without the need for new equipment or gear. A weekend sail, living on board a sailing yacht with a crew and the instructor.
Introduction to Navigation is an online course for anyone interested in sailing and motor boating or pretty much anything else on the water. This course will give you the essential navigation and seamanship knowledge needed when you are afloat. RYA Interactive courses can be taken online anytime, anywhere and at your own speed.
For beginners, incorporating personal safety, helmsmanship and seamanship to a level where you will be a useful crew member on board a yacht. A 5-day course living on board a sailing yacht with a crew and the instructor.
On completion of this course, you will be competent to sail a yacht in familiar waters during the day. With an understanding of basic practical navigation and the ability to manoeuvre a yacht under power or sail. It is a liveaboard 5-day course. Prior knowledge should be at Day Skipper Theory level.
You will be required to have knowledge up to the Day Skipper standard before starting. This course covers offshore & coastal navigation, pilotage and meteorology. This is a 6-day intensive course and should not be attempted unless you have the right entry level. There are assessments that must be passed to gain the qualification.
The next step is to become competent enough to skipper coastal passages during the day and night. A-5 day live aboard course including longer passages. The course completion certificate is issued if you achieve the minimum requirements.
MCA/RYA Yachtmaster Scheme
Once you have learnt how to sail and mastered skippering a yacht on short voyages, the next natural progression is to embark on the MCA/RYA Yachtmaster Scheme and attain a Yachtmaster Certificate of Competence. Unlike the previous qualifications like RYA Day or Coastal Skipper, the Yachtmaster qualifications are gained through an external RYA examination.
The RYA Yachtmaster® Certificate of Competence is often the ultimate aim of aspiring skippers. It is a well-known, highly respected qualification worldwide, proving your experience and competence as a skipper. Unlike other qualifications in the cruising programme, there is no formal training course to become an RYA Yachtmaster. Instead, provided you have sufficient experience, certification and sea time, you can put yourself forward for an exam to test your skills and knowledge. You will spend a day or so with an authorised RYA examiner to test your sailing ability.
Sailing Schools do offer preparation courses running straight into the exam both of which normally run over a period of 7 days. But please note that these courses are designed to brush up on some specific skills and areas of the exam that you will be tested on and not teach you how to sail. This will be a chance to polish some skills and fill minor gaps in your knowledge. You should have all the necessary experience prior to joining a prep course and be a confident sailor already.
There are three levels of the RYA Yachtmaster certification:
RYA Yachtmaster Ocean: proving that you have the knowledge and experience to skipper a yacht on passages of any length in all parts of the world
For some, Yachtmaster exams are taken just for a sense of achievement and an opportunity to improve sailing skills. But for those that wish to work commercially in the marine industry, they are a starting point and essential qualifications to achieve.
You can take the Yachtmaster Offshore exam without holding previous certifications from the ladder (e.g. daily or coastal skipper) or doing any official training as long as you have enough knowledge and experience. This is especially useful for those trained outside the UK in non-RYA schemes that want to acquire the RYA Yachtmaster Certificate. However, you will need to hold the RYA Yachtmaster Offshore Certificate before you take the Yachtmaster Ocean exam.
The RYA Yachtmaster Offshore exam is similar to the Coastal exam in terms of syllabus, but you will be getting more complex tasks. If you are tested for example on anchoring skills, you will typically have to do this using sails only during the Offshore (Sail) exam, while the coastal candidate will be allowed to use the engine to do the same. Similarly, most of the navigation exercises will have to be done without GPS on the Offshore exam, while the coastal candidate will be allowed to use GPS most of the time.
The RYA Yachtmaster Ocean is the highest certification level at RYA. There is no practical exam, only oral and written, but don’t be dismayed. You will be tested on whether you can skipper a boat on passages of any length in any part of the world without using GPS for position fixing. You will have to master the art of celestial navigation, complete a passage of over 600 NM miles and know worldwide meteorology inside out. The qualifying passage should be documented thoroughly with things including passage planning and preparation of the passage, pilotage, navigational plan & records, checking the material condition of the yacht and her equipment, watch system, consumables, weather forecasting etc.