In this article in series about RYA certifications we reveal how to pass the RYA Yachtmaster® Ocean Certificate of Competence.
The RYA Yachtmaster® Ocean Certificate of Competence is proof that you have the knowledge and experience needed to skipper a yacht on passages of any length in all parts of the world. The RYA Yachtmaster Ocean is the highest certification level at RYA.
The holder of a Yachtmaster Ocean qualification should be competent to skipper a yacht of up to 24 metres LOA (up to 200gt) anywhere in the World (Category 0 waters - unlimited).
The assessment is done by oral interrogation (~1.5 hours). You also need to pass the written (~1.5 hours) exam if you did not complete the Ocean Theory course, complete a qualifying passage, and prepare narrative account and navigational records. You have to stand to attention before seasoned most likely old RYA-appointed salt and convince him that you sailed as skipper or first mate and that you know the job. To be honest, there is probably no better way of doing it.
Don’t treat the examination just as an exam. This is a great opportunity to get feedback on your skills and become a better sailor.
You can find the official requirements here.
- Hold an RYA Yachtmaster® Offshore Certificate of Competence
- Have completed a qualifying passage which meets the following criteria:
You were fully involved with the planning of the passage, including a selection of the route, the navigational plan, checking the material condition of the yacht and her equipment, spare gear, victuals and organising the watch-keeping routine.
Throughout the passage you must have acted in a responsible capacity either in sole charge of a watch or as a skipper.
Qualifying passage should be non-stop by the shortest navigable route with no change of skipper.
During the qualifying passage a minimum non-stop distance of 600 miles must have been run by the log, the yacht must have been at sea continuously for at least 96 hours and the yacht must have been more than 50 miles from land or any charted navigational object while sailing a distance of 200 miles. You can find the exact requirements of the qualifying passage here
. If you have any doubts about whether your chosen route qualifies, you can always contact RYA at [email protected]
During the qualifying passage you should take some sights to prove that you are actually capable of navigating out of sight of land by astro navigation. If circumstances prevent astro sights from being taken on the ocean-qualifying passage you can also take them on another shorter passage. You just have to make sure to be enough far from shore so that the sights are taken out of sight of land.
Before taking the oral exam, it is recommended to take Yachtmaster Ocean Theory course. If you complete the course, you will be exempted from the written examination.
Please also take a look at our routes. On all our offshore passages we are navigating using celestial navigation. Some of our passages qualify for the RYA Yachtmaster Ocean certification where you can be a watch leader to meet the qualifying passage requirements. Many of our participants passed the prestigious RYA Yachtmaster Ocean exam and keep returning year after year to us in order 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.
During the oral exam, the questions should generally be related to your qualifying passage but may also refer to longer passages if needed to find out if you are capable of an ocean crossing. You may be required to answer questions on all aspects of ocean passage-making in a yacht, including passage planning, navigation, worldwide meteorology, crew management and yacht preparation, maintenance and repairs.
After booking the exam and at least 1 week before the exam date you must provide the examiner with:
- A narrative account of the planning and execution of the qualifying passage.
- Navigational records, completed on board a yacht on passage, out of sight of land, showing that you navigated the yacht without the use of electronic navigational aids. As a minimum, this should include the planning, reduction, and plotting of a sun-run-meridian altitude or sun-run-sun sight and a compass check carried out using the bearing of the sun, moon, star or planet.
The examiner will not be hard on you if you provide a good narrative account and lots of navigational records. You should show him or her that you thought about many aspects of voyage planning and execution, and that you care about the safety of the yacht and the crew. You will definitely fail if you show a cavalier altitude.
The narrative should include the following:
- Brief description of the chosen vessel and suitability for the voyage
- Crew selection
- Pre-checks on the condition of the yacht, including hull, rigging, engine, electrics and fittings checks
- Navigational passage planning: route selection, sources of information to decide on a strategy, expected and possible durations of the passage if no wind/rig failure/divert to the port of refuge etc.
- Navigational equipment: electronic and manuals
- Weather: source of information pre-departure, weather forecasting sources on passage, actual weather experienced
- Harbours planned: pilotage, reporting, berthing, customs and immigrations procedures
- Ports of refuge
- Watchkeeping rota
- Consumables provisioning: victualling (water and food) and fueling/bunkering - estimating daily usage, the amount carried, allowance for delays, calms and emergencies, preparation for what-if scenarios (e.g. contamination of water, fridge failure etc.)
- Consumables monitoring en route: fuel, gas, food, water, battery
- Methods of charging batteries, battery capacity and electrical consumption calculations
- Medical kit carried and preparation for medical emergencies (e.g. availability of suitable courses)
- Standing orders
- Safety briefing conducted
- Routine equipment checks and maintenance, precautionary replacements
- Drills practices before departure and during the passage
- Fire precautions
- VHF / HF / MF channels monitored
- Communications equipment carried
- Position reporting to shore stations
- Navigational hazards including shipping lanes and shallows
- Expected shipping traffic and other vessels encountered (e.g. fishing fleets)
- Use of courtesy ensigns and Q flag
- Emergency (contingency) plans: MOB, rig failure, hull breach, steering failure, port/hatch failure, engine failure, abandon ship, divert to the port of refuge, heavy weather preparation and tactics, emergency repairs (e.g. jury-rigging, repairing damage to the hull, jury-steering)
- Spare gear and tools required, carried and used
- Deck safety: clipping on and numbers of the crew on deck
- Charts and publications used
- Copy of ship’s log and charts
- Navigation by sextant: all written sight reduction, compass check and plotting sheets completed at sea (not tidied up ashore)
- Procedure for cleaning and securing the yacht at the end of the passage
Here you can find an example of RYA Yachtmaster Ocean narrative and navigational records for passage from Gibraltar to Tenerife prepared for my exam.
The written exam will include questions on celestial navigation (sights and sight reduction) and worldwide meteorology.
If you hold the RYA Yachtmaster Ocean shorebased course completion certificate you will be exempted from the written examination.