In this article in series about RYA certifications we reveal how to pass the RYA Yachtmaster® Offshore Certificate of Competence.
The RYA Yachtmaster® Offshore Certificate of Competence is proof that you have the knowledge needed to skipper a yacht on offshore passages.
The holder of a Yachtmaster Offshore qualification should be competent to skipper a yacht of up to 24 metres LOA (up to 200gt) in waters up to 150 miles from a safe haven.
The exam is similar to the Yachtmaster Coastal in terms of syllabus, but you can expect to get more complex scenarios on the Offshore exam.
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.
To pass the exam you need ample experience and be able to navigate as well as handle the boat at sea. You can take the exam without holding previous certifications from the ladder (e.g. Yachtmaster Coastal) or doing any course before as long as you have enough knowledge and experience.
To qualify to undertake the Yachtmaster Offshore examination, you must have a minimum of 50 days at sea, 2500 miles logged, including at least 5 passages over 60 miles measured along the rhumb line from the port of departure to the destination, acting as skipper for at least two of these passages and including two which have involved overnight passages. You must have 5 days of experience as a skipper. At least half this mileage and passages must be in tidal waters. All qualifying sea time must be within 10 years prior to the exam. You will also need to hold a GMDSS short-range radio certificate.
Before taking the practical exam at sea, it is recommended to take the Yachtmaster Offshore Theory course, especially if you have not sat at the chart table for a while. Holding the RYA Yachtmaster Theory as well as your Yachtmaster Offshore certificate of competence is also required if your goal is the Officer of the Watch 3000GT.
You should also consider taking RYA Radar and a practical preparation course before the exam. 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 exam as well. We can evaluate whether you are at the right level to pass the exam and identify gaps in your knowledge. Many of our participants passed the prestigious RYA Yachtmaster Offshore 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.
In Yachtmaster Offshore exams you will be expected to demonstrate competence based on broad experience. You are supposed to demonstrate knowledge of competence in many areas listed below. In each section, the examiner will expect to see you take full responsibility for the management of the yacht and crew.
1. Convention on the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea (COLREGs)
Questions will be covering the International Regulations. You must be aware of the existence of Local Regulations, but they will not be expected to memorise specific local regulations.
- General rules (1-3)
- Steering and Rules of the Road (4-19)
- Lights and shapes (20-31)
- Sound and light signals (32-37)
- Signals for vessels fishing in close proximity (Annex II)
- Distress signals (Annex IV)
You will be expected to deliver a safety briefing and know what safety equipment should be carried on board a yacht, based either on the recommendations in the RYA Boat Safety Handbook (C8), the ISAF Special Regulations or the Codes of Practice for the safety of Small Commercial Vessels MGN 280 (M). It should cover the following areas including the responsibilities of a skipper:
- Safety briefing
- Life jackets
- Safety harnesses
- Distress signalling (flares and electronic means)
- Fire prevention and fighting
- Boat stability
- Knowledge of rescue and emergency procedures
- Helicopter rescue
3. Boat Handling
You will be expected to answer questions or demonstrate ability in more complex situations and will also be expected to show a higher level of expertise than the Yachtmaster Coastal candidates:
- Coming to and weighing anchor under power or sail in various conditions of wind and tide
- All berthing and unberthing situations in various conditions of wind and tide
- Recovery of man overboard and being able to describe the effects of cold-water shock and the aftercare requirements of a casualty who has been in the water
- Towing under open sea conditions and in confined areas
- Boat handling in confined areas under sail
- Boat handling in heavy weather
- Helmsmanship and sail trim to sail to the best advantage (point of sails)
- Use of warps for securing in an alongside berth and for shifting berth or winding
- Efficient use of sails depending on the point of sails
4. General Seamanship, including maintenance
- Properties, use and care of synthetic-fibre lines
- General deck work at sea and in the harbour
- Engine operations and routine checks and troubleshooting
- Improvisation of jury rigs following gear failure
5. Responsibilities of skipper
- Can skipper a yacht safely and manage the crew
- Communication with crew
- Delegation of responsibility and watch-keeping organisation
- Preparing yacht for sea and for adverse weather
- Tactics for heavy weather and restricted visibility
- Emergency and distress situations
- Victualling for a cruise and nutrition at sea
- Customs procedures
- Standards of behaviour and courtesy
- Charts, navigational publications and sources of navigational information
- Chartwork including position fixing and shaping course to allow for tidal stream and leeway
- Tide and tidal stream calculations for standard and secondary ports
- Buoyage and visual aids to navigation (lighthouses, leading lights, lateral marks)
- Instruments including compasses, logs, echo sounders, radio navaids and chartwork instruments
- Passage planning and navigational tactics
- Pilotage techniques
- Keeping navigational records
- Limits of navigational accuracy and margins of safety
- Lee shore dangers
- Use of electronic navigation aids for passage planning and passage navigation
- Use of waypoints and electronic routeing
- Position fixing with and without the use of GPS
- Course to steer and estimated position
- Coming in and out of the harbour during the day and night with and without the use of GPS
- Blind navigation
- Knowledge of Radar and how to use it for collision avoidance and restricted visibility
- General understanding of AIS for restricted visibility
- Definition of terms
- Sources of weather forecasts
- Weather systems (frontal depressions and highs in the Northern and Southern Hemisphere)
- Local weather effects (sea breeze, fog, wind funnel effect)
- Interpretation of weather forecasts and synoptic charts, barometric trends and visible phenomena
- Ability to make passage planning decisions based on forecast information
You must hold the SRC Certificate of Competence (VHF) in radiotelephony or a higher grade of certificate in radiotelephony
- Insightful blog series on the Yachtmaster exams from the perspective of RYA examinator.
- The Complete Yachtmaster - Bestseller since first publication that has established itself as the standard reference for Yachtmaster students as well as skippers of all levels of experience.
- RYA Yachtmaster Shorebased Notes - Highly illustrated book on all aspects of the RYA Yachtmaster syllabus.
- The RYA Navigation Exercises - This is one of the best books about navigation. It accompanies all RYA training courses and includes two training charts (RYA Training Charts 3 & 4).