An Overview of RYA Courses: From Beginner to Yachtmaster

Sailing is a wonderful skill that offers freedom, adventure, and the chance to connect with nature profoundly. For those interested in learning to sail, RYA courses offer a comprehensive range of courses that cater to all levels of experience and ambition. They can be confusing though for sailors looking to understand which course fits where. From your first time on a yacht to mastering the skills needed for ocean voyages, here’s our guide to what you can expect from each key RYA course.

Start Yachting

Ideal for beginners, the Start Yachting sailing course is a short introduction for complete beginners. Over a weekend, participants get a taste of life at sea and learn basic skills such as steering a yacht, sail handling, ropework, and safety on board. This course serves as a gentle introduction, making it perfect for those curious about sailing but not yet ready to commit to more extensive training.

Sailing instructor on yacht

Competent Crew

The RYA Competent Crew course is designed for those who have enjoyed their initial sailing experiences and wish to learn more. Over five days, trainees become actively involved in all aspects of living and working on a yacht. Skills covered include basic seamanship, helming, and understanding the importance of teamwork on board. This course not only boosts your confidence but also makes you a valuable crew member. Nearly all Rubicon 3 trips include Competent Crew as part of the package.

online sailing course

Day Skipper Theory

To take command, understanding the theoretical aspects of sailing is essential. The Day Skipper Theory course provides the knowledge needed to navigate safely on short passages. In these theory courses, trainees learn about coastal navigation, chartwork, meteorology, and the basics of seamanship. This theory course is an indispensable foundation for anyone aiming to become a skipper. It is run over five days or two weekends.

Day Skipper Practical

Building on theoretical knowledge, the RYA Day Skipper Practical course focuses on teaching how to safely skipper short passages during the day. This hands-on course covers pilotage, boat handling, seamanship, navigation and an introduction to night sailing. By the end of the RYA day skipper course, participants should feel competent to skipper a small yacht in familiar waters by day. This course can be converted to the International Certificate of Competence (ICC). It is recognized by maritime authorities worldwide and this allows you to charter yachts in many countries

sailing in harbor

Coastal Skipper

For more advanced sailors looking to extend their skills on a cruising yacht, the Coastal Skipper course challenges participants with longer coastal passages, requiring precise navigation and skippering skills. This course emphasizes passage planning, crew management, and advanced pilotage. Completion of this course prepares sailors to undertake more challenging voyages in varied conditions.

Coastal Skipper / Yachtmaster Theory

The RYA Coastal Skipper/Yachtmaster theory course is an advanced course that builds on the knowledge gained on the shorebased Day Skipper course. It is aimed at sailors and motor boaters who are looking to undertake more complex passages perhaps offshore or at night.

Nav work on yacht

Yachtmaster Coastal

The Yachtmaster Coastal certification is aimed at sailors who have the experience and skills to undertake longer coastal trips and night passages. The exam for this certification tests the ability to skipper a sailing yacht on any passage during which the yacht is no more than 60 miles from a safe haven. Plenty of training and preparation are needed for this exam.

Yachtmaster Offshore

The RYA Yachtmaster Offshore sailing course is for experienced skippers who wish to undertake longer, offshore passages. It is also essential for professional skippers. The certification requires a demonstration of high-level navigational skills and the ability to manage a yacht on offshore passages day and night. It represents a significant achievement and a benchmark of competence for amateur skippers.

yachtmaster ocean candidate

Yachtmaster Ocean

At the pinnacle of the RYA sailing courses, the Yachtmaster Ocean qualification involves astro-navigation and worldwide meteorology. It is designed for those wishing to conduct ocean voyages where the use of celestial navigation becomes necessary. This certification is a testament to the highest standard of skippering skills, sailing techniques and deep ocean sailing knowledge.


Each RYA course is designed to build on the last, offering a clear pathway from novice to seasoned sailor. Whether you’re a complete beginner and looking to start yachting as a hobby or aiming to captain long ocean voyages, RYA training provides structured, comprehensive training that ensures safety, competence, and confidence on the water. The theory courses can nearly all be done these days as online courses. Come and train with Rubicon 3 – where real-world skills, honed on expeditions around the world, are brought into everyday lessons.

See the RYA courses here

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