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Head down to the sea on a sunny day, and you’ll likely see yachts out on the water, heading one way and turning and speeding up again and then holding course and sailing off into the distance. It is idyllic for the yacht crew but it can seem like an impossible dream. However, getting into yacht sailing, whether as a crew member or becoming a skipper yourself is actually far easier than you might expect. It all starts with the RYA competent crew course and before you know it you can be heading off on big adventures. You can take this as a dedicated 5 day course in the Solent, or you can take it while on one of our sailing adventures, the majority of which are suitable for beginners. We guide you through everything you need to know.
The competent crew course is the introductory sailing course for new yachties and aspiring yacht crew. Designed for beginners, no previous knowledge or experience is needed and the instructor will teach you everything you need to know. From the moment you step aboard the boat, you will have structured lessons in everything you need to be able act as a competent crew member on board a yacht. This will include quite literally learning the ropes, as you are taught what everything does and when to push, pull, tighten and loosen. You will learn all the terminology, not least that hardly any ropes on a yacht are actually called ropes. Instead, they have technical names such as pennant, halyard, sheet, guy and many more. Your knowledge of sea terms will have you speaking like a pirate by the end of the course!
Your training on your competent crew course will usually begin with a thorough briefing on the onboard emergency equipment and your personal safety equipment, including how to use your lifejacket, the liferaft and the Man Overboard equipment. As aspiring yacht crew you will also be talked through fire precautions and fighting techniques. Fire on a plastic boat is one of the greatest fears for a sailor. You will also be taught all the parts of a boat her rigging and sails. Although the competent crew course is a largely practical course, your head will soon be full of sea terms and parts of a boat. It’s all part of the fun, and you’ll come to see that the various names plays a key role in effective and safe sailing.
Other things yacht crew members will learn on the 5 day course include the basic rules of the road such as when and how to avoid other vessels under motor and sail, the accepted manners and customs at sea, how to trim sails, more rope work and general sail handling. The instructor will ensure crew know the general duties expected of a crew member and are able to steer under sail and power when required. You will also get a minimum of 4 hours of night sailing.
During your course, trainee yacht crew will also need to complete a short row in a dinghy to demonstrate basic coordination and competence. This is always a fun exercise, eliciting cheers and encouragement from your fellow students.
The full Competent Crew syllabus is given at the end of this article.
Usually, the course will be run on a standard cruising yacht such as a 40′ Beneteau or Jeanneau. The minimum duration for a competent crew course is 5 days. This can be run Monday to Friday or over two weekends. One of these will be Saturday and Sunday, the other a 3 day weekend, usually including the Friday. The recommended minimum age is 12. You will visit a different marina or anchorage every night. If you choose to the course while on one of our adventure sailing holidays, you will find the syllabus embedded into the structure of the trip. That means you could gain your qualification while exploring the beautiful west coast of Scotland, cruising down the coast of Morocco, exploring the Norwegian coast or out in the blissful Grenadine islands of the Caribbean
The very first certificate in the range of RYA courses is actually Start Yachting, which is an introductory weekend and not compulsory. In our experience, most people proceed straight to the competent crew course. After this, you can take the RYA Day Skipper theory course, followed by the Day Skipper practical course. With the all important International Certificate of Competence (ICC), the Day Skipper is the usual qualification you need to charter a yacht. If you wish to progress past Day Skipper, then you can go for your Coastal Skipper and finally your Yachtmaster.
A. The course must be a minimum of 5 days, which can be spread out over 1 week or 2-3 weekends
A. All the basics of what is needed to be a crew member on a sailing yacht.
A. The recommended minimum age is 12
A. No, but you will need sufficient experience to be able to undertake the Day Skipper practical course
A. With this 5 day course, you will be a more useful (& attractive) crew member for other yachts who wish to go sailing. You may be able to help in short deliveries, introductory races and you will also be set up to progress to the Day Skipper course.
The Competent Crew course introduces the complete beginner to cruising and teaches personal safety, seamanship and helmsmanship to the level required to be a useful member of crew of a cruising yacht.
1. Knowledge of sea terms and parts of a boat, her rigging and sails
2. Sail Handling
4. Fire precautions and fighting
Awareness of the hazards of fire and the precautions necessary to prevent fireb. Knowledge of the action to be taken in the event of fire
5. Personal safety equipment
6. Man overboard
7. Emergency equipment
8. Manners and customs
9. Rules of the road
13. Helmsmanship and sailing
14. General duties