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The Bay of Biscay Passage Making Masterclass

The Bay of Biscay Passage Making Masterclass





A top quality sailing course from England, across the Bay of Biscay, to NW Spain. Transform your existing sailing qualifications into real world skills.

Once you have your RYA or ASA qualifications, it is hard to take the next step into skippering your own passages with no instructor on board to guide you. Added to that, skills fade without constant use. For a great many sailors with their RYA Day Skipper or Yachtmaster, that jump has not been made and there is no obvious way to progress. The Rubicon 3 Passage Making Masterclass was designed to address this exact problem. You will spend two weeks with our leading expedition skippers refreshing your previous skills, learning new techniques and getting huge amounts of real world skills and experience on real life challenges.

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This is a typical itinerary. What makes a Passage Making Masterclass so special however is that there can be no fixed itinerary with long distance sailing and so this is indicative only. The wind and the weather ultimately shape what’s possible each day but everything is very flexible within that.

Day 1: Joining day

Join the boat at 1000hrs on the start day and after introductions we will get straight into issuing equipment and then after lunch we will spend the afternoon in the classroom starting on some intensive tuition.

Day 2: Intensive theory and skills and drills. Overnight anchorage in River Helford

From chart work to COLREGs, this morning is going to be an intensive session where we evaluate your current skill set and make you better. It is always a very supportive environment and at no time will you be left to flounder. This is about pushing you hard to improve, not showing anyone up. Most of all, we know the areas that people usually struggle with or aren’t that confident in… and that’s where we’ll go straight to! In the afternoon, we’ll slip lines and be out in the bay, working through all the key manoeuvres following the theory. That night, you’ll have your first pilotage and anchorage exercise as we head into the beautiful River Helford for the night.

Day 3: Sailing across the English Channel

Your first serious passage to plan and execute. We’ll set off across the English Channel, leaving the famous Lizard rock to starboard and out into this famous seaway. You’ll be getting to grips with the strong cross tides and heavy commercial traffic. It is about 60-70nm meaning a really full day of sailing and training. The wonderful Brittany coast awaits and the famous French naval town of Brest.

Day 4: Sailing and training en route to Camaret Sur Mer

Today we can do some intensive training and sailing along the Crozon peninsula and most probably stop for the night in the lovely town of Camaret Sur Mer. After the sailing is done for the day, we have to find time to walk along the Le Toulinguet headland and the emblematic Les Tas de Pois rocks, with their incredible views out over the Atlantic Ocean.

Day 5: Ushant and the world famous bird cliffs

Another day where you can challenge yourself a little more and start to really make big gains in your passage making, route selection, tidal calculations and more. The tides round here are ferocious and the winds have equally to be respected. As you become comfortable sailing in this region you will be making the huge gains you have wanted. Our destination is the small but famous island of Ushant, that can feel like the world’s end. The landscape of cliffs and inlets and its location in the Atlantic make the island a really popular spot for migrating birds from as far away as Siberia and it is regarded as one of the best bird spotting places in Europe for early autumn. The natural surroundings are pretty awe inspiring, especially the dramatic rocks along Ushant’s north shore. The island and the Molène Archipelago remain a world apart and constitute a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.

Day 6: Audierne and Isle de Seine

We now sail south to the charming Breton harbour town  of Audierne, with its bustling quays and historic narrow streets. There should also be the chance to visit the misty, tiny Île de Seine. Wonderfully quiet, nowhere does it rise more than six metres above the ocean. It has a working fishing community, with dark granite houses overlooking a small harbour and no cars are allowed. You will be planning these passages, running the boat and growing as a skipper every day. Mixing the training with such a beautiful sailing ground and having so much to explore is the huge added bonus.

Days 7-10: Sailing across the Bay of Biscay

We allow about three days and nights for our crossing and with the right weather, this is a truly exhilarating ride across a famous stretch of ocean that really poses no problems with proper preparation and timing. The boat will usually hit double figures in boat speed and we can expect anything from downwind spinnaker runs to a close beat. It is just enough time to get a real feel for life out on the ocean and you will be in a 24 hour watch system (usually 4 on / 4 off). Helming under the stars far offshore is an experience you will never forget. This passage is a chance for you to put all your learning to date into practice. The warm, sunny coast of Galicia in northwest Spain awaits and we will likely make landfall in the lovely coastal town of La Coruña.

Day 11: Rest day exploring La Coruña

No training, no sailing, no work! We have just sailed across the Bay of Biscay and unless we’re unlucky it will be warm and sunny and we can just wander around this lovely town and relax.

Days 12-13: Sailing and exploring the Capo Finisterre

Our final two days of sailing will be spent fine tuning everything we have learnt as we make our way around this stunning coast. The western most point of Europe is also one of its finest parts, and apart from round Finisterre itself there are endless little bays and towns that you can use your new found skills to explore. The choice will be yours, as long as we finish in Muros on the right day!

Day 14: Clean ups and goodbyes

The end comes all too soon, but there’s no doubt that you’ll go home with some unforgettable memories and having had a huge amount of fun. After cleaning up, swapping photos and saying goodbye to the boat and the crew, you’ll be free to disembark from 1200h.

We can often find long haul flights at cheap prices. Ask us!

  • You should join the boat in Falmouth, England at 1000 hrs on the start day.
  • You will disembark the boat in Muros, Spain at 1200 hrs on the last day.


  • There is an hourly bus between Muros and the nearest airport, Santiago de Compostela (IATA code: SCQ)
  • You can see the bus timetable by clicking the link here


The Passage Making Masterclass™ is open to everyone aged 18 years and over who has the RYA Day Skipper qualification or above. (International  equivalents are accepted). If you are aged 70 or over, or have any concerns about your health, we ask that you get a doctor’s note before booking. This is just to make as certain as possible that you will be okay out on the water.


We provide the foul weather clothing, life-jackets and all other technical equipment you will need. We really urge you not to spend any extra money unless you are sure you want to! You need to bring a sleeping bag and some waterproof boots.

See more information and the full kit list here


We are committed to helping as many people as possible have an amazing sailing holiday and experience the magic of the sea. Our skippers and mates have medical training and the boats have some medical supplies and equipment on board. However, the reality is that once on board access to professional medical assistance is going to be slower than if you were on land. If we are offshore it may be some days. For this reason we ask you to check through the medical disclosure form below before you book. If you answer yes to any of the questions, you should get in touch with us before you book. It will probably still be fine but it’s good to make sure. You will be asked to submit the form electronically 14 days before the start date, ensuring that we have the most up to date information.

See the Medical Declaration here


  • It is essential that you have adequate travel insurance in place for your sailing holiday.
  • We strongly recommend that you arrange insurance that covers you for any medical mishaps in the build up to your holiday so that should you have to cancel, you can reclaim you fees.
  • Please note we cannot refund your money or cancel your invoice due to medial issues.
  • For our latest guidance on travel insurance, please read here.


Intensive training and skills development. Full days of sailing and some overnight passages. Some time to head ashore and explore.


  • Top quality foul weather clothing to keep you dry in any conditions.
  • Fladen immersion suits. These will keep you warm in even the coldest, windiest conditions.
  • Ocean-spec lifejackets. These are the best on the market.
  • All on-board food and snacks.
  • Daily sailing lessons and tuition from two highly experienced instructors.
  • RYA sailing qualifications where applicable.


  • Your travel to and from the start and end points.
  • Travel insurance (see our travel insurance page here)
  • Any alcohol – but feel free to bring your own or buy some along the route
  • Any meals you eat ashore


Everything’s included except for flights, travel insurance, a sleeping bag and some waterproof boots. There are no hidden extras.

  • These expeditions have small numbers of people on board. When you book, you are committing to being a part of the crew.
  • These are genuine adventure sailing holidays and you will be helping sail the boat, planning where we go, navigating, cooking and keeping the boat clean and tidy.
  • When you book, the deposit is non refundable. It is possible to cancel subsequently, however you may still be liable for the balance of the invoice, depending on how close you are to the start date when you cancel.
  • Please ensure you  have read and agreed to the T&Cs and read the Trip Notes before booking.

    Terms & Conditions

    What do you do with a rusty Day Skipper? After a year or so has passed, the skills you had begin to fade and suddenly you find you haven’t sailed for a few years and the confidence has gone. Alternatively, you may have got to Coastal or Offshore Yachtmaster. These are great qualifications to have but 90% of those who achieve them still have very limited real time experience. The Passage Making Masterclass is all about getting you a rapid increase in skills and experience, so that you can pass those higher level  sailing qualifications or go off and charter yachts and take on more challenging passages with extra confidence. The syllabus includes














    Most yachts these days have radar but few amateur sailors have the skills to use this invaluable tool properly. As part of your Passage Making Masterclass, you will look at how to set up the radar  and how to use it both to aid collision avoidance and for pilotage in poor visibility.














    Pilotage is both technique and art form. Entering a foreign port late at night in bad weather when the crew is tired can be a very taxing exercise. Similarly weaving one’s way through rocks to a small anchorage. We will show you the techniques we use to produce simple, easy to follow pilotage guides that work.














    Helming is so much more than holding a steady course. With every slight change in wind speed, apparent wind direction changes and you need to be wise to these shifts and have some techniques for how to gauge and react to them. More than anything, you need to learn to minimise your inputs.














    Anchoring is a skill that many people are nervous to try which is a great shame as it completely transforms one’s cruising range and a night at anchor can be  a truly special experience. We’ll explain what size anchor you should be carrying, what type of anchor, how much chain and rope and what sea beds to anchor in. You’ll also learn how to anchor and how to ensure you stay safe through the night.














    Should you file paperwork before leaving your home country and if so, what? What is one expected to do on arrival in a foreign port and when? What paperwork needs to be carried or shown? We give you the detailed low down on what is required and when.














    There is a world of difference between a classroom exercise on  a Day Skipper course and proper, good quality passage planning. We will bring you a level of practical techniques that will help you sail safely from A to B.














    Dealing safely with commercial shipping is an essential skill. Cargo vessels are big, fast and dangerous. Yet, they are only 1-200metres long and 40 metres wide. There is no need to end up in front of them! We will help you translate collision regulations learnt by heart into practical skills.














    We’ll help you get to grips with this so that you can maximise the performance of your sails. Which sail do you trim first, is twist important, what do those cars do? Lots of questions and we’ll explain everything in clear, simple lessons .














    Previously you may have been taught about how low pressure systems form and that’s great. What we’ll teach you is really up to date, practical weather skills. You’ll compare weather apps, learn about their strengths and weaknesses and get familiar with the various official weather sources, too.



    Yes. For our Passage Making Masterclasses we ask that you have a minimum of RYA Day Skipper or ASA103. It doesn’t matter if they are very rusty – this is what this course is all about!


    Almost everyone comes alone. Couples and groups are very welcome and we do get them. On the whole, however, most crew join solo and so if you are coming alone, you will be one of the crowd!


    Except in exceptional circumstances, we limit the crew size to 9 (except for Atlantic crossings) plus two instructors. This means that there are enough people to sail the boat safely and you will still have lots of time helming, navigating, trimming sails and such like.


    Absolutely. First and foremost, we are here to ensure everyone has an amazing time. Sailing is about having fun, experiencing nature at its most majestic and gently pushing yourself to try and learn new things. Rubicon 3 voyages are a unique mix of sailing and training and you will get far more involvement and training than on any other sailing holiday you may try!


    We have a remarkably similar group of people who join all our trips. They come from all around the world, are an even mix of men and women and with an average age of 35-65. As we said above, most come alone and experience varies from none at all to Yachtmaster. Most of the crew would describe themselves as having a rusty Day Skipper.


    Go the ‘BOOK NOW’ button near the top of the page. This will take you through to our booking system, and it will ask you for a deposit of £400. As soon as this is paid, your place is reserved. The balance of the trip must be paid by 60 days before departure.