RYA Competent Crew Course


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The RYA Competent Crew course offers beginners essential sailing skills, safety, and seamanship. No prior experience is needed. This can be your first step in sailing.

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    5 days (Mon - Fri) or two weekends

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    None. Suitable for absolute beginners.

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    Various - please enquire


Competent Crew is the introductory yacht sailing course from the Royal Yachting Association (RYA). It is suitable both for complete beginners and those with some dinghy sailing experience who would like to move on to sail yachts.

Competent Crew is very practical and hands-on. The theory is kept to a minimum. You will live on the yacht for the duration of the course, and be out sailing every day. You will receive expert tuition in all the essential crewing skills such as steering, hoisting and trimming sails, essential sailing knots and life onboard. It is fun, supportive and light-hearted. It is the perfect introduction to yacht sailing.

Key Points

  • Perfect for beginners – no previous experience required.
  • Fun course, with RYA certification at the end.
  • Visit beautiful harbours and anchorages.
  • Expert tuition to give you the best start.
What's Included
  • All meals and snacks onboard
  • Oilskins
  • Life jackets
  • All mooring fees
What's Not Included
  • Sleeping bag
  • Waterproof boots
  • Personal sailing insurance
  • Two evening meals ashore

Course Syllabus

The RYA Competent Crew course introduces the complete beginner to cruising and teaches personal safety, seamanship and helming skills to the level required to be a useful member of the crew of a cruising yacht.

  1. General Knowledge

  • Knowledge of sea terms and parts of a boat, her rigging and sails
  • Sufficient knowledge to understand orders given concerning the sailing and day to day running of the boat.
  1. Sail Handling

  • Bending on, setting, reefing and handling of sails
  • Use of sheets and halyards and their associated winches
  1. Ropework

  • Handling ropes, including coiling, stowing, securing to cleats and single and double bollards
  • Handling warps
  • Ability to tie the following knots and to know their correct use: figure-of-eight, clove hitch, rolling hitch, bowline, round turn and two half hitches, single and double sheet bend, reef knot.
  1. Fire precautions and fighting

  • Awareness of the hazards of fire and the precautions necessary to prevent fire. Knowledge of the action to be taken in the event of a fire.
  1. Personal safety equipment

  • Understands and complies with rules for the wearing of safety harnesses, lifejackets and personal buoyancy aids
  1. Casualty overboard

  • Understands the action to be taken to recover a casualty who has fallen overboard
  1. Emergency equipment

  • Can operate distress flares and knows when they should be used
  • Understands how to launch and board a liferaft
  1. Manners and customs

  • Understands accepted practise with regard to use of burgees and ensigns, prevention of unnecessary noise or disturbance in the harbour including courtesies to other craft berthed.
  • Aware of the responsibility of yacht skippers to protect the environment
  1. Rules of the road

  • Understands the essential aspects of the rules of the road and is able to keep an efficient lookout at sea
  1. Dinghies

  • Understands and complies with the loading rules.
  • Is able to handle a dinghy under oars
  1. Meteorology

  • Awareness of forecasting services and knowledge of the Beaufort scale.
  1. Seasickness

  • Understands to what degree their working efficiency is unaffected/partially affected/severely affected by seasickness
  1. Helming and sailing

  • Understands the basic principles of sailing and can steer and trim sails on all points of sailing
  • Can steer a compass course, under sail and power
  1. General duties

  • Has carried out general duties satisfactorily on deck and below decks in connection with the daily routine of the vessel

Helpful Information

  • What To Expect

    You spend the full course living on the yacht, with all meals provided. One of the expert Rubicon 3 instructors will work through the full syllabus with you, covering everything you need to know to be a competent and useful crew member on any future yachts you sail on.

    A training holiday

    Each day, you will sail to somewhere new, visiting the wonderful harbours and anchorages of the Solent. You will finish each day both on the mainland and on the Isle of Wight, and there’s usually the chance to head into one of the local pubs for a well earned beer and chat about the day’s training.

    In the best place to learn to sail

    The Solent is easily one of the best sailing grounds in the world, with its huge variety of locations, sheltered water, challenging tides, and lots of vast commercial cargo ships moving by. As we describe in our Solent overview, this really is the only place to learn to sail

  • Safety

    Safety is absolutely paramount when heading out onto the water. Rubicon 3’s heritage is in ocean sailing and expeditions to the polar regions, and we bring all that expertise to everything we do, including the RYA courses. It can mean a quite different experience to other sailing schools, many of who rarely venture out beyond their local area. You will also be training on top class yachts with the latest safety equipment, fully inspected by the maritime authorities every year.

  • Who Else Joins

    90% of crew join solo, so these are excellent courses if you are coming alone. There is nearly always a 50:50 mix of men and women, of all ages. It’s a small, fun group of like-minded people, all working toward the same goal.

    You can expect three other crew on board, giving a maximum of four. Many other sailing schools will pack five onto a boat (to maximise profits) but this has a really detrimental effect on the training. You will simply not have enough ‘wheel’ time, trimming time and such like. It’s a 25% reduction in training time and the quality of your training is greatly affected

  • FAQ

    What time does my sailing course start and finish?

    Start: 1830hrs on Friday and Sunday

    Finish: 1600hrs on Friday and Sunday (approximate time)

    Do I need insurance?

    Rubicon 3 has full public liability insurance, however we do strongly recommend that you buy additional personal insurance that covers travel, cancellation, damage to clothing or accidents. Topsail and Bishop’s Skinner are both good options.

    Where will be sail to?

    You will be sailing in the Solent, which is the best training ground available. You may visit some of the well-known harbours on the Isle of Wight such as Cowes or Yarmouth, along with Beaulieu, Lymington, Poole and Portsmouth.

    Will we get off the boat?

    Most nights you can jump off the boat for a beer ashore. Some nights we may be at anchor.

    How many students will there be on the boat?

    We take a maximum of 4 students per boat. This maximises your tuition and hands on time, versus many other schools that pack a fifth person on board.

    Will I be cooking?

    Part of learning to sail is learning how to live aboard a yacht. All chores, including cooking, are shared equally between all students and the instructor. Don’t worry – there’s a set menu and lots of help at hand!

    Will I be sharing a cabin?

    It may be necessary for you to share a cabin. Couples and friends will normally share. If you are coming on a course on your own there is a possibility you will have to share a cabin but this would only be with someone of the same sex.

    Can you cater for dietary requirements?

    We can accommodate basic dietary requirements such as vegetarians and minor food allergies. If you have any concerns, please check with us before booking.

  • Packing Check List

    • Do not go and spend lots of money on sailing clothing. Especially when you are first starting out, you really don’t need it. The main consideration is to bring layers, so that you can adjust your temperature accordingly.
    • Warm clothes including hat, scarf, gloves and thermal underwear.
    • Sleeping bag
    • Polarised sunglasses
    • Sun block
    • Wash kit
    • Towel
    • Flip flops (great for shower blocks)
    • Swimming gear
    • Phone charger
    • Sailing boots and some deck shoes or non-marking trainers

     Everything must be packed into a soft holdall that can be rolled away

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