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How to become an RYA Yachtmaster Offshore in Scotland?

RYA Yachtmaster is the pinnacle of the RYA scheme and the certificate required by professionals. But what does it take to become an RYA yachtmaster in Scotland? This is a question that Daniel Smith, a Scottish RYA yachtmaster examiner based on the Clyde sets out to answer.

The Yachtmaster MCA recognised Certificate of Competence comes in 2 levels. Coastal and Offshore. Here we will be looking at the offshore level.

Firstly, let’s look at the pre-requisites that are required to present yourself for the exam. These can be found from the RYA but to summarise, you need 50 days at sea, 2500 nautical miles sailed, 5 passages over 60 nautical miles (2 that are overnight and 2 as skipper) and finally 5 days skippering. This amount of experience doesn’t come quickly so how is it achieved?

One way of achieving then above pre-requisites is through doing RYA courses. If a student were to do Competent crew, Day skipper, a few weekends sailing and a milebuilder they might end up with 1000 nautical miles. To achieve the rest a good way forwards is to charter a small yacht with others who have done a bit of sailing. Scotland, and the Clyde in particular is the perfect place for this. Often without an instructor onboard skippers need to really start taking on the responsibility of running the yacht and the learning doesn’t stop.

Now is a good opportunity for some theory. The Yachtmaster theory course is a 60 hour shorebased course teaching to the right level for Yachtaster offshore. At somepoint a VHF certificate and a first aid certificate need to be achieved also. These are both 1 day courses.

The next practical course that the skipper will be ready for is the Coastal skipper course. This course looks at making longer coastal passages and being more confident sailing in the dark. On completion of this course chartering again will benefit the skipper, allow them to do some more interesting sails without an instructor and build yet more miles.

Yachtmaster prep in Scotland
RYA YM prep and lessons from Largs on the Clyde

By this stage the student will be well on their way to becoming an RYA Yachtmaster. They are ready for the final push. Sailing InTuition offers the next block as a 3 week intensive block. The Intensive Yachtmaster Prep combines other courses to fully prepare the student for exam day. A Better sailing course improves the students sail trim and sailing manoeuvres. This is a weekend of local sailing within the Clyde with the focus being on sailing the boat efficiently and being slick when under sail.

The next block of the intensive Yachtmaster prep is a milebuilder . This is included for a number of reasons. One is to help those skippers who need a final push to get the mileage above 2500. Another is to help provide some of the five 60 mile passages that need to be completed. During the milebuilder these passages will be completed through the night and also if ready, the skippers will be given the opportunity to skipper these passages. The aim being by the end of this block the pre-requisites are completed.

The following weekend is spent Close quarter boat handling. Many Yachtmaster exams are failed in the marina with the stress of berthing causing the skipper to make mistakes. This weekend course builds confidence and ability so that they are berthing like a professional taking all the stress out of this element of the exam.

Now we are ready to add the final polish to the aspiring Yachtmaster. The next 5 days is spent with a Yachtmaster examiner. A Yachtmaster prep and mock exam course prepares the student for the exam and then runs them through an exam from beginning to end. Letting them know if they would have passed or failed if it were the real thing. This mock exam is very valuable and takes the mystery and some stress out of the final exam. At the end of this block comprehensive feedback will be given with areas to be addressed.

adventure and expedition holidays on the clydeadventure sailing holidays
adventure and expedition sailing holidays on the clyde in scotland

The final block allows 3 days for addressing any small issues remaining before the instructor steps off and the external RYA Yachtmaster examiner steps on. With all the hard work above this is the easy part of the journey, an opportunity to show the examiner breadth and depth of knowledge and acquired skill.

The journey to Yachtmaster will be different for everyone. Those who have done lots of sailing before will step on the ladder higher up and may be able to miss out a couple of steps. All courses above can be booked as individual courses so it is possible to make a tailored Yachmaster programme to suit any candidate. Email Daniel Smith for advice.

There are many places in the UK and across the world offering RYA courses and intensive Yachtmaster programmes and fast track schemes. The Scottish coastline is beautiful and the Clyde has it all from busy harbours, heavy commercial traffic, and complicated buoyage systems to remote anchorages. Scotland is the perfect place to become a Yachtmaster.

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