One of the advantages of the RYA scheme is that you can enter at any point that is appropriate to you. You don’t have to start at the beginning if you already have plenty of sailing experience.
For example, George, our Principal, spent 35 years in the Royal Navy and first skippered a small boat at the age of 14. The very first RYA certificate he got was Yachtmaster Offshore – he started right at the top!
Not everyone can do that, of course, but many of our potential students don’t want to start right at the bottom either.The problem is knowing what level of course to choose.
If you’re a complete beginner or have only been in a boat a few times, then it’s straight forward. The RYA Competent Crew is what you need. But if you already have some knowledge and experience you may wonder about doing a Day Skipper or even a Coastal Skipper course. But which?
To do either of these courses you must already have relevant experience – maybe you are a good dinghy sailor, have crewed a yacht with friends, or you’ve been on a flotilla holiday. Perhaps you own a boat yourself but don’t have any formal qualifications. Where should you start?
I’m often asked to advise prospective students on which RYA course is the most suitable for them. It’s really hard to know without seeing what they can actually DO. Our instructors can tell pretty quickly how much someone knows when they see them on a boat (my brother who had a riding school for many years could do the same thing after seeing someone on a horse for half an hour!) but it is very difficult to judge competence based purely on what someone has done without knowing how well they have done it.
The dilemna is that everyone wants to obtain the highest qualification that they are capable of getting but, on the other hand, nobody wants to fail a course for not coming up to the level required..
Our instructors hate it almost as much as the student when they cannot pass someone. They understand just how disappointing it is. They will have got to know and like the student during the week they’ve been on board and it’s tough having to break the news that they are not going to pass their course. But if someone is not competent at the level for which they are being assessed, as a reputable school we cannot pass them.
Those who get a skipper’s certificate might not sail again for 12 months and then they could charter a big yacht with totally inexperienced crew, possibly including children, and take them to sea. Your instructor has to consider whether he thinks you would be safe and competent to do that, bearing in mind that you could face strong winds and visit unfamiliar ports.
If he has serious doubts that you could handle the boat safely and look after the crew it would be irresponsible to pass you. Having gained more experience most people successfully pass a course when they take it a second time.
Luckily, people don’t fail all that often, but choosing the right level of course at the outset is important if you want to succeed.
Over my next few posts I will look at the initial three RYA practical courses and give you information to help you decide which is most appropriate for you. I’ll also cover our combined sailing packages that include more than one RYA course.
If you want to take an RYA course in 2014 this could be vital information.
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All the best
PS: If you intend to book for 2014 you can get this year’s prices on all bookings made and deposits paid before the end of November.