What kind of yachts do you have in your fleet?

We took delivery of a new fleet of Jeanneau 379 yachts in 2014. They are equipped with the latest Raymarine chartplotter, digital radar and with heating in every cabin. They have three separate cabins and a saloon, sleeping eight but we only ever take a maximum of five students plus the instructor on a training course.

For some of our cruising and longer distance trips we use carefully selected craft such as Beneteau 38, Najad 396, Sun Odyssey 40 and for some of our more dramatic adventures, Challenge 72.

Where do we sleep and eat? Do we return to Shamrock Quay at night?

On all our trips or courses you sleep and eat on board throughout. Each night you will go into a new harbour, marina or anchorage. We provide food for all your meals whilst you are with us. We are slightly limited by the nature of cooking on a yacht, but we provide good quality fresh ingredients, for a range of meals that work well in these circumstances.

What will I need to bring with me?

You will need to bring:

  • A sleeping bag, a sheet and pillow
  • A towel
  • A range of warm clothing in layers
  • Footwear - Ideally deck shoes, but non marking trainers/tennis shoes are fine
  • Sailing boots (optional depending on time of year)
  • Sailing gloves (optional)
  • A warm hat for winter or a sun hat in summer
  • Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses
  • Retaining strap for glasses/sunglasses
  • Essential medication
  • Toiletries
  • Log book (if you have one)
  • Current passport (if planned voyage may involve other countries)
  • European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) (If planned voyage involves other EU countries)
  • Health insurance documentation (if applicable)
  • Soft bag for all your belongings (no hard suitcases please)

For clothing, remember that you will be outdoors most of the day. A range of sporty, layered clothing is best. Jeans are OK, but not ideal as they are hard to dry if they get wet. You want to be warm, comfortable and able to move easily. We provide waterproof Musto jackets and trousers free of charge. Just let us know your sizes on the booking form.

If you want to splash out on any extras, don't forget that Shamrock Chandlery, here in Southampton, will give all First Class Sailing customers a 10% discount.

Would I not have more fun if I took this course in the Mediterranean or somewhere warm?

You would have great fun, wherever you go. We are all sailors here and we love to sail in all those fantastic places too. But for your RYA training, you cannot do better than experience the testing waters of the Solent. It has strong tides, testing navigation, fast-changing weather, masses of yachts and powercraft, racing and dinghy fleets. You have it all. If you are competent to sail in the Solent, you can rest assured you will be able to sail anywhere else.

Are there loos and showers on board?

Each yacht has a loo (the heads) and a shower on board. Also, we usually stop most evenings within a short walking distance of a shower on shore.

What if I come on my own? Will all the others know each other already?

We occasionally get groups, but most people book individually or in pairs. We try and balance the crews so that they offer a good mix of age, gender and couples/singles. We try and make sure that no one is put in an awkward position or feel left out. In fact many pupils make a great new set of friends and keep in touch with them long after they have left us behind.

What if I have not done Day Skipper Theory, can I still take Day Skipper Practical?

You may be in a position to still take Day Skipper Practical; it depends on your existing knowledge of tidal navigation, collision regulations etc. You should contact the office to discuss.

I have done some sailing before, do I need to take the Competent Crew Course or can I go straight to Day Skipper?

This is difficult to generalise about. You should telephone the office to discuss your previous experience.

Where will we sail to?

On an RYA course you are likely to sail to places such as Cowes, Lymington, Beaulieu, Newtown Creek, Yarmouth, Portsmouth, Hamble, Bembridge, Chichester, Poole and overnight there.

If you are sailing on a cross Channel trip or West Country Cruise then where you go may depend more on weather conditions. However there are plenty of places in the Channel Islands and on the French and UK coasts that are picturesque, charming and interesting anchorages.

What time should I arrive for a practical sailing course?

You should aim to be at the marina for 8pm on the evening before your course starts. If this may be a problem alternative arrangements can be made. No evening meal is provided on this first evening because people arrive at different times. Usually everyone gets to know their fellow crewmates and instructor over supper and a pint at the pub or restaurant in the marina.

How do I get there?

All of our practical courses depart from places that are easily accessible by car or train. Our primary base is Shamrock Quay, Southampton. We base the bulk of our fleet here, together with our offices, stores and technical facilities and our maintenance staff.

Shamrock Quay has a full service chandlery, restaurants, a breakfast cafe, a pub, laundry facilities and free car parking.

Shamrock Quay - SO14 5QL. Train to Southampton Central and short taxi trip. Free parking available.

American Wharf-SO14 5AS. Train to Southampton Central and short taxi trip. Some free parking available.

Gosport - PO12 1NU. Train to Portsmouth Harbour and short ferry across the harbour. Paid parking available.

Hamble - SO41 4JD. Train to Southampton Airport and taxi trip. Paid parking available.

Fambridge Yacht Haven, West Wick, Fambridge, Essex, CM3 6LR  Train to North Fambridge and a short walk,. Parking available.

What if I have a family emergency, can they get in touch with me, can I get off the boat?

You will have a mobile signal throughout the course. In addition we are fully equipped with VHF radios on all yachts. Before the course we give you an out of hours number which your family can use in the event of an emergency to pass you a message if they cannot reach you direct. If you need to get off the yacht, we will get you to a train station as quickly as possible so that you can attend to the emergency.

How do I know I will be safe?

Your safety is our first concern.

Your instructor. We use highly qualified Yachtmaster Instructors or Cruising Instructors. They all have a lot of experience of sailing and instructing. They like to work for us as they know we look after our boats, our crews and them.

Your boats. All our boats are MCA coded, which means they are equipped to a rigorous safety standard and they are regularly surveyed and checked in accordance with the regulations. They can be subject to a spot inspection at any time.

There's more. We take a report from every course or trip on the boat's condition, and we have maintenance staff fix any faults straight away. We carry out regular safety checks ourselves of all the equipment and safety gear to make sure everything is ready at all times. We also keep written records of these checks. Safety is not a question of luck, it is a question of having systems in place to manage it properly, experienced people to deal with it, and experienced instructors who can deal with any eventuality.

Can I do a Coastal Skipper practical course over two weekends?

No. The Coastal Skipper course must be taken over five consecutive days. This allows greater flexibility for making long passages.

How do I get to the shorebased course?

Our shorebased course venues vary greatly. Full joining instructions will be emailed to you a week or so before the course.

What materials do I need for an RYA Day Skipper or Yachtmaster shorebased course?

You will need a pencil, eraser, calculator and some paper to make some notes. You will also need a set of plotters and dividers. These are navigational instruments, and you can buy them online or in chandleries. We can supply them for £25 which is less than you would normally pay.

Can I take an RYA qualification on one of your cruises to the Channel Islands or West Country?

Yes you usually can. But if you want to take an RYA course on what appears to be a sailing trip, just telephone the office to discuss first and we will make sure that the right conditions are in place.

What if I have dietary requirements eg. vegetarian, wheat intolerance or allergies?

With adequate notice, we can cater for most dietary requirements without undue difficulty. Contact the office to discuss any particular requirements as soon as possible.

What is an ICC or International Certificate of Competence, and how do I get one?

Many countries accept RYA qualifications however a few don't fully recognise them.  Where this is the case an International Certificate of Competence (ICC) is recognised. If you are planning to sail or cruise within Europe and the Mediterranean the RYA recommends skippers to hold an ICC.  This qualification is available to BRITISH CITIZENS or bona fide BRITISH RESIDENTS.

There are 2 ways to obtain an ICC:

1. If you are an RYA member and have already obtained your Day Skipper certificate (or higher qualification), send the ICC application form and a photocopy of your Day Skipper certificate to the RYA. For clarification please consult the list of certificates eligible for conversion on the back of the ICC application form.

2. By taking a practical test.  The syllabus is outlined in the form. The test lasts approximately half a day and can be taken on your own boat or we can provide a boat and an instructor/examiner.  The test includes: questions on safety, collision avoidance and for coastal waters navigation and pilotage.

ICC for Inland Waterways
If you are intending to take a boat through the European Inland Waterways system, i.e. canals, rivers, lakes etc. applicants must have passed a test called the CEVNI (European Inland Waterways Regulations). The CEVNI test can these day be taken online.  If you click on this link you can find out how to take the CEVNI test online with us.

ICC Country Rules
Any country issuing ICCs can only do so to its own nationals or residents. The candidates must be at least 16 years old, be physically and mentally fit, and in particular must have sufficient powers of vision and hearing.

RYA Fees
If you are an RYA member your ICC will be issued free of charge. If you are not an RYA member there is currently a fee of £40.00.

There is an option to fast track your application (in two days) for an additional fee of £10.

Our advice would be that you join the RYA, not only for the savings it brings you for your ICC, but also for the other services they provide to boat owners.

How do I make a booking?

There are 3 straight forward ways to book a course or a sailing trip.

1: You can book online through the website. Select the course or trip you wish to do and follow the instructions.

  • Payment is secure and is done through Sage Pay.
  • We take debit cards, all the major credit cards and AMEX.
  • There is a 2.5% fee if you use a credit card or AMEX.

2. You can email us at info@firstclasssailing.com asking to book a course or a trip. We will then register you on the course/trip and email you booking and payment details. You can either send a cheque or make an online transfer to our account.

3. You can call us on 0203 006 3717. We will register you on the course/trip while you are on the phone and we can then either email you booking and payment details or you can pay then and there over the phone.

As soon as we have received your course fee we will email you confirmation we have received it.

If you book a practical course or sailing trip, a First Aid Course or a Sea Survival course we will email you a form asking for amongst other things your next of kin details and containing a health declaration. We need you to fill out this form for insurance purposes and so that we can brief the instructor.

You can download the form here.

What happens if I need to cancel my booking?

Booked dates are final. It is not possible to change dates once you have booked. You may cancel your course at any time. Written notification [email] must be received by our sales team. Cancellation will be effective on the day notification is received. Cancellation charges are as follows. Period before departure: 57+ days: deposit only; 29-56 days: 50% of total paid; 22-28 days: 70% of total paid; 21 days or less: 100% of total paid. If the reasons for your cancellation are covered under the terms of your insurance policy, you may be able to reclaim these charges. A cancellation invoice will be issued on request.

Do I need insurance?

You are strongly advised to arrange your own insurance at the time of booking to cover against personal accident, cancellation, medical and repatriation etc. One such company that offers this type of policy is Top Sail Insurance but you should make your own enquiries. Please quote Ref A0028 when asked.

All the yachts we use are fully insured against accidents and third party liability.