RYA Day Skipper Practical Course

This is a course for aspiring skippers with some yachting experience and basic navigation and sailing skills. The RYA Day Skipper Practical qualification is the sailing qualification that most charter companies, in places like the Mediterranean, require you to have before chartering a yacht.

› Why learn to sail with First Class Sailing?

You need to have already done a Competent Crew Course or be at Competent Crew level and you need to have completed the Shorebased Day Skipper course or have navigational knowledge to that level before taking this course.

With the helpful instruction and guidance of our instructor you will learn how to skipper a yacht and all that that entails.

Accommodation and food are on board and we will aim to visit a different marina, harbour or anchorage each evening.

We have options to book courses with either 2, 3 or 4 students on board or you can take the whole boat with up to 4 friends plus yourself. We typically welcome a mix of people attending both alone and with friends or a partner.

If your friends/partner wants to do another course, such as the Competent Crew Course they can do it on the same boat at the same time.

Looking for the Theory course? View Day Skipper Theory Course.

Experience being in charge on a yacht, taking credit when all goes well and being responsible when it doesn't. Learn to skipper a short passage with the instructor on hand to give advice and encouragement and ensure your safety.

The RYA Practical Day Skipper Course lasts for five days and like the Competent Crew Course it can be carried out over two weekends (a short and a long) or five consecutive days.

You sleep and eat on board.

Having already done some sailing you will know how good sailing can be for having a break from things. It is a holiday. Expect to finish this course having had lungfuls of freshair, pleasantly tired but at the same time reinvigorated!

Minimum Pre Course Experience: 5 days, 100 miles, 4 night hours.

Recommended Knowledge: There is not time on the Day Skipper Practical Course to cover all the navigation skills required to skipper a yacht, so you need to know these or have done the Shorebased Day Skipper Course in advance.

You also need to have a good basic sailing ability. It will be assumed that you know how to sail to the level of Competent Crew standard.

Course Content: Basic Pilotage, boat handling, seamanship and navigation

Ability after the Course: You will be able to Skipper a yacht in familiar waters by day. Or charter a boat in somewhere like the Med.

The Day Skipper Practical qualification can be used to obtain an International Certificate of Competence (ICC) by sending the certificate to the RYA with an application form.

When you learn with First Class Sailing you’ll have a friendly instructor who’s keen to teach you everything you want to know. You can expect like-minded people and tasty fresh food, and students always learn lots and go home at the end of the course feeling happy and pleasantly tired.

During the course you can expect to be maneuvering the boat under engine on and off pontoons. You can also expect to have a go at planning and conducting a short passage, and you’ll be the one calling the shots before you know it.

Each day of the Day Skipper Practical course is packed with activity. Breakfast is usually at 8am or earlier, depending on the wind and tide. At the end of the day, you will normally be in a marina ready for a hot shower, supper on board, and maybe a quick pint/glass of wine. Sometimes you may drop anchor for the night, other times you may tie onto a buoy. On one evening of the course we typically go sailing in the dark, which is great fun.

You will sail mainly in the Solent. Here is a map of the Solent. There are plenty of places to visit within the Solent without going to the same place twice in a week.

The Solent is a great place to learn to sail and get qualified. There are numerous harbours, bays, creeks, rivers, marinas and anchorages making it ideal to practice a whole range of yachting skills. Because of the large volume of other boats and busy shipping activity, the Solent is always fun and interesting.

The Isle of Wight provides some protection from the worst of the Channel weather, meaning the sea within the Solent can stay relatively flat compared with conditions in the open sea. But at the same time the tides in the Solent provide Day Skipper students with an excellent challenge to their seamanship and navigational skills.

During your sailing course you’ll sleep on board the yacht. There’s typically three double cabins and two single berths which provide accommodation for eight people.

However, there’s only ever a maximum of 2, 3, 4 or 5 students on board plus the instructor depending on the course ratio option that you book.

You will get your own sleeping space be this a cabin or the saloon. You will not have to share a sleeping space with anyone else unless you have booked as a group of friends/family.


Whilst we do have showers on board the yacht, most nights you can use the hot showers and facilities in a marina.

Within the 'fleet' we have a lovely old wooden boat, called Golden Vanity, that you can take your Day Skipper course on. She was built for a marine artist, Arthur Briscoe, in 1908. He used her to capture some of the last days of sail. His work can be seen here. British Museum. On deck she is pretty much as she was over a hundred years ago. Traditional techniques of 'sweating and tailing' are used to raise and lower the sails.

Below decks she has just about everything you would expect on a modern yacht. Hot water, heating, a good sized galley, heads and saloon. She can take 12 but there would only ever be a maximum of 5 students plus instructor and maybe a mate on a course. The accommodation is dormitory style with snug bunks in the forward area of the boat.

If you have never sailed on a traditional gaff rigged boat before it would be best to do one of our introduction to gaff sailing weekends first.

Except for supper on the evening you join the boat, we cater on board for all meals. We provide food that is healthy and nutritious, including salads, vegetables, white and wholemeal bread, chicken, lean minced beef, salmon, muesli and cereal. In fact, just the kind of food that you might buy yourself. For snacks there is plenty of fruit, but also a supply of chocolate and biscuits.

If you have any special dietary requirements, be it vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian, gluten free, or allergies, we can normally accommodate these. Just let us know when you fill out your booking form.

Shamrock Quay is easily accessible by train or car.

Getting to Shamrock Quay

Shamrock Quay is about an 8 minute taxi ride from Southampton Central Station, or 15 minutes from Southampton Airport if you’re flying. If you arrive by car there is plenty of free parking and 24/7 security.

Occasionally a course may start on one of our boats when it is not at Shamrock Quay. It may be very close to Shamrock Quay or in Hamble. We will give you plenty of notice when this is the case.

We find it is better if you arrive the evening before your course starts. This way you can start getting to know the yacht, the skipper and your crew mates before the course really gets under way. It also means that the safety briefing does not encroach on sailing time. If this is not possible then you need to be at the boat by 8.00am on the first day of the Sailing Course.

You can expect to get away by 5/5.30pm on the final day of your course. If you are catching a train we recommend you do not book a ticket in advance as we can’t guarantee you will get away at 5pm on the dot. It may be a bit earlier it may be a bit later.

The Day Skipper Course is conducted on board a cruising yacht (7 to 13m LOA), to teach pilotage, navigation, seamanship and boat handling up to the standard required to skipper a small cruising yacht safely by day in tidal waters with which the student is familiar. The Watch Leader Course is conducted on board a large yacht or sail training vessel, to teach navigation, seamanship and boat handling up to the standard required to take charge of a watch on deck, at sea or in harbour.

The Watch Leader syllabus can be conducted in tidal or non-tidal waters.

Section A

All candidates

Preparation for sea

Deck work




Rule of the road

Maintenance and repair work



Emergency situations

Section B

Sail Training Candidates only - Watch Leader

General organisation

Section C

Yachting Candidates only - Day Skipper

Yacht handling under power

Yacht handling under sail

Passage making

  • Is able to prepare a yacht for sea, including engine checks, selection of sails, securing and stowage of all gear on deck and below
  • Can reef, shake out reefs and change sails to suit prevailing conditions
  • Can prepare an anchor, mooring warps and take charge on deck when mooring alongside, coming to a buoy, anchoring, weighing anchor and slipping from a buoy or an alongside berth
  • Is proficient in chartwork and routine navigational duties on passage including:
    • Taking and plotting visual fixes
    • Use of electronic navigation equipment for position fixing
    • Use of waypoints
    • Working up DR and EP
    • Estimating tidal heights and tidal streams
    • Working out course to steer to allow for tidal stream, leeway and drift
    • Knowledge of IALA buoyage
    • Maintenance of navigational records
    • Use of echo sounder and lead line
  • Can prepare and execute a pilotage plan for entry into, or departure from, harbour
  • Understands the use of leading and clearing lines
  • Use of transits and soundings as aids to pilotage
  • Knows sources of forecast information
  • Can interpret shipping forecasts and use a barometer as a forecasting aid
  • Has a working knowledge of the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea
  • Understands and is able to carry out maintenance tasks
  • Knows the properties and uses of common synthetic fibre ropes
  • Knows how to change fuel and water filters, pump impeller and to bleed the fuel system
  • Understands how to victual a yacht
  • Is able to take correct action as skipper for recovery of man overboard
  • Understands distress flares and how to use a liferaft
  • Can operate a radio telephone in an emergency and send a distress message
  • Understands how to secure a tow
  • Understands rescue procedures including helicopter rescue
  • Understands the organisation and is fully competent to take charge of a watch at sea and in harbour
  • Can bring a boat safely to and from and alongside berth, mooring buoy and anchor under various conditions of wind and tide
  • Can bring a yacht safely to and from a mooring buoy and anchor under various conditions of wind and tide
  • Can steer and trim sails effectively on all points of sailing
  • Can plan and make a coastal passage, taking account of relevant navigational hazards and limitations imposed by the type of boat and the strength of the crew

Whilst the weather sailing of the south coast is actually fairly mild it is important to have the correct clothing. We provide modern, branded waterproof trousers and jackets free of charge.

Space on a boat is always at a premium, so you should pack your clothes in a soft holdall that can be stowed away in a locker. Bags with wheels or metal buckles should be avoided, as these may damage the woodwork on boats. You will need:

  • Sleeping bag.
  • Pillow.
  • Towel.
  • Warm clothing. It can sometimes be considerably cooler at sea than on land.
  • Fleeces and thermals are good for chillier times of the year.
  • A sunhat/baseball cap.
  • A woolly hat for cold weather.
  • Suncream.
  • Sunglasses.
  • Retaining strap for glasses/sunglasses.
  • Sailing gloves.
  • Non marking shoes (Trainers or deck shoes).
  • Non-slip/non-marking waterproof sailing boots (not agricultural-type wellies). These can be purchased from the chandlery at Shamrock Quay for about £60.
  • Waterproof clothing (unless you have asked us to provide it for you).
  • RYA Logbook, if you have one, if not we can provide one for £7.49.
  • Current passport (if sailing holiday or trip may involve other countries).
  • European Health Insurance Card (if sailing holiday or trip involves other EU countries).
  • Health insurance documentation (if applicable).
  • 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 trousers and jackets free of charge. Just let us know your sizes on the booking form.
  • Soft bag for all your belongings (no hard suitcases please).

We provide all safety equipment such as lifejackets and harnesses.

Best Sailing School in the UK!"

Stefano D, Director

“A group of four of us booked our day skipper practical and theory through First Class Sailing. From the start to finish, they were friendly and professional, making the whole process a very enjoyable experience. Our instructor Graham, was excellent, he made us feel at ease from the moment we arrived at the boat for our first weekend and had a fantastic teaching style; we learnt so much whilst having great fun at the same time. The food supplied was good, boat was new, clean and in good condition. Would certainly use First Class again for any future courses and would recommend without hesitation.”

Charlotte E

"First Class Sailing should be your only choice for embarking on any theoretical or practical learning experience you may require. Regardless of previous experience it is defiantly No1. Choice for getting the best start around your sailing experience requirements. "

David, Director

"An excellent outfit, well equipped with good boats and brilliant instructors, that is small enough to give a warm personal service but big enough to cope with the full gamut of yachting experiences."

Thomas H

“I have completed competent crew, theory/practice day skipper and VHF courses with First Class Sailing. All were conducted to the highest standard, with excellent very experienced instructors. Easy booking online, plus friendly and efficient office support when needed. Will use First Class Sailing again.”

Alexander E
Contact us
0203 006 3717
Our Locations

Shamrock Quay

William Street



SO14 5QL


c/o Cruising Association

CA House

1 Northey Street


E14 8BT

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