Gaff Rig Day Skipper Practical Course (Starts evening 9 May) Whole Boat

Shamrock Quay, Southampton, 10 - 14 May on GOLDEN VANITY (Whole Boat)

This is a course on a traditonal gaff rigged sailing boat for aspiring skippers with some gaff rig experience and basic navigation and sailing skills. The Day Skipper Practical qualification is the qualification that most charter companies, in places like the Mediterranean, require you to have.

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Shamrock Quay, Southampton
10 - 14 May on GOLDEN VANITY (Whole Boat)

This Day Skipper course will take place on Golden Vanity.

Built in 1908 Golden Vanity and is very different from our other more modern yachts - although she does have all mod cons!

She is wooden and has a gaff rig - so her main sail has four sides to it and a wooden spar on the top edge. She has no winches and is sailed using traditional rope handling techniques.

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

We offer gaff rig sailing weekends for those wanting to get some gaff experience.

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

Accommodation and food are provided on board. You’re welcome to do the course by yourself or with friends. 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 .

This is a course for aspiring skippers with some yachting experience (ideally gaff rig experience) and basic navigation and sailing skills. The Day Skipper Practical qualification is the qualification that most charter companies, in places like the Mediterranean, require you to have. You can use this qualification to obtain an International Certificate of Competence (ICC) by sending the certificate to the RYA with an application form.

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 is a 5 day course.

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 fresh air, pleasantly tired but at the same time reinvigorated!

Minimum Pre Course Experience: 5 days, 100 miles, 4 night hours. Ideally you need to have done a bit of gaff rig sailing before. We do offer gaff rig weekends.

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.

You can expect to be maneuvering the boat under engine on and off pontoons. You can expect to have a go a planning and conducting a short passage. You can expect to have a go at calling the shots. You can expect a friendly instructor keen to teach you everything you want to know. You can expect like minded people and tasty fresh food. You will learn lots and go home at the end of a weekend or course feeling happy and pleasantly tired.

Each day of the 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 and a trip to the pub by 6pm. Sometimes you may drop anchor for the night, other times you may tie on to a buoy. On one evening of the course you will probably go sailing in the dark to see how fun that can be.

Golden Vanity was built in 1908 for renowned marine artist Arthur Briscoe. Whilst sailing her with his wife and small son extensively of the south coast of the UK and in the North Sea he captured some of the last days of working sail.

She is a Mumble Bee class of Brixham Sailing Trawler. These type of boats were built to sail in all sorts of conditions. She is extremely solid and provides a fantastic platform for learning to sail on.

She is 53ft overall with her bowspirt and 39ft on deck.

Golden Vanity has 5 sails to play with. 3 headsails, the main which has a gaff, and a topsail.

The boat is made out of oak frames with Oregon pine planking.She has a hollow Douglas Fir mast.

At the bottom of the companionway steps is the chart table and aft of that a single berth each side.

Moving forward is a voluminous saloon with a table to port and galley on the starboard side. There is a comfy ‘shelf’ bunk behind the saloon table. In the forepeak there are 6 cosy bunks arranged into three sets of 2, a spacious heads and steps leading up through a whale back shaped forehatch on to the foredeck.

Each bunk has a reading light. There are a number USB charging sockets dotted around and when in port we can plug into mains power.

There is hot water and heating for the cooler months.

You will be sharing spaces with other people and the areas are not segregated. Golden Vanity is 'coded' to take 12 however on an RYA course there will not be more than 5 doing the course and with Covid around it will no more more than 4.

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, museli, cereal and yoghurt. 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.

You will sail mainly in the Solent. Here is a map of the Solent. You may go out of the Solent as far as Poole to the West and Chichester to the East but 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.

Golden Vanity is based in Shamrock Quay Marina, Southampton. Getting to Shamrock Quay is very easy. It's about an 8 minute taxi ride from Southampton Central Station, or 15 minutes from Southampton Airport if you are coming from abroad. If you arrive by car there is plenty of free parking and there is security 24/7.

Occasionally a course may start at somewhere other than 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.

Start/Finsih Times

We find it is better if you arrive the evening before your course starts. This way you can settle in and start getting to know the boat, the skipper and your crew mates before the course really gets under way. 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.

This Day Skipper Course is conducted on board Golden Vanity. You will learn about 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.

Section A

All candidates

Preparation for sea

  • Is able to prepare a yacht for sea, including engine checks, selection of sails, securing and stowage of all gear on deck and below

Deck work

  • 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

Rule of the road

  • Has a working knowledge of the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea

Maintenance and repair work

  • 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

Emergency situations

  • 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
  • Section B

Sail Training Candidates only - Watch Leader

General organisation

  • Understands the organisation and is fully competent to take charge of a watch at sea and in harbour
  • Section C

Yachting Candidates only - Day Skipper

Yacht handling under power

  • Can bring a boat safely to and from and alongside berth, mooring buoy and anchor under various conditions of wind and tide

Yacht handling under sail

  • 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

Passage making

  • 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 state of the art Waterproofs that are brand new every year, 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 £40.
  • 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 Mustojackets and trousers 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.

What did you like most about about your course? Well-defined and beautifully balanced act between people, didactics and technology. Combo is rarely achieved successfully but it hits the bull's eye! How would you rate the support you received during your course on a scale of 1 to 5 with 1 being very poor and 5 being excellent? 5 no doubt. From the first feedback onwards it's guaranteed you are not alone! I like the way anecdotes and facts are sprinkled occasionally alongside the syllabus, like recent ship wrecks in the Channel, etc. This certainly makes reading more interesting as text books tend to be somewhat drier. Please use any occasion to exploit that approach. That enriches the reader immensely as it is first-hand knowledge in its purest form, and that is certainly difficult to obtain anywhere else. Well done. "


"The Instructor was an excellent coach and really took the time with our class to ensure we all understood all aspects of the course. He was patient and prepared to take the time to ensure we all had the best knowledge transferred to us. He was an excellent instructor and had a significant amount of detailed knowledge that was most helpful to me and the rest of the class. He is passionate and fully committed to his work and goes above and beyond to ensure you are capable and have a really enjoyable experience learning with him. First Class Sailing are well organised and the logistics, course material and facilities were all top notch "

David, Director

"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 am no longer scared of the engine, touching bolts etc."

Georgina, Office Manager

"Excellent instructor - gave freely of his experience - very dedicated and enormously helpful."

Colin McKnight,

"Professional and effective. Good equipment, taught by knowledgable and enthusiastic professionals."

Ron G.,

"The instructor was the perfect balance of show and tell mixed with letting you make your own mistakes safely. (The booking process) was all very professional and friendly. I felt the booking official actually cared about getting my booking right. Friendly, personalised, professional with out being officious. "

Andy C.,

"Excellent and I highly recommend to take any of First Class Sailing's courses"

Daniel O., Senior Manager

"Best Sailing School in the UK!"

Stefano D, Director

"Don't choose courses on basis of price. All courses are not the same. Both First Class Sailing Theory and Practical courses are 'First Class'."

Michael T,

"Great practical use of equipment. Good class size. Relaxed. "

Hannah T.,

"Good clear explanations and pragmatic approach, was very easy to follow. Excellent instructor."

Neil M.,

"Hands on, excellent instructor. Very professional, excellent course, 1st Class Service. "

Julian N.,

"Clear and focused on practical needs. "

Julein Q.,

"Concise, covered all relevant and necessary material without unneeded extra time. Instructor was friendly, informative and extremely competent. "

Troy B.,

"Good level of detail and experience from instructor. "

Robert A.,

"Good entertaining tuition. Lots of anecdotes to make it interesting, great practical experience."

Nick S.,

"The booking was well handled and the confirmation emails received speedily. Very helpful to receive pre course notes. Professional, helpful, good value. "

Sarah R.,

"Friendly informative courses delivered in a relaxed environment by knowledgeable instructors. "

Allyson F., Head if UK Retail Marketing, Henderson Global Investors
Book Here Today!
Shamrock Quay, Southampton
10 - 14 May on GOLDEN VANITY (Whole Boat)
Monday - Friday

10 - 14 May

Monday - Friday

Shamrock Quay, Southampton

10 - 14 May on GOLDEN VANITY (Whole Boat)

Tuesday - Saturday

Shamrock Quay, Southampton

RYA Practical Courses

On the water courses that teach the beginner how to be a useful crew member and the advanced how to cross oceans.

VHF Radio Course

A VHF radio is an essential piece of safety equipment and it is vital to understand the correct procedures.

RYA Theory Courses

Shorebased navigation classes that prepare you to safely find your way once afloat.

One Day RYA Courses

One day courses that broaden your knowledge and compliment the RYA practical and navigation courses.

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0203 006 3717
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SO14 5QL


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