Yachtmaster Coastal or Yachtmaster Offshore Practical Course

This Yachtmaster Coastal and Yachtmaster Offshore Practical Course is designed to bring experienced sailors up to speed before taking the MCA/RYA Certificate of Competence exam.

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There's no set syllabus for the course. It is about practicing for the RYA/MCA Yachtmaster Coastal or the Yachtmaster Offshore Certificate of Competence exam, tweaking your technique and perhaps ironing out any bad habits you may have picked up. The exam will assess your boat handling and skippering skills, including navigation, sailing ability, seamanship, safety awareness, and knowledge of signals and meteorology.

An external examiner will come on board on the penultimate day of the course, and you will be examined through the evening and some of the next day. Passing the Yachtmaster Coastal exam will prove your proficiency at skippering a yacht on coastal cruises. Passing the Yachtmaster Offshore exam proves your proficiency up to 150 miles offshore. Both are recognised worldwide.

Anyone with 800 miles and 30 days of sailing under their belt (or 400 miles and 20 days if you've completed the Coastal Skipper practical course) can take the YM Coastal exam. You need 2500 miles to take the YM Offshore exam. It's also recommended that you first take the Yachtmaster Theory Course to build upon your knowledge of advanced navigation techniques.

For more information, call First Class Sailing on 0203 006 3717 today.

Looking for the Theory Course? View Coastal Skipper Yachtmaster Theory Course.

Prepare and Practice for the RYA/MCA Yachtmaster Coastal and the Yachtmaster Offshore Certificate of Competence exams.

The instructor will help you to ensure you are as prepared as possible by focusing on the areas you need most improvement and ironing out any bad habits you may have. You will be pushed hard. You will enter and leave as many ports/harbours as possible. You will practice night sailing and blind navigation. You will go over all the lights, shapes, sound signals and collision regulations. It is not a requirement to do such a course before the exam however it is well worth doing it if only to find out your strengths and weaknesses.

A Yachtmaster Coastal has the knowledge needed to skipper a yacht on coastal cruises but does not necessarily have the experience needed to undertake longer passages.

A Yachtmaster Offshore should be able to enter any well-charted harbour for the first time, with sufficient depth, by day or night.

You will sail mainly in the Solent and will visit as many places as possible so that you are familiar with them before the exam.

The Solent is a great place to do you Yachtmaster Coastal or Yachtmaster Offshore. The mix of interesting tides, plenty of varied traffic and number of ports and harbours means you know you will be tested thoroughly in these waters.

Minimum Pre exam experience for the Yachtmaster Coastal: To be eligible for this exam you must have at least 30 days' sea time (two as skipper), logged 800 nautical miles and 12 night hours - all within the last ten years.

However, if you have completed the RYA Practical Coastal Skipper Course, you only need 20 days at sea (two as skipper), logged 400 nautical miles and 12 night hours.

Half the qualifying sea time must have been conducted in tidal waters & on a sailing vessel 24M or under.

Minimum Pre exam for the experience for the Yachtmaster Offshore: To be eligible for this exam you must have at least 50 days' sea time (two as skipper), logged 2500 nautical miles, 5 passages over 60nm including 2 overnight and 2 as skipper - all within the last ten years.

Half the qualifying sea time must have been conducted in tidal waters & on a sailing vessel 24M or under.

For both Coastal & Offshore you also need:

A VHF radio licence, a First aid certificate and Sound knowledge of using a Radar with plotting sheets.

These can each be obtained on a one-day course.

The Yachtmaster Coastal exam will take about 6 to 10 hours for one candidate and 8 to 14 hours for two. Candidates will be set tasks to demonstrate their ability and may also be asked questions on any part of the syllabus for all practical and shorebased courses up to Coastal Skipper.

The Yachtmaster Offshore exam will take about 8 to 12 hours for one candidate and 10 to 18 hours for two. Candidates will be set tasks to demonstrate their ability as skipper of an offshore cruising yacht and may also be asked questions on any part of the syllabus for all courses except Yachtmaster Ocean.

Examiners are independent assessors not involved in training candidates and are therefore objective when assessing ability. The RYA examines candidates on behalf of the UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency.

The RYA examiner will meet you onboard and talk through the plan. Examiners understand you could be nervous and will do their best to allay your fears and make sure you are clear about what they want you to do. They are there to find out what you can do, not to pick holes.

You will be asked to undertake a short passage, but you may have to plan a longer one. In general you should skipper the yacht in your normal style.

You must know your position reasonably accurately throughout the exam, but don't make the mistake of being so busy plotting fixes that you forget to look around. Often a quick glance on deck will confirm your position from a buoy or transit.

Make sure you know how to use a GPS and chart plotter, but don't over navigate with it.

You will usually be given practical problems involving tidal stream and heights. You can make life easy for yourself by looking them up beforehand - it's not cheating.

You need to know how the boat will react, it's turning circle and any predictable quirks to its handling. There will be some close quarters manoeuvring, usually in harbour, to demonstrate your skills at berthing and leaving pontoons, piles or moorings.

Your examiner isn't looking for first time every time success, but you will need to demonstrate competence and a good understanding of how the boat reacts at slow speeds.

Exams always include a Man Over Board recovery exercise. However you do it you must end up with the yacht stopped next to the man in the water.

Listen to the forecast before your exam and be prepared for questions about the current weather and how this might affect a passage plan. Understand how weather systems influence sea conditions and how to plan based on this knowledge. The type of boat and strengths of your crew can have a bearing on decisions based on the weather, so your examiner may ask you to consider various possibilities. There is rarely a definitive answer, so it is your informed opinions that are required.

Whether you are fully in command of the yacht is the most important assessment that the examiner will make.

A good skipper leads the crew and communicates with them, making sure they understand what is going on and listening to them when they have something to say. They do not shout a stream of commands, leaving their crew in a quivering mess. Quiet competence instills confidence, helping your crew feel safe in the knowledge that the right decisions are being made.

There are three RYA Certificates of Competence:

Yachtmaster Coastal Certificate of Competence

Yachtmaster Offshore Certificate of Competence

Yachtmaster Ocean Certificate of Competence

The theory is the same for Yachtmaster Coastal and Yachtmaster Offshore. The difference is that less practical experience is required for the Coastal exam. The Yachtmaster Ocean involves astronavigation. See the datails for the shorebased course Here.

Certificates of competence are some of the most useful and credible of yachting qualifications. They thoroughly test the skipper's ability, and can therefore appear daunting to potential candidates. But well prepared skippers with the right experience needn't worry. With the practice and preparation you get from doing the prep course, you should be able to relax sufficiently to let your skills shine through any exam nerves.

Accommodation during a sailing course is on board the yacht. There are almost always three double cabins and two single berths in the saloon which provide accommodation for eight people. However, there would only ever be a maximum of three students on board, plus the instructor.


There are showers on board, but most nights you will be in a marina with good hot showers and shore side facilities.


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, we can normally accommodate these. Just let us know when you fill out your booking form.

Courses run from Shamrock Quay in Southampton.

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. 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, possibly earlier. 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 aim of the course is to teach the skills and techniques required to skipper a yacht safely on coastal and offshore passages by day and night.

Passage planning

Preparation for sea


Passage making and ability as skipper

Yacht handling under power

Yacht handling under sail

Adverse weather conditions

Emergency situations

  • Can plan a coastal passage including a consideration of the capabilities of the yacht, navigation, victualling, weather, ports of refuge, tidal heights and tidal streams, publications required and strategy
  • Knows customs procedures
  • Is aware of safety equipment required for offshore passages
  • Can prepare a yacht for sea including stowage, safety briefing, watch keeping, delegating responsibilities and equipment and engine checks
  • Can prepare a pilotage plan, with consideration of soundings, transits, clearing bearings, buoyage, port or harbour regulations and tidal considerations
  • Can pilot a yacht by day and night
  • Can take charge of a yacht and direct the crew
  • Can organise the navigation, deckwork and domestic duties of a yacht on passage
  • Is aware of the significance of meteorological trends
  • Is aware of crew welfare on passage
  • Can use electronic navigational equipment for planning and undertaking a passage, including the use of waypoints and routes
  • Can control the yacht effectively in a confined space under power
  • All berthing and unberthing situations in various conditions of wind and tide
  • Can use the sails to control the yacht in a confined space
  • Anchoring and mooring in various conditions of wind and tide
  • Can sail efficiently on all points of sailing
  • Preparation for heavy weather and yacht handling in strong winds
  • Navigation and general conduct in restricted visibility
  • Recovery of man overboard under power and sail
  • Understands actions to be taken when abandoning to the liferaft and during helicopter and lifeboat rescues

"There's no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing" - Billy Connolly.

Whilst the weather on 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 £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 modern, branded 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.

Really great instructor, immense knowledge and great gag."

Andrew W

"I passed! Which says a lot about the instructor who did a fantastic job."

James E

"Excellent crew and instructors. Learned a great deal."

Peter S

"Really taken me to the next level in my understanding. Massively expanded my existing knowledge."

Jamie R

"First Class Sailing - Best on the Solent, where you are treated as a respected member of the family - not just a fee paying customer. As expected this was a truly personal and technical challenge. With the result of elevating my sailing skills, awareness and confidence in difficult (F7-F9!). Most of all I appreciated the chance to interact with a diverse group and to enjoy the camaraderie and collegiate atmosphere of the crew."

Guy G
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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