Sailing Courses for Beginners

If you are new to sailing it can be difficult to know where to start. However, learning how to sail may be easier than you think.

As a beginner you have one choice to make. Which course do you do first - an on the water Competent Crew course or a classroom based Day Skipper Shorebased course. These are the two novice or beginner RYA sailing courses.

As to what you do first depends to a certain extent on what time of year it is and also what your ambitions are. If you aspire to chartering a yacht in the Med or getting your own boat one day you should definitely be doing the Day Skipper Shorebased course in which case if it’s winter time you would probably want to do a classroom based Day Skipper Shorebased course as your first step. At any other time of the year a 5 day Competent Crew course would be the one to go for first. That said it may also depend on what fits best in your diary regardless of the time of year.

If you are keen to just find out what sailing is like and get on a boat then the Competent Crew course is your starting place.

RYA Competent Crew Practical Course

Perfect for beginners and for those that have done a little sailing before. It will transform you into a useful crew member.

RYA Day Skipper Theory Course

A comprehensive introduction to chart work, navigation, meteorology and rules of the road.

A 5 day on the water practical Competent Crew course introduces you to the ropes. You find out how fun life is afloat. You learn how to steer, you learn how to raise and lower the sails and how to set them correctly to the wind. You learn how to sail in the direction you want to! You learn how to tack and gybe (change direction) and the difference between the two, how to tie up a yacht to a pontoon in a marina or a buoy out in a river. You learn lots about how to be safe. You will impress people after the course with all the nautical jargon you will have picked up. And you will learn how to tie knots.

The course can be taken over 5 consecutive days (Monday to Friday) or over 2 weekends (a short and a long).

At the end of the course you will be considered to be a useful crew member.


On a Competent Crew course you sleep on board and sail to a different marina or harbour or anchorage each night. There will be yourself and up to 4 others plus the instructor on board. You will usually find on board a mixture of couples and people who have booked by themselves. A typical customer is between 25 and 45 years old but all are age are welcome. Nearly always everyone gets on very well and stays in touch afterwards.

There are 3 double cabins and in the central bit of the yacht there are two beds. It is very rare that you would have to share a cabin with a stranger.

There is a loo (sometimes 2 depending on which yacht you go on) and a shower on board. In addition practically all the places you are likely to stop at have excellent hot showers and shoreside facilities.


All food is provided for on board but sometimes everyone decides to eat out in a local restaurant or pub. We can cater for any dietary requirements without a problem. It is part of the course that everyone gets involved with cooking.

What do I need to bring?

Things like a sleeping bag and pillow, warm clothing, sunglasses etc. An exact list of what you should bring will be emailed to you. We provide new state of the art Musto waterproof clothing for you at no additional cost.

The next course, or the course to do first if it is winter, or if it fits your diary better is the Day Skipper Shorebased course. Also known as the Day Skipper theory course.

This course is all classroom based and can be taken over 2 and 1/2 weekends or over 7 weeks (1 evening a week) and a weekend. You learn about how to navigate on this course, how to read a chart, how to work out the tides, how to interpret a weather forecast. You also learn some rules of the road, like what action you should take when you are heading towards another yacht or a fishing boat. Here is a copy of the course schedule.

It doesn't matter too much what order you do these two courses in but it may be marginally advantageous to do the Competent Crew course before the Day Skipper theory course

After completing both courses you next step would be to take a 5 day Day Skipper Practical course. This is the qualification that most charter companies require you to have before they let you charter one of their yachts.

Now you are now longer a beginner but a sailor! See you soon.

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