RYA Cruising Scheme Explained

Through the internationally recognised Royal Yachting Association (RYA) scheme, Sail Nelson specialises in teaching Sail Cruising skills to sailors of all levels of experience; from RYA Competent Crew through to RYA Yachtmaster™ Offshore. Our courses take place in the idyllic waters of the Abel Tasman and Marlborough Sounds, typically starting on a Monday morning and finishing on Friday afternoon; 5 days live-aboard.

The RYA Cruising Scheme:

Worldwide, Royal Yachting Association (RYA) sailing courses and certificates arguably comprise the most well-recognised and highly-respected sail training scheme there is.

Sail cruising holds wide appeal for a huge variety of reasons and at Sail Nelson we teach RYA practical sail cruising courses to sailors of all skill levels. Regardless of whether you have never set foot on board a boat before, or are already very experienced, we have a course to suit you; from RYA Competent Crew for the beginner to RYA Yachtmaster™ Offshore for the highly experienced keelboat sailor.

All our courses are practical courses and focus heavily on practical sailing and cruising skills. Whilst on board we also cover the theory necessary to carry out the practical skills safely, but we don’t go into this in as much depth as on a dedicated theory course.

We teach all students at the level appropriate for their existing experience and ability and issue certificates accordingly. You can join the scheme at any level without having to work your way up through the certificates, so here’s a bit of a guide to help you decide which is the right course for you:

RYA Competent Crew Course
If you have recently started sailing, or have perhaps never sailed at all, this is the course for you. You will live on board for 5 days and 4 nights and enjoy cruising along a beautiful coastline. As with all our courses everything is hands on and you will be a fully active member of the crew. You will learn all about how a sailing yacht works, points of sail, docking & mooring, terminology, safety systems and everything to do with living on board. More details on Competent Crew courses
RYA Day Skipper Course
If you’ve already got some cruising experience, including basic navigation and sailing skills, and are ready to take charge as skipper then this is probably the course for you. Hone your skills on short passages with the instructor on hand to give advice and encouragement while ensuring your safety. Experience being in charge, taking credit when it all goes well and being responsible when it doesn’t.

To be ready for the RYA Day Skipper practical course it’s important that you have a reasonable knowledge of terminology, navigation theory, rules of the road, lights, shapes and sound signals. You will get the chance to brush up on these during the practical course, but if these aren’t things that you’re already familiar with you should do the RYA Day Skipper Theory course first. This can be done online through Navathome.com as well as through other providers.

If you’re not sure that your skills under sail are up to speed then it’s a good idea to develop your wind awareness in a sailing dinghy. You can also do this in Nelson at Nelson Yacht Club, with training run by Nelson Watersports. More details can be found on our Dinghy Sailing Courses page.

The RYA Day Skipper practical certificate is the benchmark that is used by most Bareboat Yacht Charter companies to determine whether they will allow you to skipper one of their boats. Depending upon your country of residence, holders of the RYA Day Skipper practical certificate can also be issued with the International Certificate of Competence. More details on Day Skipper courses

RYA Coastal Skipper Course
The Coastal Skipper course is for those who are ready to take charge of a cruising yacht in more demanding situations, along unfamiliar coastlines and on longer passages, including at night. You will already comfortably have the experience, knowledge and skills of a Day Skipper and be ready to start cruising to more distant harbours. Before doing this course you should brush up on your navigation theory, or better still do the RYA Yachtmaster theory course. Just like Competent Crew and Day Skipper this is a 5 day live-aboard course with a certificate awarded to succesful candidates at the end of the week. More details on Coastal Skipper courses
RYA Yachtmaster™ Certificate
Widely considered to be the benchmark of the truly experienced cruising sailor the practical RYA Yachtmaster™ certificate is probably the most respected sailing qualification worldwide.

Both RYA Yachtmaster Coastal (not to be confused with RYA Coastal Skipper) and RYA Yachtmaster Offshore are certificates of competence that are awarded to successful candidates on completion of a 6 to 8 hr practical exam, conducted by an external examiner, independent from the sailing school. Sail Nelson run 5 day live-aboard RYA Yachtmaster™ exam preparation weeks, followed immediately by the exam over the weekend at the end of the course.

To be ready for your RYA Yachtmaster exam it’s not a requirement to have to obtained any prior sailing certificates, but you do need to be a very experienced and accomplished sailor with excellent navigation and boathandling skills and sufficient sea miles, as skipper and at night, under your belt. You also need to have recently completed and passed the RYA Yachtmaster theory course or at least have the theory knowledge of that level. More details on RYA Yachtmaster™ courses