RYA/MCA Yachtmaster

charts The Yachtmaster® qualification is recognised worldwide as denoting an exceptionally high standard of sailing, seamanship, yacht and crew management skills. The certificate is only awarded to candidates who, under the observation of an external RYA Examiner, can demonstrate a suitable level of competence across the areas listed below. The examiner can assess a candidate against any of the RYA Syllabi, from Competent Crew through to Coastal Skipper, so make sure you remember those eight knots from Competent Crew and VHF Radio safety brief from your Day Skipper courses!

Yachtmaster® Coastal or Offshore

The two Certificates of Competence, Yachtmaster® Coastal and Yachtmaster® Offshore differ in the amount of prior experience required and the standard required during the exam. The syllabus for both exams is exactly the same but, at the higher level, skippers are expected to demonstrate the benefit of broad experience, a higher level of expertise and during the exam will be set more complex exercises and questions.

The ‘Yachtmaster® Coastal Certificate of Competence’ is a completely separate qualification to the ‘RYA Coastal Skipper Practical Course‘. The former being an assessment under exam conditions and the latter being awarded after successful completion of a five day teaching course.

If you are considering undertaking one of the Yachtmaster® Certificates of Competence but not sure which is appropriate please don’t hesitate to contact us. Bear in mind that you do not need to make a final decision until immediately prior to the exam.

Prior Experience

Considerable prior experience is recommended before either exam some of which may have been obtained on a Coastal Skipper course. Either qualification will require you to have theoretical knowledge to the level of ‘Coastal Skipper & Yachtmaster® Offshore Shorebased’.

Yachtmaster® Coastal

• 30 days seatime ¹ ²
• 2 days as skipper ¹
• 800 seamiles ¹ ² ³
• 12 night hours ¹
• VHF Restricted Radio Operators certificate
• First Aid certificate

Yachtmaster® Offshore

• 50 days seatime ¹
• 5 days as skipper ¹
• 2500 miles ¹ ³
• 5 passages over 60M including 2 overnight passages and 2 as skipper ¹
• VHF Restricted Radio Operators certificate
• First Aid certificate

¹ The amounts of seatime, days as skipper, seamiles and night hours must have been obtained within 10 years prior to the exam.
² If the candidate holds the Coastal Skipper Practical course completion certificate the seatime requirement is reduced to 20 days and 400 seamiles.
³ Half the qualifying seatime must have been conducted in tidal waters.

The minimum age for Yachtmaster® Coastal is 17 years and 18 years for Yachtmaster® Offshore.

Yachtmaster® exam syllabus

• An in depth knowledge of the International Regulations for the Prevention of Collisions at Sea (“Colregs”)
• Knowledge of the stowage and usage of safety equipment and the delivery of an appropriate safety brief
• Boat handing under sail and power including but not limited to anchoring, MOB, mooring, towing and sail trim
• Crew and yacht management skills including delegation, communication and watch keeping. A well fed, well managed crew is the most effective.
• A range of navigation techniques from ‘blind’ navigation through to pilotage at night, GPS functions and chartwork
• Understanding of weather forecasts, terminology and many other aspects of meteorology such as synoptic charts, local weather effects, barometric pressure trends and observations
• Knowledge of what to do in an emergency such as engine failure, steering failure and particularly MOB recovery under sail and power
• Any element of the RYA Competent Crew, RYA Day Skipper and RYA Coastal Skipper syllabi


Further details can be found on the RYA website.


The minimum duration of the exam for Yachtmaster Coastal is 6 to 10 hours for one candidate or 8 to 14 hours for two. This increases to 8 to 12 hours for one candidate or 10 to 18 for two candidates for the Yachtmaster Offshore.

The first three days of a Yachtmaster® prep and exam week are spent with a Yachtmaster Instructor, either Anna or Gareth, before the external RYA Examiner steps on board on day four. The prep will start with a discussion of your strengths and weaknesses and identify what areas need to be practiced and refined.

There is insufficient time on a Yachtmaster® prep week to teach the skills required for the exam and it is more about refining existing skills and an element of familiarising candidates with the yacht, crewmates and the local sailing ground.

Each candidate is required to prepare a passage plan during the three days of prep. The exam itself does not included sufficient time to undertake a long passage so instead the examiner will review and discuss the prepared plan with the student at some point during the exam. The details of the passage and the materials required are provided on board.

Items to bring

The following items are required on board prior to the commencement of the exam:

• Personal logbook that shows qualifying seamiles and seatime
VHF Restricted Radio Operators certificate
First Aid certificate
• Completed examination application form
• Passport size photo
• A GBP cheque or credit card details for the examination fee


Successful candidates for the MCA/RYA Yachtmaster Coaster Certificate of Competence would usually be recommended to gain further skippering experience before taking the Offshore exam. Yachtmaster Offshore certificate holders might go onto take the Yachtmaster® Ocean exam following study of the Yachtmaster® Ocean Shorebased theory course and a relevant ocean passage.


Prices for RYA training courses may be found on the prices page. Please contact us if the sailing experience you have in mind is not listed and we will be happy to discuss your requirements.

If you are considering the RYA Day Skipper Practical (Non-tidal) course and want to discuss whether it is appropriate to your experience and knowledge please don’t hesitate to contact us.