RYA Helmsman’s Course

All You Need To Know About the RYA Helmsman’s Course

Time2 – 4 days
PrerequisitesNone required
ExamNone, constant assessment by the instructor
AimIntroduction to basic boat handling situations

The goal of the RYA Helmsman’s Course is to introduce boat handling and seamanship on motor cruising vessels and make you fee comfortable and confident in basic boat handling situations.

What Does the RYA Helmsman’s Course Allow You To Do?

The RYA Helmsman’s Course course is aimed at being a 2-day motor cruising course that teaches you to become comfortable with straightforward berthing procedures while also covering other safety aspects and boat handling characteristics required to be safe onboard a motor vessel.

Who Can Do an RYA Helmsman’s Course?

The RYA Helmsman’s Course course is open to anyone, including those who have never set foot on a boat before. The only criteria is those under 12 are unfortunately not eligible for the course completion certificate.

If you are a complete newbie to motor cruising, then perhaps the RYA Start Motor Cruising would be a more suitable course.

How Long Does an RYA Helmsman’s Course Take?

The RYA Helmsman’s Course is a 2-day course, however, some schools may choose to run this as a 4-day course, also including the prior RYA Start Motor Cruising course. 

The course can be run as a residential or non-residential course.

Nobody will become a motor cruising expert overnight on these RYA Helmsman’s Course courses, but these early boat handling skills taught will enable you to progress to future challenges, safe in the knowledge that your initial learnings were taught by an experienced instructor.

Is There a Set RYA Helmsman’s Course Syllabus?

There is indeed a syllabus. Each of the following topics represents a specific part of the learnings that will be covered on an RYA Helmsman’s Course course in varying levels of detail.

Safety and seamanship, engine operation and maintenance, boat preparation, boat handling, securing to a buoy, berthing alongside and leaving, man overboard, anchoring and basic motor vessel theory detail the various aspects of the syllabus.

Read on to learn in a little more detail about how each of these is covered in a little more detail.

Someone taking the helm on their RYA Helmsman's Course

What Might I Learn on an RYA Helmsman’s Course Course?

To begin with students will be instructed on the basic safety areas and methods to be aware of onboard, how to look after yourself, both in moving around the boat and in what safety equipment to wear and of course, what to do in the event of an emergency situation.

Understanding how to prepare you, your vessel and your crew for sea will be covered, including other relevant safety gear.

The main task throughout the course will be learning and becoming proficient on all aspects of boat handling. This will include boat handling at sea, coming alongside and securing to berths, leaving berths, turning in tight spaces and dealing with a casualty in the water.

You will learn all about the engine, basic maintenance and how to manage fuel consumption. Depending on the vessel used, this will include understanding the use of trim tabs, planing speeds and different vessel hull types.

Throughout the week, other tasks such as learning to tie knots, how to handle the ropes and how to use these to secure the boat when berthing either on a dock or on a mooring. 

Anchoring will be covered in detail, from actually anchoring your vessel, the types of anchors available, where we can or can’t anchor, and how to manage the anchor and weighing anchor.

What Is the Cost of an RYA Helmsman’s Course?

As ever, many schools differ in price. We would recommend that you take a look around at the various options and find what suits your needs the best. Cheapest is not often better.

This can range from knowing if you will have to share a cabin while onboard to whether food and berthing charges are included to how many other students you will be sharing your week with.

Where Should I Do My RYA Helmsman’s Course?

There are many thoughts on where is best, but to be truthful, it is what works for you best. 

One thought is to do it in an area that you plan to cruise in in the future, that way, any specific learnings you take on your RYA Helmsman’s Course course will be incredibly valuable to your future motor cruising. Another is to consider those factors above, such as berthing costs, food and sleeping situations.

Finally, it is important to know where you might be cruising to. Ideally, you want to be learning in many different scenarios and not just focussed within the same port or harbour at all times during the course.

What Is the Pass Mark for the RYA Helmsman’s Course?

There is no specific pass mark as such but very few students fail to reach the helmsman safety level. Even if it turns our you are seasick on the rough days, you can still complete your RYA Helmsman course.

A successful pass is achieved so long as you are not a danger to yourself or your fellow crew members whilst onboard and during your RYA Helmsman’s Course course.

What Comes after RYA Helmsman’s Course?

After your RYA Helmsman’s Course, we suggest going on to do you RYA Day Skipper Theory. This is the pre-cursor to the RYA Day Skipper Practical Motor which will advance your RYA Helmsman’s Course skills and progress you to start learning skippering skills.

Ardent Training provides the RYA Day Skipper Theory as an online course where we take you through all the theoretical knowledge to take your sailing skills to the next level. This is done via a combination of video and written lessons aimed at allowing you to learn at your own speed from the comfort of your own home with the added benefit of direct contact with our experienced instructors.

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