RYA Yachtmaster Coastal Sail

RYA Yachtmaster Coastal Sail – Everything You Need To Know

Time6 to 48 hour exam (dependant on the number of people) after a potential prep course of up to 5 days
Prerequisites30 days spent at sea
800nm sailed, with at least 50% in tidal waters
12 night hours
2 days as skipper
Min. Age17
Exam6 hours to 2 days on the water
AimTo work commercially on a sailing vessel under 24m in length within 20nm of a harbour.
Course Info

What Is the RYA Yachtmaster Coastal Sail?

The RYA Yachtmaster Coastal Sail ticket is a highly useful and credible sail cruising qualification. Administered on behalf of the UK Maritime and Coastgaurd Agency by the RYA the qualification is accepted as a worldwide standard. To gain an RYA Yachtmaster Coastal Sail qualification you must sit a practical exam. 

What Does the RYA Yachtmaster Coastal Sail Allow You to Do?

Gaining an RYA Yachtmaster Coastal Sail will allow you to work commercially on small sail cruising vessels.

The RYA Yachtmaster Coastal Sail exam certifies that you are competent to skipper a sail cruising yacht on coastal voyages within 20nm of a harbour. 

How Can You Sit a Yachtmaster Coastal Exam?

The exam can be organised via the RYA to be done on your own vessel or via an RYA training centre, to be done on an RYA training vessel. It should be noted, that to complete the exam on your own vessel, your vessel must be up to an appropriate safety standard.

Most RYA training centres offering the RYA Cruising Scheme offer some form of pre exam preparation or coaching for those looking to take an RYA Yachtmaster Coastal Sail exam.

These courses are often referred to as ‘RYA Yachtmaster Prep’ courses. This is unique within the RYA training framework in that it does not have a fixed course syllabus, length or course completion certificate.

Who Can Do the RYA Yachtmaster Coastal Sail Exam?

The RYA Yachtmaster Coastal Sail exam is open to anyone who meets the minimum criteria, with all experience within the last 10 years.

  • 17 years of age or older
  • 30 days spent at sea
  • 800nm sailed, with at least 50% in tidal waters
  • 12 night hours
  • 2 days as skipper

If you have exceeded all of the above by large margins, then the RYA Yachtmaster Offshore Sail exam might be for you.

If you have the miles, but not the skippering experience, it is suggested that you charter a small sailing vessel in order to gain the skippering experience.

Additionally, exam candidates must also hold a relevant GMDSS VHF certification and an RYA First Aid certificate or recognised equivalent.

Can You Go Straight to the RYA Yachtmaster Exam?

You can indeed jump straight into the RYA Cruising Scheme at this stage, however, it is imperative that you understand the levels that are required of you, both in your knowledge and practical skills.

It is suggested that as a minimum you have completed (and passed) the RYA Coastal Skipper and Yachtmaster Theory course as the knowledge in here is both required for you to be at the level required, but will be formally tested during your RYA Yachtmaster Coastal Sail exam, both orally and in practical applications.

What Do You Need to Know before Attending a Course and Exam?

You, of course, need to be a suitably experienced skipper and this involves meeting the prerequisites mentioned above to be eligible. You should be able to handle your vessel competently in close quarters and at sea. You should be comfortable applying this in various day and night time passages.

As mentioned, it is strongly recommended to have completed the RYA Coastal and Yachtmaster Theory as the depth of knowledge gained from this shore based course will be tested throughout your exam. 

How Long Does a Course and Exam Take?

The exam itself can take anything from 6 hours to 2 days depending on how many candidates are being examined on one vessel at a time. Up to 4 candidates can sit the exam at once and this would last for a maximum of 48 hours if so.

An RYA Yachtmaster Prep course is generally four and a half days long and is usually directly followed by the practical exam.

Is There a Set Syllabus for the RYA Yachtmaster Coastal Sail Prep Course?

No, this is the one time that while there is a recognised ‘course’, there is no syllabus. It is up to the experienced instructor on the RYA Yachtmaster Coastal Sail Prep course to tailor the learnings to your needs. This is more about refining your skills rather than teaching new ones.

You should be honest with yourself and your instructor in order for learnings throughout the week to be tailored to improve yourself on any weak areas that you may have.

What Should I Expect from a Prep Course?

These courses run as a standalone course and while there may be students on another course, generally everyone onboard is a candidate for an RYA Yachtmaster Exam. The courses should however be run with no more than 4 students on board.

The content will depend on the needs of all students and is aimed at fine-tuning existing skills rather than teaching new ones. This will involve a lot of night time cruising and navigation, carrying out challenging boat handling while using theory knowledge and ensuring general skippering skills are up to scratch.

There is a basic syllabus that is used to help shape the exam content, but in reality, you can be tested on anything from the RYA cruising scheme within the exam.

Before choosing the RYA Yachtmaster Coastal Sail Prep course you need to be honest with yourself and your own abilities. While on the course you need to take on the advice and guidance given by the instructor on what areas need work. If you speak to your instructor before the course, they can tailor the instruction to your needs.

A sailing vessel on an RYA Yachtmaster Coastal Sail.

What Should I Expect on an RYA Yachtmaster Coastal Sail Exam?

On the exam, you will be given the opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge and competence. You will be expected to take full responsibility for your vessel and crew. The examiner will be looking for you to demonstrate competence and show your broad range of experience.

The exam will be an intensive experience and even when you are not the designated skipper, you will still be asked questions and observed and examined as a participant of the crew.

During the exam you will be asked to complete various tasks, ranging from leaving the dock, skippering a short passage, casualty recovery, night pilotage and even blind navigation. Additionally, you will be tested on theoretical aspects such as how to deal with an engine failure, knowledge of your vessel’s stability, meteorology and IRPCS.

As a potential RYA Yachtmaster Coastal Sail, these tasks are ones that should now be second nature to you and should take minimal time to plan while the theoretical knowledge should be able to roll off your tongue. 

What Is the RYA Yachtmaster Coastal Sail Exam Syllabus?

The following topics make up the basis for the RYA Yachtmaster Coastal Sail exam syllabus. IRPCS, safety, boat handling, seamanship, responsibility as skipper, navigation, meteorology and signals.

But, as mentioned above, anything from the whole RYA cruising syllabus scheme can be tested.

What Is the Cost of an RYA Yachtmaster Coastal Sail Course and Exam?

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.

The exam fee is usually not included, which is currently £208.

Where Should I Do My RYA Yachtmaster Coastal Sail?

As always there are many thoughts and pros and cons on this, and as a potential RYA Yachtmaster Coastal Sail, you should consider yourself experienced enough to sit the exam anywhere. However, if you choose to sit the exam in an area that you are familiar with then you will take a lot of the stress out of learning a new area and start with a small advantage of having that all important local knowledge at your disposal.

What Happens If I Struggle on the RYA Yachtmaster Coastal Sail Prep Course?

Your instructor should be able to update you on your ability levels throughout the course. They will be highly experienced and it is suggested that you listen to their advice given.

If you are learning something for the first time you should consider if you are ready for the exam. Talk to your instructor and they will be able to guide you on if you are ready for the exam or if they would advise further training.

What Is the Pass Mark for the RYA Yachtmaster Coastal Sail Exam?

There is no pass mark as such and the examiner will be looking to see that you are a competent and complete skipper, capable of looking after both your vessel and crew in a safe manner.

Every exam is different and no examiner will be setting out to fail any candidates, but they must ensure and check that each candidate is able to demonstrate their ability, knowledge and skills in a safe and timely manner.

If you were to fail to reach the levels of an RYA Yachtmaster Coastal Sail certificate of competence then the examiner will give you a thorough debrief complete with action points to work on before you have another attempt at the exam. 

What Comes after RYA Yachtmaster Coastal Sail?

After completion of the exam, you will have gained the credible achievement of an RYA Yachtmaster Coastal Sail certificate of competence and you can get this commercially endorsed by adding a sea survival certification, a personal medical and a PPR course, all of which, along with your GMDSS VHF and First Aid should be sent off to the RYA for certification upgrade. This will now allow the holder to skipper a vessel commercially, in coastal waters, up to 20nm from a harbour.

The next step is of course to get out on the water and to keep learning, keep gaining experience and keep improving on the skills and knowledge learned so far. No skipper is the finished article and we should all keep seeking to improve.

Once you have gained more experience, knowledge, mileage and time on the water it will be time to progress to the RYA Yachtmaster Offshore Sail exam.

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