Hannah Cotterell
Written by
Hannah Cotterell

How to become a Day Skipper

Posted on Friday, Jan 11, 2019 | reading time: 4 min

What is a day skipper qualification?

A Day Skipper qualification forms part of a series of courses sailors can undertake such as competent crew, coastal, yachtmaster, yachtmaster instructor and yachtmaster offshore. When it comes to learning the Royal Yachting Association (RYA) and the American Sailing Association (ASA) are some of the most respected and well-known sail-training organisations in the world. The title of Day Skipper is predominantly an RYA term and may vary from one organisation to another. The ASA, for example, have ASA 101 Basic Keelboat Training and ASA 103 Basic Coastal Cruising courses. For the purpose of this blog, we shall use Day Skipper.

What experience do I need to take a Day Skipper course?

A Day Skipper qualification is suitable for people who have either completed their competent crew qualification or have spent more than five days at sea.

What does a Day Skipper course involve?

Doing your Day Skipper takes dedicated time and effort, you can’t just show up and expect to pass, you need to do the work. The first step is to sign up with a sailing school where you will spend approximately five days in a classroom learning practical theory and navigation skills. After this you will sit a multiple choice examination that will need to be passed before proceeding to the practical side of the course.

When you pass your theory exam you will go on to do your practical test where you will sail with an instructor and fellow students for 2-3 days of tuition and testing. The topics covered whilst onboard include but are not limited to:

  • Collision avoidance
  • Navigation (paper and electronic)
  • Passage planning
  • Weather
  • The theory behind how a yacht sails
  • Seamanship
  • Skippering techniques
  • Pilotage

Your instructor will examine your boat handling skills, navigation, crew management, man overboard recovery and other procedures, often throwing a fake emergency at you to see how you respond.

Why should I get my Day Skipper qualification?

So this all sounds great but why spend time (and money) getting qualified, surely you can just go sailing? Well actually no, if you want to be in control of your own boat and charter at home or abroad then you’ll need to take the plunge. Without your Day Skipper, yacht charter companies will have no proof that you are capable of handling a vessel competently and safely, which will severely hinder your sailing options.

Getting qualified means you are certified as being capable of safely operating a 30-45 ft. yacht with crew in known waters, during daylight hours. This certificate shows charter companies that you have the experience and practical knowledge to safely skipper a yacht during the day.

Once you pass you can then apply to attain your International Certificate of Confidence (ICC), enabling you to charter boats abroad which will vastly widen the areas where you can sail as a skipper (without having to hire one at great expense).

Where can I take a Day Skipper course?

Once you decide to take the course the next challenge is to decide where you want to take it. My advice is to get trained in challenging, tidal conditions. Always learn the hard way so you know you can do it. If life is forever easy after that with beautiful sunny conditions and no tide then great, but you never want to get caught out. Always ensure your sailing school has qualified instructors with certified courses and good resources so you know you’re getting your money’s worth.

Things to consider when looking at sailing courses

  • Location
  • Quality of instructors
  • Does the school belong to one of the three main bodies of sail-training - ASA, RYA and US Sailing?
  • Do they offer classroom training?
  • What are the reviews from previous students?
  • What training materials do they supply you with?
  • What boat will you learn on and is it suitable?
  • How well maintained is the school and its fleet of boats?
  • How many students are in a class?
  • What are their payment and refund policies?

It is important to understand the importance of quality as your school and instructors will have a big impact on your sailing life. Poor instructors can demotivate and lower your confidence whereas good schools will leave you hungry for more and eager to expand your sailing knowledge. So take some time, do your research and make sure you pick a school that suits you, looking back on your training days should be full of fun memories.

Best of luck everyone. Until next time,

Happy sailing!

Hannah

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