Day Skipper & ICC
To sail your own boat in the UK you don't need any formal qualifications (other than any requirements of your insurance company). However most people take responsibility to get trained to an appropriate level.
To charter a yacht you do need qualifications. Most UK companies require a minimum of Coastal Skipper Practical course completion certificate.
Here's a pathway to Day Skipper Practical & ICC using the various RYA courses available. There are thee separate skills to develop: sailing, navigating and cruising. You can start them in any order.
1. Learn to Sail
The best way to do this is on a small boat. Levels 1 & 2 cover the basic skills and Level 3 provides the opportunity to improve them.
2. Learn to Navigate (shore-based courses)
- Essential Navigation & Seamanship, short taster for beginners, available online
- Day Skipper Theory, 40-hour comprehensive course for beginners
- VHF Radio operators licence, international legal requirement to control a marine radio
3. Learn to Cruise (living aboard the yacht)
- Start Yachting, 2-day introduction for beginners
- Competent Crew, 5-day introduction to cruising for beginners
All the previous courses present the required knowledge for the final course:
- Day Skipper Practical, 5-day course. Take charge of a larger cruising yacht as skipper.
After gaining a Day Skipper practical course completion certificate, you apply to the RYA for an International Certificate of Competence (ICC). A few flotilla companies still allow you to charter with no qualifications, very little experience or a crash course. We don't recommend it! You're more likely to enjoy yourself and keep your family & crew happy if they're confident you know what you're doing.
In this country none of the courses are compulsory (apart from VHF radio, which is an international requirement). Do bear in mind that a Day Skipper practical course completion certificate is just the beginning. There's a lot more to learn, particularly if you're sailing in strong tidal waters like the U.K. The Coastal Skipper and Yachtmaster Offshore theory course is strongly recommended. There are several short courses to broaden your seamanship skills too.
Day Skipper theory is a much longer and more comprehensive course involving 40 hours of tuition. We recommend the 'live teaching' version of this theory course to our clients because nationally the completion rate is very low for the self-study distance learning versions of the Day Skipper theory course. Generally we teach one course before Christmas and another in the New Year.
Using a marine VHF radio is the best way to stay in touch out at sea. Legally you need to be qualified to use a marine VHF radio, or be under the guidance of a qualified operator. So you're probably going to need your operators licence at some point. Charter companies are increasingly requiring this qualification, so check the small print! You can do this course at any stage but around the pre-day skipper stage fits well with this pathway. It's available online or as a 1-day classroom course.
How long does it take to be a Day Skipper?
As a rough guide, if you start learning to sail this summer you could be booking your first yacht charter next summer!
The ICC is free if you're a member of the RYA.
For experienced skippers there is also the option of taking a ICC practical test. You will need to check your individual eligibility with the RYA first.
Remember, Day Skipper is just the first stage to becoming a good skipper. Find out how to take your skills a stage further & become a Yachtmaster.