RYA Competent Crew Sailing Course

Learn to sail on the RYA Competent Crew course

Competent Crew is the best place to start when you want to learn how to sail. Royal Yachting Association (RYA) crew training course. It is suitable for both the complete beginner and those who have some dinghy sailing experience. The course can be taken either over five consecutive days,  or over a number of weekends. Competent Crew is very much about learning by experience. You will live aboard a yacht throughout, and during your time on board you will be taught about safety at sea as well as learning to master the essential crewing skills of; steering, changing sails, reefing and tying the essential knots. It's very much a hands on course and the perfect opportunity to experience the freedom of yacht sailing.

During the RYA Competent Crew course you will spend each night in a different port, allowing you to savour the delights of a real cruising experience. You will visit some of the many quiet creeks, bustling fishing ports, anchorages and yacht harbours of the Solent and south coast of England. In the evenings there is time to relax and reflect on the events of the day and socialise with new friends.

By the end of this course you will have sufficient knowledge and skill to be a useful and able crew member on any sailing yacht. The RYA Competent Crew course is great fun and not surprisingly it's very popular!

Successful candidates are awarded the RYA Competent Crew course completion certificate at the end of the course.

Pre-course experience:  None

Assumed theoretical knowledge:  None

Minimum age:  None

Teaching ratio on board 5:1

Not included in the course fee: Although accommodation is provided onboard, the mooring fees are split between the students. Wet weather jackets & salopettes are available to hire for £7.50 per day. A selection of accompanying course books & logbooks are available to purchase.

Students should allow for one evening meal ashore on a five day course. All other catering including three evening meals are provided onboard. 


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RYA Competent Crew Course - Example Itinerary for the 5 day version of this course

Day 1

  • 08:30 Arrive at Hamble - Check in at School reception. Introduction to yacht. Try on safety equipment. - Preparations to depart,  deck briefing on all the workings of the various ropes and sails. 
  • 09:00 On deck - Introduction to ropes and rigging, preparation of the yacht for sea.
  • Shown engine start controls, and position of sea cocks and bilge pumps.
  • 09:30 Practice steering the yacht under power.
  • Coming alongside pontoons, stepping ashore safely and the use of warps, fenders.
  • 13:00 Lunch on board at anchor or tied to a mooring buoy. Knots and rope work
  • Weather forecast.
  • Manoeuvring under sail, reefing and headsail changes
  • Man overboard , the correct response as crew.
  • 19:00 Enter Solent harbour. Stow sails and tidy up on deck.
  • Discuss the days events.
  • 20:00 Supper

Day 2

  • 07:30 Weather forecast, clean up
  • 09:00 Preparation of the yacht of sea
  • 09:30 Practice pontoon moorings or mooring buoys. Set off on short passage
  • 13:00 Lunch
  • Weather forecast
  • Sail off to anchorage - steering a compass course under power and sail
  • Whilst at anchor - Keeping a proper look out and Helicopter Hi-line rescues
  • 18:30 Supper
  • 20:00 Depart on night sail (weather permitting)   

Day 3

  • 08:00 Breakfast. Passage planning
  • 10:00 Depart to sail on passage.
  • During the day : points of sail, helming and crewing practice, Discussion of emergency situations.
  • Dinghy drills.
  • Meteorology.
  • 20:00 Supper (spare evening for night sail)

Day 4

  • 07:30 Weather Forecast, breakfast, clean yacht and prepare for sea.
  • Pontoon moorings, further sailing practice.
  • 10.00 Depart to practice entry to as many ports as possible, more points of sailing and lots of practice.
  • 19.00 Arrive at a port for evening.

Day 5

  • 07:30 Weather forecast, breakfast, and preparation for sea.
  • Sailing in the Solent - practice all aspects
  • 15:00 Return to Hamble Point. Clean up yacht, return oilskins etc.
  • 16:00 Finish Course, Debrief, sign logbooks, award RYA Competent Crew course certificates and depart.

The RYA Competent Crew Course aims to introduce the complete beginner to cruising and to teach personal safety, seamanship, sailing skills and helmsmanship to the level required to be a useful and competent crew member of a cruising yacht.

1. Naming the parts of a boat, her rigging and sails and Knowledge of nautical terms

The Competent Crew should be able to understand directions which are given by the skipper with regards to sailing the yacht. 

2. Handling sails

Attaching (bending on), setting, trimming, adjusting and general sail handling.

Use of halyards and sheets to control the sails and safe use of winches

3. Rope work

Working with ropes, including; how to coil a rope, securing ropes to cleats, rings and bollards

Handling warps (the name given to the ropes we use secure the boat to a mooring)

The Competent Crew will be able to tie eight essential knots. These are; figure-of-eight, clove hitch, rolling hitch, bowline, round turn and two half hitches, single and double sheet bend, reef knot. You should also know when to use these knots and what they are use for.

4. Fire precautions and fighting

Fire on board a yacht at sea is a serious situation and assistance may not be readily available. The Competent Crew should be aware of the potential risk and precautions that can be taken to prevent a fire on board.

All crew will have a knowledge to what action to take should a fire break out.

5. Personal safety equipment

Crew should understand the rules for the wearing of lifejackets, harness lines and other personal safety equipment.

6. Man overboard

The Competent Crew will understand correct action to be taken to recover a person from the water.

7. Emergency equipment

All crew should understand how to safely operate distress flares and know when they should be used.

They should understand how to launch and board a liferaft

In addition to the above, the instructor will also cover other methods of distress alerting including sending out a Distress Alert by VHF radio and the associated Mayday call. 

8. Manners and customs

All RYA Competent Crew course students should understand the accepted practice with regard to: use of burgees and ensigns (flags), preventing unnecessary noise or disturbances in port and also the courtesies to be extended to other craft berthed alongside.

Often, particularly during the sailing season, yachts will be in close proximity with each other in port and it is important for skippers and crew to show consideration to others especially at night. 

All competent crew members should be aware of their responsibility to protect the marine environment.

During the RYA Competent Crew course, the instructor will explain the legal stance regarding the disposal of rubbish at sea and the use of heads (toilet) in harbour. 

9. Rules of the road

All crew should be able to keep an effective lookout at sea

10. Dinghies

The yacht will usually carry an inflateable dinghy onboard and it is important for all crew to understands and comply with the loading rules

During the Competent Crew course you will be taught how to row the dinghy in order to get ashore when the yacht is moored off.

11. Meteorology

Awareness of forecasting services and awareness of the Beaufort scale

12. Seasickness

In order to be a Competent Crew your working efficiency will be assessed and graded by your Instructor as: unaffected/partially affected/severely affected by seasickness. 

If a student is seasick during a course but can still function as a useful crew member the log book will usually be marked up as unaffected by the instructor. 

13. Helmsmanship and sailing

A successful Competent crew will demonstrate the ability to steer and trim sails on all points of sailing. They will also understand the basic principles of sailing and be able to steer a compass course, when the yacht is under both sail and power.

14. General duties

A good Competent Crew will carry out general duties satisfactorily on deck and below decks in connection with the daily routine of the vessel

It is possible to fail the Competent Crew course if you do not clean the boat at the end of the course or carry out your share of the domestic duties during the course!

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