Two things are certain – firstly, you can definitely get started with sailing far faster than many people realise thanks to the wide range of excellent sailing courses available, including practical, theory and online boating courses, and secondly, completing one or more sailing courses is absolutely essential if you are to safely enjoy your experience on the water, and return from it intact.
One of the most popular courses currently available is the RYA Day Skipper Practical Course. The Royal Yachting Association run most of the popular sailing courses, ranging from the absolute beginner who has never before stepped on board a boat, to those people who have spent many hundreds of hours sailing, and who may be looking to update their skills, refresh their knowledge, or try something entirely new.
The RYA Day Skipper Practical Course is aimed at those who already have some boating experience, but not extensive. There is some assumed knowledge which it is important to make sure you really do know and fully understand prior to signing up for the course, and there is also some practical experience you should have gained before starting the Day Skipper course.
So what is the knowledge and experience you need to have gained beforehand, what sort of things can you expect to learn and experience during the RYA Day Skipper Practical Course, and who is it really aimed for?
The RYA Day Skipper Practical Course is a very practical course, which means that not only will you almost certainly be getting your feet wet, you’ll need to have had them pretty dampish in the past too. In terms of practical experience before starting the Day Skipper course you’ll ideally need to have had a minimum of 5 days experience boating, covering at least a hundred miles.
Although your practical experience doesn’t have to be in long stretches you will need to have had a total of four nights on board a sailing yacht. This time can be split, so if you had four hours sailing one night and four on another occasion, that would total a single full night’s sailing experience.
The theory experience you’ll need to have covered on a different course prior to starting your Day Skipper training should include basic navigation and helmsmanship. The best way of getting this, and preparing for the full Day Skipper course is to attend one of the Day Skipper shore based courses first, as these will cover the basics of what you should know before heading out onto the water.
The RYA Day Skipper Course can be spread over various combinations of days and sessions, but in total you’ll end up having five days of practical training. These could be split over three weekends, or it could be done as three days, then a further two days at a future time. It is recommended though that the gap between sessions is not too great, in order to ensure that experience gained during earlier sessions isn’t lost or forgotten when starting subsequent ones.
The course will cover such topics as:
• Preparation for sea
• deck work
• rules of the road
• maintenance and repair work
• emergency situations
• yacht handling under power
• yacht handling under sail
• passage making
• night cruising
As you can see it’s a pretty comprehensive course, and one which will certainly see you much better able to navigate, maintain and handle your craft in a range of conditions. It’s also highly recommended that in addition to the Day Skipper training you also make sure you have an up to date first aid qualification, and one which is specifically targeted to water based emergencies.