Alasdair Babber Shah: How to Become an RYA Day Skipper

Alasdair Babber Shah has travelled extensively, including safaris in Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda. Alasdair Shah is also a certified PADI Open Water Diver and yachtsman. This article will look at the role of the RYA Day Skipper, providing an overview of competencies gained through the RYA Day Skipper course.

The RYA, or Royal Yachting Association, was created to raise standards for sailing and yachting, promoting safe boat practices in the UK and encouraging more people to become involved in water sports and boating activities.

An RYA Day Skipper is someone capable of safely skippering a motorboat or small cruising yacht in waters they are familiar with during daylight hours. Becoming a safe skipper requires learning, picking up the skills and knowledge required to avoid unpleasant surprises and embarrassing moments.

The RYA cruising schemes were created to provide prospective Day Skippers with sufficient information to make informed decisions about their cruising – for example, whether it is appropriate to sail given the weather forecast and which berth they should select when they arrive at their destination.

RYA Day Skipper training is completed in two parts. The first consists of knowledge and theory-based training, covering aspects such as navigation, meteorology, collision regulations and piloting techniques. The second part of the training sees students put all of this theory into practice, with participants developing their practical skippering skills of boat handling, crew management, practical pilotage and passage making.

Presented via RYA-recognised training centres, the course is available in various different formats, including through class-based lessons as well as online and distance learning. Irrespective of the method of delivery, the course incorporates a minimum of 40 hours of teaching time as well as two assessment papers. There is no pre-knowledge requirement, although students are expected to have at least some practical sailing experience.

The overall aim of RYA training schemes is to help provide prospective skippers with practical training, providing them with sufficient experience to put their learning into context to enhance their chances of success.

The RYA Day Skipper sail qualification enables participants to charter a yacht, having demonstrated their competence in managing a 30 to 45-foot sail cruising yacht and its crew in familiar waters in daylight. Passing the course requires practice, effort and dedication. For those willing to make the sacrifice, successful completion not only boosts their confidence and safety on the water but also signifies to charter and boat share companies that the qualification holder possesses sufficient practical skills and knowledge to take care of their vessels.


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