Stepping Stones towards your RYA Yachtmaster Offshore Exam

An RYA Yachtmaster Offshore certificate of competence is often the ultimate aim of aspiring skippers. It is a well known, highly respected qualification worldwide, proving your experience and competence as a skipper, whether you want it for leisure or for a sailing career.

Is this one of your goals you keep putting off?

We have two YM prep course at the end of the summer, on a long keeled classic boat (Moosk). If you are used to long keeled boats, or work on big super yachts or traditionally rigged sail training vessels then this could be a good option. If you mostly sail yachts that turn on a sixpence then an exam on a classic boat like Moosk might be a bit more challenging. Please ring our skippers for advice on 0044 (0)1872 580022. We have just about sailed all types of sailing vessel.

Whether you decide to do your RYA Yachtmaster exam on a long keeled boat or not, we hare here to help you with anything from careers advice or tips to where you might get extra experience. Below are some ideas to get you ready for your Yachtmaster exam some day in the not too distant future. 


Ready to take the exam? – Yachtmaster Prep Course & Exam dates

Charts are not that reliable in Greenland
Charts are not that reliable in Greenland

Steps Towards your Yachtmaster – Using Classic Sailing Voyages & Courses

Weak on theory?

Why not study at home for your RYA Yachtmaster offshore theory certificate by buying an on line course from us. If you are completely new to navigation but have big ambitions then we have two introductory courses you can learn at home. Day Skipper Theory or the more basic Essential Navigation and Seamanship.

We also do Professional Practice & Responsibilities Course – which is something you will need if you are planning to become a commercially endorsed Yachtmaster and get paid to skipper classic boats or yachts.

Buy RYA Theory Courses from us – See All Courses


Sail Maybe in the irish sea
Sail Maybe in the irish sea

Not enough night hours?

Yachtmaster exams involve navigating in the dark, as it is the best way to test your pilotage in a short space of time. For practice try passage making voyages where there is likely to be coastal pilotage on route, overnight watch keeping or night entries into ports.

Try Cornwall to Scotland voyages up and down the Irish Sea on our smaller vessels like Maybe, Leader or Eda Frandsen.  

Crossing the English Channel or sailing in the Southern North Sea, Dover Straits, Netherlands is good as there is a lot of shipping and COLREGS decision making.

Grayhound cargo voyages are also good as you are crossing the Channel and around the corner of France or heading to the Scillies. Both these routes involve shipping lanes, approaching rocky coasts with lighthouses and beacons.

Cruising grounds like the Caribbean, Norway, Iceland and Scotland are not so good for night hours experience as there are few lit navigation marks so our vessels either strop for the night or stay well clear of the land.

Grayhound Cross Channel & Scillies


Cornwall to Scotland & Irish Sea Voyages

Not enough command experience?

This is the one that stumped me for some time. I was completely happy taking charge of the crew for all sail handling, or creating a pilotage plan, but where would I ever get someone to loan me a yacht to skipper, before I had the Yachtmaster certificate/ I was a young volunteer mate working on sail training vessels over 70 ft and couldn’t afford to bare boat charter a small yacht” Debbie Purser – founder of Classic Sailing

The stress free solution was to do another RYA Day Skipper course. Even if you have done it before, is always a great way of getting coaching whilst borrowing someone else’s classic boat. You get the chance to practice navigation and close quarters sailing and power handling.  The next level up is a RYA Yachtmaster Prep, but it is pretty intense in terms of pressure to perform as the majority of people on it are hell bent on doing their exam at the end of the week. I would not recommend it unless you think you are genuinely ready to give the exam a go (the Prep courses is for people aiming for either Yachtmaster Coastal or Yachtmaster Offshore. An external examiner will come on board at the end of the Prep week to observe and test your skipper skills and theoretical knowledge – whilst sailing day and night on the yacht without your Prep Week instructor.)

Practical Day Skipper for Command Experience

For young people check out Duke of Edinburgh Award – Expedition Voyages on Golden Vanity. You get to skipper and organise the boat as your expedition challenge.

DofE Expedition – for running a boat by yourself


skipper golden vanity for you DofE Gold Expedition challenge
Skipper Golden Vanity for you DofE Gold Expedition challenge

Qualifying Passages before your Yachtmaster

5 x 60 mile qualifying passages – see the exact pre requisite details below.

Try Isles of Scilly or crossing the Channel from west Country ports where the distance is 70-95 miles. it is good to get a mix of sailing as crew, mate and two long passages as skipper. If you can’t actually get the opportunity to be skipper on a passage, the next best thing is to sail a vessel regularly enough to be trusted to act as the skipper (with a qualified skipper on board as your back up)

Isles of Scilly Offshore Voyages


offshore to the Isles of Scilly on Agnes
offshore to the Isles of Scilly on Agnes

Yachtmaster Coastal Pre Exam Requirements

  • Radio Operators Certificate – for example (restricted) VHF Radio Operators Certificate or a GMDSS Short Range Certification or higher grade marine radio qualification.
  • Valid First Aid Certificate – First Aid certificates held by police / fire or armed servicesare also acceptable.
  • Seatime – 800 miles logged within 10 years of the examination. 30 days on board. 2 days as skipper and 12 night hours. (half the qualifying seatime must have been conducted in tidal waters)

Yachtmaster Offshore Pre Exam Requirements

  • Radio Operators Certificate – for example (restricted) VHF Radio Operators Certificate or a GMDSS Short Range Certification or higher grade marine radio qualification.
  • Valid First Aid Certificate – First Aid certificates held by police / fire or armed servicesare also acceptable.
  • Seatime – 2500 miles. 50 days on board. At least 5 passages over 60 miles and acting as skipper for at least 2 of these passages and including two which have involved overnight passages.
  • Skipper experience – at least 5 days as skipper. (Half the qualifying seatime must have been conducted in tidal waters)
  • 50 Days sea-time & 5 days as skipper – 2500 miles logged – 5 passages over 60 miles -including 2 overnight and 2 as skipper.  Qualifying passages must be over 60 miles non stop by the most direct route and involve no change of skipper during the passage.


"Student on Gaff Yawl Moosk looking astern"
Students learning on Moosk for their RYA course on a traditional boat


Why do a Yachtmaster Preparation Course ?

Unlike other courses in the cruising programme, there is no formal training to complete in order to become  a Yachtmaster Offshore. Instead, provided that you have sufficient experience and seatime (see pre requisites), you can put yourself forward for an exam to test your skills and knowledge. This exam takes place on an approved yacht with an external RYA examiner testing both your practical skills and your theoretical knowledge over 5-9 hours per candidate, or slightly longer if you are the only candidate being examined.

Our Yachtmaster Prep course has a generous 5 days (more than most schools) and 2 days set aside after the course for those that feel ready to take the exam.

RYA Yachtmaster Prep Courses and Exam on Moosk

Benchmark for a Successful Exam Pass

If you have not completed a shorebased Coastal skipper/Yachtmaster theory course then please check the syllabus to make sure you are confident with your theoretical knowledge (especially Rules of the Road IRPCS)  and the practical application of navigational skills. We can now offer you a Long Distance Yachtmaster Coastal/Offshore Theory Course, which gives you the option of when, where and for how long, you study. 

A RYA Yachtmaster Coastal (formerly Coastal Skipper) should have the knowledge to skipper a yacht on coastal cruises but does not necessarily have the experience needed to undertake longer passages.

A RYA Yachtmaster Offshore should be able to enter any well-charted harbour for the first time, with sufficient depth, by day or night. The only way to gain confidence is by practice, particularly at night when skill is required in picking out navigation lights and buoys against a background of shore lights. (If you have colour blindness please talk to us before booking)

With a course over 7 days, your fully qualified instructor will be able to devote plenty of time to your individual needs with regular debriefings and coaching aimed at helping you to raise your standards.

Fee’s for Yachtmaster Certificate preparation

Voyage fee is for the full 5 days of instruction (or 8 days if you go on to do the exam)

Examination fee payable to the examiner -RYA Yachtmaster offshore Exam is £215 and Yachtmaster Coastal is roughly £185 per person (2018 prices). 

"Moosk under sail, gaff yawl RYA Yachtmaster courses on traditional boats"
"Moosk under sail, gaff yawl RYA Yachtmaster courses on traditional boats"


Bring with you to the exam

  • RYA logbook or evidence of your sailing experience and qualifying passages
  • Passport photo
  • cheque or credit card details for Exam fee payable to the RYA
  • First Aid Certificate
  • VHF Radio Operators Certificate
  • You must be over 18 years of age & qualifying experience gained over the age of 15.
  • Certification required before the examination:
  • VHF Radio Operators Certificate – First Aid Certificate
"Moosk under sail"
"Moosk under sail"


You can do a RYA Course in the UK or abroad, but the Devon and Cornwall coast takes some beating for variety, scenery and challenge. Off the coast of South Devon and Cornwall, the water is deep with a few rocky hazards, but none of the complexity of the Solent sand bars and busy shipping.  As skipper or navigator, this coastline will give you a broad education. The courses are about going places, so you can experience a wide range of sailing experiences:- anchoring in remote bays, mooring in sheltered rivers, coming alongside harbour walls or pontoons, night sailing. 

Every customer sailing with us will need to fill in basic medical questions on their booking application. If you are not sure if your current level of fitness and agility are up to a voyage, then please ring the Classic Sailing Office on 01872 58 00 22 and we can chat through your concerns and possibly find options that might suit you better.

More Stories

Active adventure sailing holidays with Classic Sailing

25/01 Featured Destination

Summer Sailing Holidays 2023

Summer Sailing Holidays 2023 All our summer sailing holidays in 2023 are ‘hands on’ sailing holidays. There is no need to have previous experience

Read More

20/01 FAQ - Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Delivery Voyage?

A delivery voyage, sometimes described as a ‘Mile-builder’, is a sailing trip from one port to another without much hanging around in between. Often

Read More
Eye of the wind with Classic Sailing

FAQ - Frequently Asked Questions

Will I Get Seasick?

The prospect of feeling nauseous on board ship puts a lot of people off sailing. Famous cases don’t help matters. Darwin called his mal-de-mer

Read More