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Tips and hints for passing your Yachtmaster theory

  • Katy Stickland
  • July 20, 2021

Racing turned cruising sailors Liz Rushall and her husband Mark go back to school to brush up on their Yachtmaster theory

Liz and Mark Rushall doing their RYA Yachtmaster

Although accomplished sailors, Liz and Mark found their rusty knowledge was hampering their cruising enjoyment. The Yachtmaster theory course revealed a number of areas in need of a refresher. Credit: David Harding

Liz Rushall shares tips and hints for passing your Yachtmaster theory course

‘Why on earth are you guys doing your Yachtmaster ?’ was the question our friends repeatedly asked. ‘Surely, you know all that stuff?’

We’ve both sailed since childhood, competitively racing dinghies, then keelboats. Sailing is our work and life.

Liz Rushall has won national dinghy and keelboat titles, but currently cruises a 28ft classic called Ragdoll

Liz Rushall has won national dinghy and keelboat titles, but currently cruises a 28ft classic Honeybee called Ragdoll

Mark is a British Sailing Team coach, we’ve both won championships together and with others, and raced keelboats offshore.

In between times, since 2000, we’ve cruised Ragdoll our 28ft classic Honeybee, from Emsworth, having slow adventures around Brittany, Normandy, and the West Country.

Generally, we’ve arrived on the day we had planned, if not quite always at our estimated time.

Although I did my Yachtmaster theory some 20 years ago, it’s just like I have a Maths O-Level. It’s still a mystery to me.

Sitting the course at night-school, during an intensely busy job, with a bunch of powerboaters talking jargon knowingly, it was as if I was reliving the horror of maths at school.

Needless to say, as with my maths, I battled through the exam and unfortunately not much of it stuck.

Meanwhile, Mark learned his navigation on the hoof, cruising on friends’ boats during his student days and he is self-taught.

Good at all things involving science and numbers, he was always a bit dismissive of things like compass deviation.

We had a little hand-held GPS, a Walker trailing log, and more recently a very small detachable Garmin chartplotter and Simrad AIS. It all seemed to work – we were fine.

What could possibly go wrong?

You never stop learning

The real answer to the question ‘why do our Yachtmaster ’ was a wake-up call that came last summer.

We’d had a hectic few months, working late and trying to fit in our summer cruise around Mark’s Olympic coaching commitments.

We were both tired and needed a break.

Mark plotted our Channel crossing.

Normally I try to get involved and have a crack at the passage plan too, but it takes me ages.

Making sense of passage planning, including tidal heights and gates, is much easier once you've had a Yachtmaster theory refresher

Making sense of passage planning, including tidal heights and gates, is much easier once you’ve had a refresher. Credit: Liz Rushall

I helped a bit with the tidal streams (which I thought I was good at) and had a quick, over-the-shoulder look.

We decided to head for Cherbourg, to have options.

We dismissed the idea of heading straight to Saint-Vaast, as we’d anticipated a four-hour wait for the lock gates – tedious after a long crossing.

We left Chichester Harbour early, although I wanted to go even earlier.

As soon as we had popped out of the harbour, the wind clearly was not as forecast. It was more WSW than west, so not the reach we had hoped for.

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We were keen to get to France, however, so we pressed on.

It was a big spring tide, so we expected to get swept hard eastwards and then back westwards.

We reefed early, anticipating the wind against tide effect as we got towards France.

But it was a horrible sea. Our little boat was sailing beautifully but struggled to keep to our estimated speed.

We were consistently too far east of our course, even after the tide had turned, and the tide didn’t push us as hard west to Cherbourg as had been expected.

Still behind schedule, the water didn’t flatten out when the tide turned east again.

A man plotting a course on. chart during a Yachtmaster Theory course

How to calculate position, estimate time of arrival and course to steer is all easily forgotten in a digital age. Knowing how to extract this information from your chartplotter is also crucial

Now very tired from hand steering, less than two hours from Cherbourg we had to concede that we simply could not punch upwind, with or without the engine.

The whole day had been a domino effect of one little thing after another.

So, as the sun faded, a quick change of plan.

We altered course for St Vaast, rocketing down on the tide, arriving just as the lock gates opened at 2300.

In the end, it was a good result, landing in our favourite spot, although it had been a very long day on a little boat with no self-steering.

After two days’ sleeping, having a sailing coach on board and racing in our blood meant, of course, a thorough debrief.

Naturally, over some lovely seafood and French wine.

We realised that our brains were not getting younger, and clearly there had been some ‘gaps’ in our navigational planning.

For a long time, I’ve felt aware that I didn’t have a complete handle on chartwork, despite owning a certificate that says I do.

The decision was made. Let’s have a crack at our RYA Yachtmaster and find out what we do and don’t know.

A course in ‘Johart’s Window’

Stage one of our plan was enrolling on an Intensive RYA Yachtmaster Theory course with the Emsworth School of Navigation – six days completed over two weekends.

Yachtmaster Theory tip: Using dividers to transfer a position line from a scale is easier on a small boat than lining up a plotter or parallel rules

Using dividers to transfer a position line from a scale is easier on a small boat than lining up a plotter or parallel rules. Credit: David Harding

Compared to my memories of scary night-school, the experience was a refreshing change.

Karen Dorontic, the principal, turned out to be an amazing teacher, with astounding levels of patience and a gift for not making you feel stupid, despite most of us coming up with some bizarre calculations and answers.

Her empathy with our learning process, the pitfalls and the mistakes we would make as we progressed through the topics and papers, was clearly based on her own experiences.

We had an interesting, mixed group on the course; a couple refurbishing their yacht to cruise around the world, two people who take people sailing on club-owned yachts, a Solent based cruiser, and my brothers.

One who, like me, did his Yachtmaster theory exam many years ago, the other a confirmed dinghy sailor now doing a bit more yacht racing.

Straight into the first session, and many of us were picking up some great tips.

Frequently things that sounded obvious, although only once you had been told.

For us, it was time-saving things, such as using the dividers to transfer positions from the side of the chart rather than struggling with parallel rules, and unlocking the delights of a Portland plotter.

Both were far more useful for our tiny navigation table. Then, there were the really useful ways of remembering things.

Who knew the cones on cardinal marks point to the black section? Easy.

Bizarrely, one of the most entertaining sessions was learning the Colregs (collision regulations).

We were in hoots visualising all those bells and gongs going off in poor visibility.

Yet once again, Karen gave us really helpful tips for working out lights, especially for towing vessels, which initially felt like a sea of colour we’d never remember.

The intensive nature of the course means there is a vast amount of information to process but without the luxury of a few days to absorb and reread what you are learning.

Almost inevitably, that meant some of us ‘hitting the wall’.

By day two of plotting estimated positions and courses to steer, I could no longer figure out Variation and Deviation.

The phrase ‘Error East Compass Least’ rapidly became another maths maze. Plus or minus?

The more I tried to think about it, the more it went wrong.

One candidate put his dividers down saying: ‘I’ve completely forgotten what it is I’m trying to achieve’.

I began to wonder how we’d ever got our boats anywhere around the Solent, let alone to St Malo, Chausey, and Tréguier.

Homework humiliations

With a lot of exercises to practise before the second weekend, it was hard to cram our homework into a busy fortnight.

Somehow we did, although mealtime conversation got down to the level of ‘what do two red lights mean?’ Riveting stuff!

The family WhatsApp was busy that week with shrieks of frustration as we all made chartwork errors.

Back in the classroom, we all compared notes. Everyone had struggled with their homework.

Mark didn’t get a single question right first time.

Liz Rushall studying for her Yachtmaster theory

Liz found it useful to identify areas of weakness ahead of her Yachtmaster Theory course. Credit: David Harding

Number blindness set in as we all plotted the wrong information, dates and data and tried to use the tidal height tables to calculate tidal stream rates. We’d done it all.

One man owned up to plotting the date as a position on his chart.

At least we were all suffering in the same boat.

Undoubtedly, it was a painful process to go through, as we all fell into the pitfalls and traps deliberately set in the exercise questions.

However, it was true that practice makes perfect.

Through comparing our random attempts with the answers, we were all learning from our errors.

The fog is clearing

With homework horrors behind us, our practice paid off as we went through our exam papers.

Everyone passing the Colregs paper was a confidence boost. Bang the gong!

While we waited to hear our results, the bemused conversation went along the lines of, ‘Were those yellow and red lights a Hovercraft that was fishing?

Or an air-cushioned, displacement fishing vessel?

Details of the RYA Yachtmaster Theory course

Officially speaking, the RYA Yachtmaster Theory course builds on that which is taught in the shore-based Day skipper course.

However, for most people who have sailed regularly, then jumping straight to Yachtmaster theory is unlikely to be a major problem.

The course covers advanced navigation techniques including: position fixing; course shaping and plotting; tidal knowledge including secondary port calculations; navigation in restricted visibility; Admiralty publications and electronic position-finding equipment.

Much of this will be familiar to even the most casual cruiser, but as Liz discovered, some of the specifics might well need a bit of study.

The meteorology tuition includes the taking and interpretation of forecasts, plotting of weather systems as well as weather prediction.

Further courses

Many people who jump straight into Yachtmaster Theory may find that it turns up a weakness or gap in their knowledge.

It can often be helpful to identify areas of weakness and consider a training course that might help raise your level ahead of a Yachtmaster practical exam.

Several schools offer courses on many of the subjects in a Yachtmaster exam and they can help you to improve your knowledge.

On the other hand, it might just be an area you devote more time to in the lead up to Yachtmaster Practical.

Know your COLREGS

The one area where there are no shortcuts are Colregs; you just need to know your stuff – and finding the time to learn isn’t difficult.

So far as the MCA is concerned, this is the crunch.

Examiners are encouraged to demand high standards in this subject, and there’s no reason for a candidate, knowing full well they are going to be grilled extensively on this, not to have the regulations solidly in their mind.

The best way to be exam-proof is to invest in A Seaman’s Guide to the Rule of the Road (Morgans Technical Books Limited (£12.50), available for modest money online or in any chandlery.

Place it prominently in the heads some months before the exam and devote five minutes of each day to digesting its contents.

The book makes it easy and should leave you with no excuse for not having a thorough working knowledge.

Aside from the certificate, we both got a lot out of the course. Mark felt that it reminded him what he did know and reinforced what he didn’t.

A woman skipper helming a boat during her Yachtmaster exam

Liz found she had forgotten some useful shortcuts during her Yachtmaster Theory course and put these into practice during her Yachtmaster Practical assessment. Credit: David Harding

Learning the processes and the ways to remember them, was so helpful.

For me, cracking the tidal stream rates was a revelation, and fears of secondary ports and tidal height calculations are mostly gone.

It will definitely help us explore places we never felt confident to visit because we have a long keel.

Karen’s many wise tips such as not trusting the electronics unquestioningly, and rapid plotting techniques will be invaluable.

Pilotage plans for new ports will now be a joy rather than a scrabble around through the pilot books.

We love our little boat, we sail her well, yet she will never be anything like the quickest boat on the water.

She needs all the help we can give her, which includes accurate navigation to arrive on time.

Having returned to the Yachtmaster theory I now feel that my confidence is up.

Mark and I now can’t wait for our next big voyage, to see what we’ve really learned.

Now there’s the small matter of our practical exams on the horizon.

5 key points to take away from our Yachtmaster Theory course

  • Quick Plotting Techniques: Karen’s quick plotting technique really helps if, like us, you have a very small chart table. Simply plot your latitude using your Portland plotter or ruler. Then measure off your longitude along the top line of the chart from the nearest major longitude line eg 002°. Move the dividers down to in-line with your latitude plot and draw an arc on your first line
  • Deviation and Variation: In the end, I solved this by learning to literally translate ‘error east/compass least’ and ‘error west/compass best’ into plain English! In other words: Compass error West – compass will be bigger than True; Compass error East –compass will be less than True. Learning how to use a pencil mark on the error scale on the Portland plotter to avoid the mental arithmetic entirely was another gem.
  • Extrapolating tidal streams : One particular ‘lightbulb moment’ was calculating tidal streams. We’d only ever interpolated the tidal streams, estimating the rate between the mean spring and neap rates shown in the tidal atlas. The exercises highlighted that a big spring tide will be higher than the mean rate, and extrapolating this accurately makes a big impact on your course to steer.
  • Remembering lights: Learning the lights felt really complex, but Karen taught us to look for the patterns. Remember a clock face for the number of flashes of the N, E, S and West cardinals (E is three flashes, South six, West nine and North continuous) is a great tip. For remembering the lights for towing vessels, adding an extra masthead light to represent the vessel it is towing, plus another for boat length over 50m, and another for tow length.
  • Templates for secondary port and tidal stream calcs:  Rather than working it out from scratch each time, Karen encouraged us to develop our own, or use standard templates for calculating tidal information. It helps reduce errors, speeding up the planning process and saving brain cells for other tasks.

Key information on the Yachtmaster practical and theory courses

Why yachtmaster.

Although a Yachtmaster qualification is required for anyone planning to become a professional, thanks to the continuing efforts of the RYA, Brits who sail for leisure still don’t have to carry any proof of competence in home waters.

The certificate certainly remains the logical target of many a self-motivated sailor, though.

It also represents the icing on the cake for those looking for the reassurance of an external assessment.

Theory and Practical

Yachtmaster training can take place on a boat or in a classroom.

A shore-based course, either at desks in a school or via the popular Internet distance learning programmes, ends with a theory exam.

Success in this will help a student in later qualification upgrades, but it is not officially recognised.

The only certificates accepted by the authorities are those issued after an at-sea examination. To become a fully-fledged Yachtmaster, this practical test is the one that counts.

Coastal or offshore

In recent years, the old Coastal Skipper has been superseded by the new Yachtmaster Coastal certificate.

The qualifying mileage for this MCA-recognised qualification is 800 miles, with passage and night-hour requirements being regarded as fairly relaxed in comparison with Yachtmaster Offshore, which keeps its 2,500-mile entry level.

Either will serve as a proper Yachtmaster qualification and can be described as such.

Only the often-dropped suffix distinguishes the two.

Apply for ‘coastal’ and the examiner, recognising that you have less sea-time, will be more inclined to cut you a bit of slack.

The RYA has noted that most candidates are really only making ‘coastal-status’ passages.

In real terms this includes an annual trip across the Irish Sea, the North Sea or the Channel in a calculated weather window.


RYA Coastal Skipper and Yachtmaster Theory – All The Information You Need

What is the rya coastal skipper and yachtmaster theory course.

The RYA Coastal Skipper and Yachtmaster Theory course is a theory-based course aimed at yacht skippers advancing to RYA Coastal Skipper and RYA Yachtmaster exams.

It is an advanced course in navigation and other nautical topics such as meteorology that allows you to skipper a vessel on coastal voyages by day and night.

What Does the RYA Coastal Skipper and Yachtmaster Theory Allow You To Do?

The RYA Coastal Skipper and Yachtmaster Theory sets you up to be ready for your RYA Coastal Skipper Practical Sail or Motor course.

The course will also provide you with the relevant nautical theory knowledge to help for those advancing to the RYA Yachtmaster Coastal and RYA Yachtmaster Offshore exams.

Who Can Do an RYA Yachtmaster Theory Course?

The RYA Coastal Skipper and Yachtmaster Theory course is open to anyone who has equivalent knowledge to that covered in the RYA Day Skipper Theory course. There is no age limit.

If you are a complete novice to nautical sailing, then you may want to consider the RYA Essential Navigation and Seamanship course or the RYA Day Skipper Theory course is also suitable for novices.

If you are an experienced mariner with many years of experience, both skippering and taking on navigational duties but with no formal training, then there is another suitable course that we have at Ardent Training for you. This is the RYA Fast Track to Yachtmaster course which is essentially the same as the RYA Coastal Skipper and Yachtmaster Theory course but with extended content to bridge the gap for someone without an RYA Day Skipper Theory course completion.

Can You Go Straight to the RYA Coastal Skipper/Yachtmaster Theory Course?

A theoretical experience in line with the RYA Day Skipper Theory course is required.

A practical experience in line with the RYA Day Skipper course is desirable but not required.

If you have advanced practical skills but lack theoretical knowledge, then the RYA Fast Track to Yachtmaster Course is for you.

If you currently lack both theory and practical experience, you will want to start at RYA Day Skipper Theory.

Where Can I Take My RYA Coastal Skipper and Yachtmaster Theory?

There are many thoughts on where is best, but to be truthful, it is what works for you best. 

Your 2 main options are in a classroom course or via an online provider. The 2 different types of learning suit different types of people.

Classroom courses benefit from listening to and talking to other students face-to-face, as well as having the instructor in front of you. Online courses benefit from being able to work at your own speed, repeat lessons, and get a more in-depth learning experience as you are not tied to completing the course at the end of the week at the same pace as the others in the classroom. At Ardent Training we pride ourselves on bringing the best of both of these worlds together with instant 1:1 instructor support on demand, built-in discussions on our online platform, a student forum, and every single lesson being recorded in video format as well as visual and text.

How Long Does an RYA Yachtmaster Theory Take?

The RYA Coastal Skipper and Yachtmaster Theory is suggested to take a minimum of 40 hours of learning, plus exam time. I believe the average to be about 50 hours in total.

How this time is shaped can vary. In online courses, you can generally work at your own speed, while in classroom environments, anything from evening classes of 2-3 hours a week, to 3 weekends in a row, or a 6 or 7 consecutive day course over a week.

The best RYA Coastal Skipper and Yachtmaster Theory Online Course prepares you for any situation.

Is There a Set RYA Coastal Skipper and Yachtmaster Theory Syllabus?

There is indeed a syllabus. Each of the following topics represents a specific part of the learnings that will be covered on an RYA Coastal Skipper and Yachtmaster Theory course in varying levels of detail.

Navigational Instruments, tidal heights, tidal streams, position fixing and chartwork, Meteorology, pilotage, safety, passage planning and marine environment detail the various aspects of the syllabus.

Read on to learn in a little more detail about how each of these is covered in a little more detail.

What Will I Learn in the Yachtmaster Theory Course?

The RYA Coastal Skipper and Yachtmaster Theory course covers a wide range of topics and introduces many topics and important knowledge that will be useful not only for completing an RYA Coastal Skipper Practical Course but in preparing and passing your RYA Yachtmaster exams.

Navigational instruments will cover all those aids to navigation that we have to use onboard such as GNSS, compasses, radar and chartplotters. At this stage, charts should be known about and so they won’t be taught in this course other than using them for our chartwork.

Tidal theory will cover everything from how they are created to using the tidal curves, working out secondary port data, clearances and all about tidal streams. Tidal streams include using a tidal atlas, tidal diamonds and computation of rates table.

Our chartwork at this stage is using the pre-learned tidal information to advance our basic dead reckoning positions to more complex estimated positions, courses to steer and even doing running fixes.

Fog, weather effects, frontal depressions and pressure systems will all be covered within meteorology while IRPCS will see a more in-depth look at vessel lights, shapes and their various characteristics which allow us to know what to do to prevent a collision at sea.

Pilotage and Passage planning will bring all our knowledge together as we learn all the steps contained within the structure of a passage plan and how to formulate and use these. Safety will of course be covered in full, but personal and on-board safety items while we will also look at things to be aware of while being in and to help protect the marine environment.

How Much Does This Course Cost?

As ever, many schools differ in price and it is important to understand everything that is included within your course such as materials, available content and instructor help. As always, the cheapest is not often better. At Ardent Training, our online RYA Coastal Skipper and Yachtmaster Theory is priced at £345 and that includes everything. A unique student pack with Ardent Training extras, free worldwide postage, access to materials and instructor help and of course, your end-of-course certificate.

What Is the Pass Mark for the RYA Yachtmaster Theory Course?

There is no specific pass mark as such. The instructor’s aim is to bring you up to a level where you have a satisfactory level of theory knowledge across the subjects covered to be able to put your new learnings into practice during your RYA Coastal Skipper Practical course.

What Comes After RYA Coastal Skipper and Yachtmaster Theory

After your RYA Coastal Skipper and Yachtmaster Theory, we suggest progressing on with your RYA Coastal Skipper Practical Sail or Motor course as soon as possible. That way, all your recent learnings are still fresh in your mind and you can use the practical tasks to consolidate all your knowledge. After that, you can look to start gaining more miles at sea, longer passages and progressing the to coveted RYA Yachtmaster certificates of competence.

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Everything You Need To Know About RYA Yachtmaster Theory

In last weeks blog we broke down RYA Day Skipper Practical and how it fits in to your learning progression. RYA Yachtmaster Theory is the next step in that journey and on its completion you opens up RYA Coastal Skipper Practical Course as well as several other interesting optional courses you could take. This blog will tell you Everything You Need To Know About RYA Yachtmaster Theory.

Everything You Need To Know about RYA Yachtmaster Theory

What is RYA Yachtmaster Theory? 

Being a theory course its shore based in a classroom or online via zoom. It assumes you have completed RYA Day Skipper theory or possess a comparable level of knowledge as it teaches you more advanced navigation techniques. You will learn about navigating safely on coastal and offshore passages. If you plan to progress to Coastal Skipper practical, Yachtmaster Coastal or Yachtmaster Offshore then you should be taking this course.

What RYA Yachtmaster Theory teaches you?

The course in essence will teach you advanced theory of navigation and meteorology.  For those with extensive sailing experience with previous navigational experience, the course builds upon those basic skills. You will be developing a comprehensive depth of knowledge and understanding of navigation theories, techniques and practices.


Everything You Need To Know about RYA Yachtmaster Theory

What can I expect to do?

RYA Yachtmaster Theory is an in-depth course with a wide subject field. But in short it will include position fixing, magnetic compass, tides, tidal streams, buoyage, lights, pilotage, and introduction to GPS and plotters, meteorology, collision prevention regulations, safety, navigation and passage planning among a lot more to numerous to go in-depth about in a short blog.

Where & When Can I take RYA Yachtmaster Theory?

There are three different ways you can take Yachtmaster Theory. We offer classroom based courses in our Southampton (Shamrock Quays) location and across London.  The classroom based course runs for 8 weeks ( 1 evening per week) and a weekend, or over 2 and a half weekends. If you have a suitable space we can also come to your office and run the program for your colleagues. Due to the impact of COVID we adapted our shore based courses for online zoom learning. This became very popular over the pandemic and the flexibility it offers means it has maintained it popularity. Like the in person course is typically run over 8 weeks however is sometimes compressed with multiple lessons a week. Finally we have a purely online version that allows you to dip in and out as and when it suits you. Support from an instructor is only a phone call or email away

Everything You Need To Know about RYA Yachtmaster Theory

What Equipment Will I Need?

No matter if you doing RYA Yachtmaster theory in a classroom, via zoom or online, each format comes with a extensive set of materials to make use of.  All students will receive a RYA work pack of charts, tide tables, port information and mock questions. A website with course slides will also be accessible after each lesson to help you refresh you memory. Those taking the Classroom or Zoom versions will also receive s Cockpit Companion.

To complete the course you will need a set of plotter and dividers. We can provide them to you for £20 to be collected at your first lesson. If your doing the Zoom or Online versions we will courier them to you. You can also opt to buy your own however they will likely be more expensive. If you have already completed RYA Day skipper theory or have the comparable experience you should already have everything you need.

Lastly If you haven’t already got a logbook you should make sure you get one. They are £7.49. The Logbook is a place to record your miles and keep your certificates. It outlines the whole RYA Cruising Scheme giving the course content for each course again if you completed prior course you should already have one of these.

What skills will I have after the course?

On competition of RYA Yachtmaster Theory you should now have the Background knowledge you need to skipper a yacht on coastal passages by day and night. You can now develop your skills further by moving up a level and taking the RYA Yachtmaster Practical , which in itself opens up several more course options. You can find more information about course options by following the link below.


Want to get started?

Hopefully this blog has answered Everything You Need To Know about RYA Yachtmaster Theory. If you have any further questions or  you are interested in taking RYA Yachtmaster Theory click here to see availability and dates. You can also E-mail [email protected]  or call 0203 006 3717

Find out more about this course by following the link below. 


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RYA Yachtmaster Theory

Also sometimes knows as "coastal skipper/yachtmaster theory".

An advanced course for experienced skippers studying towards formal certification to command vessels up to 200GRT or to apply for a MCA Master 200 Oral Examination

  • 14-day unconditional money-back guarantee
  • 25% off for 2 or more bookings
  • 12 months access
  • 24*7 Instructor Support  (from UK and Thailand)
  • Student Pack (2 charts, training almanac & course handbook)
  • RYA chart-plotter software
  • 15 fully-narrated lessons (not just the animations) including including realistic 3D graphics and embedded quizzes with instant feedback
  • 15 self-assessment exercises with fully worked answers
  • Videos covering: updating paper charts, engine checks, dismasting, jury rig, flood control, firefighting, gas explosions, capsize, lifejacket checks, how to put on a lifejacket and what happens when it inflates, man-overboard recovery, launching and boarding a liferaft
  • Downloadable US Chart 1 (5011 equivalent) + 48 other downloadable or linked resources 
  • Radar & AIS Training
  • Mock Exams with automatic feedback
  • 4 Final Online Exams with detailed instructor feedback and unlimited attempts. You can arrange your own invigilator. See  exam guidance  for more information.
  • Unlimited free exam resits
  • RYA Yachtmaster Theory Course Completion Certificate to support your practical course, professional qualification or MCA Master 200 Oral Exam
  • Download lessons to run offline on iPads, iPhones and Android Devices
  • 2 Years further access to training materials once you’ve completed the course
  • UK Delivery by First Class Post. Worldwide delivery by DHL Express (+£20)
  • Top quality Portland Plotter and brass chart dividers, £28
  • Additional 6 months, £50 or 12 months, £80

yachtmaster theory exam

RYA Yachtmaster Theory Syllabus

  • Charts & Other Publications
  • Definition of Position, Time, Speed & Distance
  • The Compass (including allowance for deviation and swinging the compass)
  • Tidal Theory
  • Tidal Heights (including secondary ports)
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RYA Coastal Skipper and Yachtmaster ™ Offshore Theory (Online)

  • This course looks to refine the techniques learnt in your RYA Day Skipper Theory course
  • International Maritime Law
  • Passage Planning
  • Meteorology
  • Environmental care

RYA Coastal Skipper/Yachtmaster™ theory is a more advanced course that builds on the knowledge gained at the RYA Day Skipper Theory level. Its aim is to take your theory knowledge to the standard required for the Yachtmaster™ Coastal and Yachtmaster™ Offshore practical course.

This course is open to anyone who has already completed Day Skipper Theory, and ideally has some practical boating experience. You should be comfortable applying concepts such as tidal heights and streams and interpreting weather information. You will be familiar with pilotage and passage planning. You will feel at ease with the practical and thorough application of the IRPCS. You will understand how to fix position using a variety of methods. Your knowledge of safety systems and practices will be substantial.

Your full training pack contents include:

  • Two RYA practice charts
  • The RYA Coastal / Yachtmaster course notes
  • The RYA Coastal / Yachtmaster exercises
  • The RYA Training Almanac

Please note: Your online course is provided by Navathome. Booking conditions are not the same as for courses delivered by Andrew Simpson Yachting.  

Notes on shipping of training materials.

All training materials for the online courses are shipped to you the buyer. Please be aware of the Navathome policy relating to shipping. This forms part of their terms and conditions.

  • Navathome is unable to ship to addresses which contain PO Box Numbers. A physical address will be required.
  • Buyers must provide a valid contact telephone number at the time of booking
  • Packs being shipped to Russia must be delivered to a business address.
  • All packs must be signed for, so the buyer must ensure that there will be somebody available to accept the package
  • Navathome will not accept responsibility for packs sent to marinas, or c/o addresses. If the pack goes missing after it has been signed for, the buyer will be liable for the cost of the replacement pack. 

Course Outcomes

  • With this qualification combined with additional practical experience, you should be equipped with the knowledge required to consider the RYA Yachtmaster ™ Coastal or Yachtmaster ™ Offshore examination.

Royal Yachting Association Training Centre

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If you can't find what you are looking for online, please contact us directly to discuss options available to you.

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customer Carolyn

Great Course

Day skipper theory course was very good - well explained and clear. There was help on hand when needed but working it out for yourself was great instruction in itself! I would certainly do another course with Navathome and would recommend it to others.

Comprehensive course with helpful feedback

I recently took the Coastal/Yachtmaster theory course with Navathome, and happily I passed. There is a great deal of information to cover, and trying to fit this round a day job meant I needed an extension to the time to go through the course, but they kindly granted me this, and provided helpful and constructive feedback at every point. The exam itself probably needs several days, especially if you are as slow at plotting fixes as I am. Think of a number and double it is useful in terms of time needed. The final paper is really an all-day job, so make sure to allow yourself a clear block of time when you can drop everything else and give it your undivided attention. Overall, this has been a thoroughly enjoyable learning experience, and I now feel far more confident that I have decent knowledge to back up the practicalities of sailing.

Navathome Day Skipper Theory

Just completed and passed the RYA Day Skipper Theory course with Navathome. It was a really great experience and I was pleased to discover that I am still capable of learning lots of new things. The content is excellent at delivered at your own pace so you can go back over things that you don't understand as many times as you want.

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The day skipper theory course from…

The day skipper theory course from Navathome is really good. It is well laid out and easy to follow. It is simple to see your progress. The website works very well, I didn’t have any issues with it. I didn’t need to ask many questions, as the online course is so well structured, but when I did they were answered quickly and clearly.

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A very comprehensive course giving time to complete all the exercises at your own pace, build confidence and commit everything to long term memory. I found this far better than creaming everything in over several weekends but be warned this is not the easy option. Fortunately great instructors available when required and instant feedback aids learning. Highly recommended.

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Great course, super concise and well structured. I was able to sail through my practical assessment without any issues. (Dayskipper and Diesel Engine)

One of the best online courses ever!

One of the best online courses I’ve done, in any field. A great combination of text, diagrams, videos/animations, use of practical and physical components (charts, books, almanacs), quizzes, tests and full-on assessments. And there is always help from real people, who care about getting you where you want to be.

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well structured course, with explanations for everyone. the instructors who are there for the student, helping him whenever he needs it.


Great Day skipper theory course fit in with my spare time.

Working so many hours I was able to fit the course in around my spare time.. the lessons were great and explained well with videos and graphics. The language was straightforward and although required some good concentration at times it was made even easier with how quick the reply to email questions would be.. I mean, literally a few minutes! This is a real professional set up with a real family/ kind feeling and atmosphere. Obviously you never meet the teachers apart from email but you can get a good sense that NavAtHome.com want you to pass vs just doing their jobs.. thank you NavAtHome.com, Jackie, Salomon and others that came back to my questions over the last months, look forward to doing the coastal course next year!

A very enjoyable course to do

The course was very easy to navigate and friendly to do. There are a few typos, but nothing to make anything ambiguous. I restarted the course this year after having to suspend doing it when I started caring for my mother a few years ago. The staff couldn't have been more helpful. I certainly will do another course in the future if I think it necessary for my level of sailing.


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Yachtmaster Theory Quiz

Test your knowledge with these 10 theory questions. The quiz is aimed at those planning to join us for a Yachtmaster Coastal or Offshore preparation week. This is NOT an admission test, but it is meant for you to check your theory knowledge and identify any gaps, so they can be filled before you join us for the practical week. Remember, whilst we will also review your theory notions, there will be no time to actually study them if you don’t know them already. And these are only a small sample of what the Yachtmaster examiner may be asking! If your score is not good, please consider signing up for the Yachtmaster Shorebased theory course. Fill in your name and email and click on Start. Select your answer and move onto the next question. At the end of the quiz you will see how you scored and you will be able to review the correct answers.

Yachtmaster - pre test

Test your knowledge with these 10 theory questions. The quiz is aimed at aspiring RYA Yachtmaster Coastal or Offshore. Select your answer and move onto the next question. At the end of the quiz you will see how you scored and you will be able to review the correct answers.

Hi, welcome to our Yachtmaster quiz page, where you can informally test your knowledge before attending one of our courses. Please fill out the information below:

What is the name of the line that points from you to a target on a Radar screen?

ebl radar - white wake sailing

What is the name of the Angle of Heel at which a vessel will capsize?

Angle of vanishing stability - white wake sailing

What happens to the wind after a cold front has passed (Northern hemisphere)

You hear three horn blasts from a big vessel. What is she communicating?

What is the name of the fog that typically forms at sea?

advection fog - white wake sailing

What vessel would show these lights?

Towin vessel lights - white wake sailing

What additional lights does a pilot vessel show whilst on duty?

What is the name of this buoy?


What is the meaning of this mark?

preferred channel marker - white wake sailing

What is the compass course to be followed to hold a True course of 145 degrees?

compass course - white wake sailing

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  • RYA/MCA Yachtmaster Offshore Preparation & Exam

National Yachting School  » RYA Sail Crusing Courses  » RYA/MCA Yachtmaster Offshore Preparation & Exam

Yachtmaster Offshore is competent to skipper a cruising yacht on any passage during where astronavigation is not necessary.

An RYA/MCA 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.

To attain the RYA/MCA Yachtmaster Offshore candidates must pass a practical examination of their skippering ability. A Yachtmaster Offshore is capable of skippering the yacht on extended offshore passages by day or night. He or she will essentially be a much more experienced Yachtmaster Coastal and can do the same things more smoothly, for longer periods and in more arduous conditions. The theory knowledge required for the RYA/MCA Yachtmaster Offshore Certificate of Competence is the same as that for Yachtmaster Coastal, but considerably more practical experience and skill is required.

The 4 days prior to the exam is run along the same lines as the Yachtmaster Coastal preparation. Your instructor will asses your skills and address any areas over weakness. A high level of boat handling under various conditions of wind and tide is required. Navigation skills should be at the level of Yachtmaster/Coastal Skipper theory and a thorough knowledge of collision regulations is expected. Your instructor will tailor the course to suit your individual needs in order to prepare you for when the examiner steps on board.

After 4 days your instructor will give you a thorough debrief and you should feel confident in your ability to take the exam should you feel ready to do so.

During the exam, your RYA examiner will meet you onboard and talk you through the plan for the day. They understand that you could be nervous and will do their best to allay your fears and make sure you are clear about what they want you to do. They are there to find out what you can do, rather than pick holes. You will be asked to undertake a short passage, but you may have to plan a longer one. In general, you should skipper the yacht in your normal style. If this means putting the kettle on every half hour, then do it!

Your examiner isn’t looking for first-time-every-time success, but you will need to demonstrate competence and a good understanding of how the boat reacts at various situations. Don’t hesitate to change sails or reef, if you think it is necessary for the task.

Whether you are fully in command of the yacht is the most important assessment that your examiner will make. Especially with Yachtmaster Offshore the examiner will be looking for high level of proficiency based on broad experience.

Course Duration: 4 days for the course and 2 days for the exam. Most courses start on Saturday evening and finish on Wednesday afternoon, the exam starts the same evening or the next morning after the end of the course.

Previous Experience Required: 50 days aboard, 5 days as skipper, 2500 miles logged (min. half of it MUST be in tidal waters!), 5 passages of over 60 miles including 2 overnight and 2 as skipper. VHF radio operators certificate (SRC or higher) and a valid First Aid Certificate recognised by the RYA. click here for the list of acceptable first aid certificates

Course Overview: Preparation and brush up for the RYA/MCA Yachtmaster Offshore Certificate of Competence. Revision of advanced skippering techniques, close quarters handling under power and sail, navigation and pilotage by day and night, man overboard recovery and overall yacht management skills.

Minimum age: 18

Course price DOES NOT INCLUDE:

  • exam fee paid directly to the RYA (205 GBP for YM Offshore, 177 GBP for YM Coastal)
  • examiner's travel expenses from/to th UK (estimated approx. 400–500 Euro, shared between exam participants)
  • food, harbour fees and diesel used for the boat

Due to the coronavirus crisis, we are canceling all practical courses in Croatia until further notice. For new course dates, please keep an eye on our website.

Winter courses on Canaries

In NYS we believe that there’s no such a thing as winter in sailing and you can always find a good place to enjoy your hobby any time throught the year. So we offer popular winter courses again, this time on Canary Islands, starting from Tenerife because of the best flight connections.

RYA Sailing Accreditation Rated as the World’s Best

The Royal Yachting Association (RYA) sailing qualifications have been voted the premiere sailing accreditation for excellence and global reputation following a recent survey targeting 200 professional yacht and motorboat charter companies. The professional charter companies that were surveyed own and manage in excess of 6,000 charter boats across the Mediterranean, Caribbean and Asia.

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Try our RYA theory quiz to test your knowledge and see whether our  Day Skipper  or  Yachtmaster  theory course is best for you.

For aspiring skippers

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How to Pass the Yachtmaster Exam

Yachtmaster certificate of competence exam top tips, which yachtmaster.

First we need to be clear which Yachtmaster exam we are talking about. Leaving things like the Yachtmaster Instructor and Examiner Qualifications aside there are no less than 8 separate RYA certificates that are called “Yachtmaster”. This includes the 3 independently examined levels of Yachtmaster Certificate of Competence, (coastal, offshore and ocean).

RYA MCA Coastal Skipper & Yachtmaster Offshore Shorebased Course

( Yachtmaster Offshore Shorebased for short). This is a 6 day course which includes three written papers. It is assumed knowledge for all of the certificates that follow, so we will assume for the purposes of this article that you have already completed this course.

Yachtmaster Coastal Certificate of Competence (power or sail)

This certificate follows the successful completion of a practical exam which is discussed in this article. The exam can be taken on board a sailing yacht or motor boat, (and the qualification is endorsed for the relative type of craft). The Yachtmaster Coastal CoC certifies skippers to operate  up-to 20 miles from a safe haven on board commercial vessels up-to 24m, carrying up-to 12 passengers. It can also be used as an entry requirement for super yacht Officer Training ( OOW 3000 ).

Yachtmaster Offshore Certificate of Competence (power or sail)

A higher level practical exam, also discussed in this article. This certifies skippers to operate up-to 150 miles from a safe haven on board commercial vessels up-to 2000 tonnes, (again with up-to 12 passengers). It can also be used as an entry requirement for super yacht officer training and is a requirement to progress onto Yachtmaster Ocean CoC (below) and/or  MCA Master 200 .

RYA MCA Yachtmaster Ocean Shorebased Certificate

aka Ocean Shorebased . This is a 5 day (or 40 hour online) course which includes one written paper. It is assumed knowledge for the oral exam that follows and beyond the scope of this article. You can read all about the Ocean Yachtmaster Course and Exam here .

Yachtmaster Ocean Certificate of Competence (power or sail)

An even higher level certificate that qualifies the holder to skipper beyond the 150 mile from a safe haven limit of the Yachtmaster Offshore CoC. The Yachtmaster Ocean exam is an oral exam and one of its pre requisites is the Yachtmaster Offshore CoC (above).The Yachtmaster Ocean Exam is beyond the scope of this article, but by popular request we have written a separate article about it,   MCA Yachtmaster Ocean Certificate of Competence .

RYA MCA Yachtmaster Coastal and Offshore Certificate of Competence Practical Exam

Getting back on topic this article specifically relates to the two practical exams (Coastal and Offshore), each can be taken onboard a sailing yacht or motor boat.

The exam for the Yachtmaster Coastal CoC and the Yachtmaster Offshore CoC is very similar and in fact different candidates can be examined together even if they are not taking the same level.

Exams are conducted with 1-4 candidates on board the vessel.

You can take the Yachtmaster exam on a sailing yacht or motorboat, and you will become a Sail or Power Yachtmaster as appropriate. This article covers sail and power exams as much of the advice is generic.

The RYA/MCA Yachtmaster qualification is the global standard for sailing and motor boating. The definition of a Yachtmaster Coastal/Offshore is: ‘A yachtsman or woman competent to skipper a cruising yacht on any passage that can be completed without the use of astro navigation.’

The RYA/MCA Yachtmaster Certificate of Competence remains the logical target of many a self-motivated sailor. It also represents the icing on the cake for those looking for the reassurance of an external assessment.

How long is the Yachtmaster Exam?

There can be up to 4 candidates on the boat with the examiner. A examiner will not conduct more than 4 exams at once and will not plan to examine more than 2 candidates in a 24 hour period. He/she will need to see each candidate skipper the boat underway by night.

Yachtmaster Coastal Exam Duration

  • 1 Candidate – 6 to 10 hours
  • More than one candidate  – 4 to 8 hours each

Yachtmaster Offshore Exam Duration

  • 1 Candidate – 8 to 12 hours
  • More than one candidate  – 5 to 9 hours each

For many candidates this means there will be a pause mid-exam while they and the examiner get some sleep before restarting in the morning. It is not unknown for exams to span two nights if there are 4 candidates (for example Friday evening 1800- Sunday morning 1100)

Listed below are some top tips to help you prepare for your RYA/MCA Yachtmaster exam.

Prepare early for your yachtmaster exam.

Most candidates spend some time with an Instructor, whether this is a 5-day preparation course with a sea school or some bespoke tuition on board their own boat. A half decent Yachtmaster Instructor will take you through many of the exercises that an Examiner will expect you to demonstrate and will put you in the mind-set of an exam candidate.

On the day  of the exam make sure you are ready in good time so that you aren’t involved in a last-minute faff. If you’re relaxing in the cockpit with a cup of tea when the examiner arrives, the examiner will be more impressed than if you’ve put yourself under stress attempting to work out the day’s tidal heights or secondary ports last minute!

When given a navigation task, prepare fully, make notes, prepare pilotage sketches and plan well! Nip below every so often en route to keep an eye on what’s going on in the chart department and whizz back on deck pronto to carry on skippering the boat. Don’t panic and don’t spend all your time sat behind the chart table, taking no notice of what’s going on around you, this is an obvious sign of someone who is ill prepared for the passage they are skippering.


The very first part of the exam will be paperwork. Before the examiner can proceed he/she will;

  • Ask for your completed exam application form, be sure it is completed in advance and details your qualifying sea time.
  • Ask for payment, (the examiner can not proceed if you do not pay up front)
  • Ask for sight of your Short Range Certificate , (or a pass form if you have recently taken the course and exam and are awaiting the actual certificate). Higher level GMDSS certificates are acceptable.
  • Request a passport photo of you (write your name on the back).
  • Chat with you about your yachting background and qualifying sea time
  • Outline what he/she expect from you over the coming day(s).

If you are applying for a commercial endorsement at the same time you will also require as a minimum;

  • PPR Certificate
  • Sea Survival Certificate
  • Seafarers Medical Certificate
  • Commercial endorsement form and payment

You will also need to hold an in date  First Aid Certificate .


First impressions count! Make yourself presentable and ensure you’re looking professional. That’s you and the boat!

Make sure the yacht is clean, tidy and seamanlike. The waterline crisp, sail covers looking ship shape, ropes coiled neatly and carefully stowed and fenders aligned. An experienced skipper once told me, you should know your boat so well that you should be able to find anything you need at any moment in time, including at night during power failure! A tidy boat is a sure sign of a safe boat.



Repetition, repetition, repetition. There is no point in having sailed (or motored) thousands and thousands of nautical miles if you can’t carry out Day Skipper tasks. If you can not confidently demonstrate all boat handling or seamanship skills, such as picking up a mooring buoy or putting a reef in, then you’re not ready for the exam yet!

There is nothing worse than entering or leaving a marina, wondering if you’re going to hit something. Brief your crew, make sure everyone knows what they are doing, and proceed with confidence. If the boat slides smoothly out of her berth with crew briefed and knowing what’s expected you will look good. Your calm manner, and a sensible amount of revs for power handling will immediately put the examiner’s mind at ease and give no reason for concern. If Plan A fails, take a breath, and start over. The examiner understands that mistakes can be made under exam conditions, he/she will be more impressed if you stop, recompose yourself and get the manoeuvre right, rather than continue to try and complete a bodged first attempt. There is no such things as a perfect exam, every candidate will make small mistakes, the stronger candidates will spot them, themselves and do something about them.

Without a doubt, you will be quizzed on COLREGS . There’s no reason for a candidate, not to have these regulations engrained into their brain. A good way of ensuring you have these nailed, is to study ‘A Seaman’s Guide to the Rule of the Road.’


There is no need to learn the collision regulation parrot fashion but you should have a working knowledge of every rule and you should be able to;

  • Identify any vessel at night by lights
  • Describe the day shape for any vessel
  • Describe the fog signal for any vessel
  • Explain any rule
  • Apply the collision regulations practically through the exam
  • Explain what actions you would take in fog if you have detected another vessel by radar alone.

Candidates who forget a particular rule such as “ what does a vessel constrained by night display at night? ” MAY still pass if they know the rest of the rules and are otherwise strong, however a candidate who fails to apply the rules correctly when he/she is skippering will fail. If a large vessel sounds 5 horns at you during your exam you are going to have to work very hard to recover! Do not put yourself in a position where this might occur.


Be ready, know your subject.

You can be quizzed on anything within the RYA Yachtmaster Offshore Shorebased Course,  you will also be expected to put the navigation, IRPCS, passage planning and forecast skills from this course into practice. If you don’t have this knowledge then you are waisting your exam fee as you will fail. You will also be tested on a basic understanding of Radar and Diesel engines . I am a strong believer that all Yachtmaster candidates as well as having passed the Yachtmaster Offshore Shorebased course should also have attended the following courses before taking their practical exam as you can be tested on any and all of these areas.

  • RYA Short Range Certificate , it is likely you will each be quizzed on VHF procedures, distress alerting, the mayday call or other calls during the exam. You may also need to make a routine call to a marina or harbour during the exam.
  • RYA Sea Survival . The safety brief that you deliver will include lots of content from this course, (i.e flares, EPIRB, life raft and life jackets), you can expect to be questioned on more detail on these and other areas.
  • RYA Diesel . Typically candidates will be examined on engine checks and they will also be given a part of the engine to talk about or a common problem to solve, for example, “ Can you talk me through how you would bleed the full system on this engine ,” or “ Show me the components of the cooling system and explain which part of it may need servicing at sea if the system has run dry for a brief period’ “
  • RYA Radar.  If the vessel is fitted with a radar you will be tested on its basic set up and use. You should be able to fix position by radar, find a spot on the chart by radar and identify when a risk of collision exists by radar. If there is not a radar set on board, any of this can be tested theoretically. All candidates should be tested on radar and motor candidate tend to be pushed a little further on this area, (while they escape the sailing part of the assessment).
  • RYA First Aid . While you are required to hold a First Aid Certificate, Yachtmaster examiners will not test First Aid beyond the treatment for hypothermia, the effects of cold shock, calling for medical assistance and discussing evacuation by helicopter.


One of the key things an examiner is looking for, is to see how good the candidates are at taking charge. This is more than just a sailing (or motoring) exam it is a skippering exam. Can you manage your boat? Can you manage your crew? Clear, decisive and safe briefings followed by ongoing directions to the crew are required.

Good leadership and seamanship alike, do not involve barking orders, it is about being in control in a calm, effective and efficient manner while showing you can skipper (lead). Demonstrate your organisational and methodical thinking.

Play to your strengths. There is no definitive way to be a skipper, so don’t change your tried and tested methods to try and impress. Stick with what you know and carry them out smoothly and confidently. Don’t rush and panic. “Go slow like a pro.”


It is almost a, “dead cert,” that each candidate will be asked to demonstrate a MOB drill at some point during the exam. This is typically done using a fender or similar attached to a small weight, (never a real person). There is a myth that Yachtmaster Examiners expect the drill to be carried out by the “RYA method,” and this is true, what is not true however is the various myths of what constitutes the RYA method!

Yachtmaster Exam – Man Overboard RYA Method

Your examiner will expect you to a take charge, not to loose sight of the MOB (fender), to get back to it safely without endangering other crew and to get the boat stopped alongside the casualty with the casualty somewhere safe (i.e near the leeward shroud on a sail boat and not too close to the props on a motor exam), ready for pick up back on board.

Man Overboard Exam Tips

If you are training with other candidates agree a method that works for all of you. When you are the skipper under assessment you want your crew to react and know what is expected of them. If each candidate on the same boat opts for a different MOB method it can lead to confusion.

Along the way you should simulate/say everything relevant to the casualties survival (mention throwing the MOB gear overboard, appoint a spotter, press the MOB function on the GPS, tell the examiner you would assign a crew members to issue a distress alert and Mayday call).

Man Overboard Exam Tips (for sail candidates)

In addition to the tick list in the above paragraph, use the engine! The exact drill of how you reach/tack, slow down, speed up etc. will vary from candidate to candidate and boat to boat. The important thing is that the method you opt to use works and is safe. I advise against gybing during your MOB drill in medium and stronger winds.

A sail candidate who opts to approach the casualty from upwind (where the mainsail will be filled as you sail or motor downwind) would be demonstrating a gross misunderstanding of how to control speed and how to stop a sailing yacht.

Man Overboard Exam Tips (for power candidates)

In addition to the tick list two paragraphs above be mindful of the rest of the crew. If at high speed when the MOB occurs, don’t turn suddenly, instead slow the boat down and ensure crew know if you intend to make a sharp turn. We don’t want  a crew ember (or the examiner) to fall over or worse overboard! On many boats in light and moderate conditions you can turn the boat and follow your wake to return to the MOB, in rougher sea states this might not work. There are basically three steps.

  • Dont loose the MOB’s position
  • Get back to the MOB
  • Get alongside the MOB for pick up, without running him over

On many motor boats having got the boat back to the vicinity of the MOB, it pays to orientate yourself beam onto the wind and upwind of the MOB and allow the vessel to be blown sideways towards the MOB, this protects him/her from the risk of the bow and engine and is often referred to as the drift down method. As with sailing there are lost of variations on this method and what is important is the method that you use is safe and that it works.


It is likely that you will be asked to either sail onto or sail off a swinging mooring (mooring bouy), an anchor or a pontoon. Make sure you are comfortable and competent at all before your exam. By way of example I will focus here on the mooring buoy. In non tidal waters the boat will lie on the mooring head to wind so the approach will be on a close reach under mainsail. In tidal waters certain combination of wind against tide may dictate an approach under headsail on a different point of sail.

The examiner will expect to see you;

  • Brief the crew on how the manoeuvre will be performed
  • Helm throughout the manoeuvre
  • Prepare the boat for the manoeuvre (using the crew)
  • Select the correct direction and angle of approach
  • Select the correct sail combination for this approach
  • Control the boat speed on the approach bringing the boat to a stop in a controlled manner
  • Picking up and secure to the mooring bouy safely

If at any point the manoeuvre is not working the examiner will expect you to make the decision to bail-out and to have an escape plan in mind. Remember it will be your call to bail out not his.


During the exam you will have to demonstrate some boat handling under power. This may be a natural part of a passage you are skippering (i.e. at the start and end of the passage) or may be a specific boat handling session. Most candidates will demonstrate they can moor up, depart a berth and turn the boat in a confined space. You may be asked to demonstrate more than one berth so the examiner can see how you respond to different states of wind and tide. Some times an examiner will be specific (for example ask you to berth starboard side to, stern first on pontoon XYZ), other times he will leave some of the decision making to you and simply say berth on pontoon ABC. In the second  example he will expect to see you make a sensible decision as to whether to moor bow or stern first and from where to approach. If you are asked to repeat a manoeuvre performed by another candidate do not make the mistake of blindly copying the last candidate, take a minute to consider if they did it well or if an alternative approach would work better. Every boat manouvers differently but there are some givens for close quarter handling;

  • Slow is Pro!
  • Approaching down forces i.e. down tide (or down wind if no tide) is poor seamanship if you have the option not to
  • Using excessive engine revs in confined space demonstrates a lack of experience and control
  • Turning against prop walk should be avoided if possible.
  • Using wind, tide, pivot points, momentum and prop walk to assist you will all make your manoeuvring easier and, “score you points” in the examiner’s mind.

If the manoeuvre is not working, bailing out safely is far better than perceiving trying to a make the best of a bad job. I can assure you that if you are half way through a manoeuvre and suddenly realise you have selected the wrong approach the examiner has spotted this several minutes earlier. He/she will be quietly hoping you opt to rectify the error rather than compounding it by continuing. Don’t disappoint him by continuing an approach that is clearly too fast or not going to work.

Just like the sailing manoeuvres described above you need to helm the boat through these manoeuvres, brief the crew and perform the manoeuvre well. You should not rely on crew jumping ashore with lines to stop the boat, you as helm should stop the boat so that crew can step ashore safely. If a spring line is appropriate to depart a berth then use it, but don’t over complicate things. It is quite embarrassing when a candidate opts to “spring off” a “wind off” berth when they could have simply just let the lines go. If manoeuvring in close quarters still phases you then you are not ready for the Yachtmaster exam and need some more boat handling practice first.


There are many more components to the exam (pilotage, blind pilotage, voyage planning etc.) and the above is just a taster. If I have not scared you off yet, you have your own boat and require bespoke training (power or sail) I can be contacted through this site.

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  • RYA Yachtmaster

What is an RYA Yachtmaster?

The RYA Yachtmaster® 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. Unlike other qualifications in the cruising programme, there is no formal training course to become an RYA Yachtmaster. Instead, provided you have sufficient experience, certification and seatime, you can put yourself forward for an exam to test your skills and knowledge. There are a number of RYA navigation courses that will help you prepare for your exam. Many RYA Yachtmaster candidates also choose to book themselves into an RYA training centre for some specialised exam preparation training, but this is not compulsory.

You are capable of coastal passages

You are competent to undertake passages up to 150 miles offshore

You have the knowledge and experience to sail worldwide

  • Arranging your exam

The Coastal and Offshore exams are practical tests afloat, and the Ocean is an oral exam. Find out more about qualifying passages, exam fees and how to book. 

With an RYA Yachtmaster Coastal, Offshore or Ocean Certificate of Competence you can start a career at sea.

You'll need to have the appropriate qualification for the vessel and area of operation.

If you want to work commercially, you'll need a commercial endorsement.

Find out more about other RYA professional qualifications.

  • Getting the most from a Yachtmaster Fast Track course

Can you really become an RYA Yachtmaster in as little as 14 weeks? Check out our top tips for getting the most from a Yachtmaster Fast Track course...

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Yachtmaster Past Papers

  • Thread starter plumrock
  • Start date 22 Dec 2015
  • 22 Dec 2015

Hi, I can see this topic has been broached a few times before... I've been hunting all over the web for a series of Yachtmaster past papers . Does anyone have a handy link - or even better - a batch of pdf's. Thanks, Pip Thornton - (North Cornwall)  

Well-known member

Active member.

Suspect You run into RYA copyright challenges I suspect, though I trust we are talking about YM Theory papers? However, you can buy the mock charts and question book from RYA  

  • 23 Dec 2015


prv said: It's a practical exam http://www.rya.org.uk/coursestraining/exams/Pages/howtopassyourexam.aspx Pete Click to expand...



I've always understood that there's the shore based Yachtmaster theory course, which ends in a written examination and the Yachtmaster practical examination which is conducted afloat by a RYA appointed examiner. No matter what the Croatian authorities may or may not accept, it is the paractical examination which leads to the Yachtmaster qualification not simply passing the theory exam. There was a thread recently started by someone complaining that the RYA wouldn't give him an ICC on the strength of his theory certificate: it was pointed out that this was because whilst he had demonstrated his ability to sit in a classroom and regurgitate knowledge, he hadn't shown anyone he could actually handle a boat at sea.  

At the end of the Theory courses (DS, YM(Coastal and Offshore) you finish up with a course completion certificate, not a certificate of competence  

Its amazing what a simple question stirs up... I think it is obvious to ALL - that the YM Theory course doesn't make you a Yachtmaster... OF COURSE there is a practical element. I was just asking for some Past Papers to help self study for the theory prior to sitting an exam at a recognized ctr (to enable commercial accreditation). The RYA have been running courses for decades - so there will be loads of interesting questions lying around. In the RYA's typically 'stuffy' approach to learning (our way or no way) they don't make them available. I've just helped my sons through 'A' Level Maths... with loads of practice (past) papers EASILY available.  

RichardS said: It's the same qualification that the Croatians accept as equivalent to ICC (as discussed on the other thread) Click to expand...


RichardS said: I'm not sure why you say that. I've a certificate which says "RYA Yachtmaster" and I didn't have to go anywhere near a boat to pass that examination, just spend 100 hours sitting in a classroom and doing homework questions. Click to expand...
Gladys said: At the end of the Theory courses (DS, YM(Coastal and Offshore) you finish up with a course completion certificate, not a certificate of competence Click to expand...


plumrock said: you don't say... Just seems strange that the RYA don't have a supply of past papers (must have years and years of them). Would greatly help with self study for the theory ... Click to expand...
  • 24 Dec 2015



Rogershaw said: Our examining agency have 4 different exam papers that they randomly select so will not allow you to keep then otherwise they will have to keep on setting new exam papers which means work !!! Could RYA operate in a similar way hence no past papers available Click to expand...
NickRobinson said: 5/6/8+ years ago now but my RYA DS and then YM Coastal exams ended with the instructor/invigilator collecting in the papers and declining a request by one student to keep it, so yes. Click to expand...


RichardS said: One gets you a certificate as Yactmaster (Theory) and the other gets you a certificate as Yachtmaster (Practical), although neither of them specifically say this on the certificate. The Theory was far more valuable for me as I could have easily obtained a Day Skipper, Yachtmaster or ICC based on my practical experience. However, I could never have passed the Yachtmaster Theory as that required a much deeper level of knowledge of so many nautical subjects. However, this is merely re-hashing the previous thread where I listed the Yachtmaster areas of knowledge. Richard Click to expand...
RichardS said: I'm not sure why you say that. I've a certificate which says "RYA Yachtmaster" and I didn't have to go anywhere near a boat to pass that examination, just spend 100 hours sitting in a classroom and doing homework questions. It's the same qualification that the Croatians accept as equivalent to ICC (as discussed on the other thread) Having a boat certainly helped though! Richard PS I don't think I've any of the papers but I'll look later. In the meantime the attached might be helpful https://www.dropbox.com/sh/nt1h29mji9gxgbm/AABjzUaRH0rR6gZVyautfWNfa?dl=0 I wrote the three spreadsheets during the course of my Yachtmaster to help me understand the theory and have something potentially useful. The ColRegs chart was written by another Forumite. Click to expand...
  • 25 Dec 2015

YM Theory is three assessment papers now, Chartwork, General and Col Regs. The reason the papers aren't available is that questions are recycled between the years. It took a couple of years to sort out the 2007-15 papers, the syllabus changes from Jan 1, as DS changed last year to introduce more use of electronics - I believe (I haven't taught the latest syllabus yet) that candidates are able to use the new RYA Plotter to do their chart work, although they still have to answer certain questions in pencil on the chart.  

Blue Sunray

Blue Sunray

  • 26 Dec 2015

IMHO not been able to review the exam papers both question and answer after marking prevents the you from determining what you did wrong in the answers that were marked wrong. I have always found this very usefull as I tend to remember the answers I failed on than the ones I got correct. There was a question asking to describe the isolated danger buoy which I got wrong, but will never forget now.  

Elecglitch said: Thank you those look useful. Nice to see someone helping out rather than point scoring. Click to expand...

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RYA Online Courses

Rya yachtmaster online course.

yachtmaster theory exam

£ 315.00


The RYA Yachtmaster online theory course is an advanced  course that builds on the knowledge gained on the shorebased Day Skipper course. The course is aimed at sailors and motor boaters who are looking to undertake more complex passages, perhaps offshore or at night. This course is a must for those looking to work towards taking the RYA Coastal Skipper or Yachtmaster Offshore practical exams.

The RYA Online Yachtmaster course costs £315.00 and includes the RYA Course pack which contains: 2 Full size Training charts, a Training Almanac and Shorbased notes that will act as an Aide-mémoire throught the online course

***NEW***  When you purchase this course you will also gain full access to our new Online  Diesel Engine  course.

The Yachtmaster online course is an intensive programme covering advanced navigation techniques. It includes position fixing, course shaping and plotting, tidal knowledge, secondary port calculations, navigation in restricted visibility, Admiralty publications and electronic position finding equipment.

The meteorology tuition within the course includes the taking and interpretation of forecasts, plotting of weather systems and weather prediction. Students are shown how to use this information when planning and executing passage plans. The International Regulations for Prevention of Collision at Sea are dealt with in detail and you will also learn more about yacht stability and safety offshore.

Students will need to have a valid RYA Day Skipper theory certificate or equivalent and have thoroughly revised the Collision Regulations before taking the course.


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The animated lessons are not matched in any other Yachtmaster online course. They are designed to make learning interesting and questions easy.

Assessment methods within the courses ensure student training is  E valuated,  V alidated and  R ecorded.

The majority of Yachtmaster Online courses are mainly narrated videos and slideshows and to be honest, you may as well buy a book.

Our Yachtmaster online courses are fully animated lessons with an optional voice over so you get the best of everything.

Click here for a  Free Trial

You will receive RYA Certification on satisfactory completion of the course.

The RYA Yachtmaster online course is provided by Navathome, a RYA Recognised Training Centre specialising in online training, and includes: a course pack consisting of training charts, exercises pack, Yachtmaster shorebased booklet,  and your certificate, which is normally priced at £40.00. Plus, a Training Almanac normally priced at £7.49 (Day Skipper/Yachtmaster).

By clicking a payment button you are agreeing to Navathome’s terms and conditions available  here .

To Purchase your course just click your preferred payment method below.

The RYA Online Yachtmaster course normally costs £315


  • position fixing
  • course shaping and plotting
  • tidal knowledge
  • use of almanacs and admiralty publications
  • electronic position finding equipment
  • taking and interpreting forecasts
  • plotting weather systems
  • weather predictions using a barometer and by observation
  • collision regulations
  • customs and excise regulations for cruising abroad

There is a six-month initial access period to the online theory course. In the unlikely event that you will need an extension, there is an option to extend as many times as you like until you pass your assessment. The cost of administrating each 6-month extension, beyond the initial 6 months, is £30.

Yachtmaster online course exam instructor

This is an advanced course in navigation and meteorology for candidates for the Coastal Skipper and Yachtmaster Offshore Certificate.

This course will take your theory knowledge to the standard required for the Yachtmaster™ Coastal and Yachtmaster™ Offshore practical exams, concentrating on advanced navigation and meteorology skills.

As with the Day Skipper shorebased course, the RYA’s specially designed chart plotter software will be used during the course to give you a realistic taste of modern electronic navigation.

Those who have not acquired the knowledge set out in the Day Skipper course are unlikely to be able to assimilate all the subjects covered in this advanced course.

1. Position

  • Dead reckoning and estimated position
  • Satellite-derived position
  • Use of waypoints to fix position
  • Radar fixes
  • Techniques of visual fixing
  • Fixes using a mixture of position lines
  • Relative accuracy of different methods of position fixing
  • Area of uncertainty

2. The magnetic compass

  • Allowance for variation
  • Change of variation with time and position
  • Causes of deviation
  • Swing for deviation (but not correction)
  • Allowance for deviation
  • Different types of compass
  • Causes of tide – Springs and Neaps
  • Tide tables – sources
  • Tidal levels and datum
  • Standard and secondary ports
  • Tide anomalies (Solent, etc.)

4. Tidal Streams

  • Sources of tidal information
  • Tidal stream information in sailing directions and Yachtsmen’s Almanacs
  • Allowance for tidal streams in computing a course to steer
  • Tide rips, overfalls and races
  • Tidal observation buoys, beacons etc.
  • IALA system buoyage in Region A
  • Limitations of buoys as navigational aids
  • Characteristics
  • Ranges – visual, luminous and nominal
  • Rising and dipping distances
  • Light lists

7. Pilotage

  • Harbour regulations and control signals
  • Methods of pre-planning
  • Clearing lines
  • Use of soundings
  • Transits and leading lines

8. GPS and chart plotters

  • Principles of operation and limitations of use
  • Raster and vector charts
  • Importance of confirmation of position by an independent source and keeping a separate record of position
  • Importance of paper charts

9. Echo sounders

10. logs (speed and distance measuring).

  • Principles of operation limitations of use

11. Deck log

  • Importance of log as yacht’s official document
  • Layout of log, hourly and occasional entries

12. Meteorology

  • Basic terms, the Beaufort scale b. Air masses c. Cloud types d. Weather patterns associated with pressure and frontal systems e. Sources of weather forecasts f. Ability to interpret a shipping forecast, weatherfax and weather satellite information g. Land and sea breezes h. Sea fog i. Use of barometer as a forecasting aid

13. Rules of the Road

  • A sound knowledge of the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, except Annexes 1 and 3

14. Safety at Sea

  • Personal safety, use of lifejackets, safety harnesses and lifelines
  • Fire prevention and fire fighting
  • Distress signals
  • Coastguard and Boat Safety Scheme
  • Preparation for heavy weather
  • Liferafts and helicopter rescue
  • Understanding of capabilities of vessel and basic knowledge of stability

15. Navigation in restricted visibility

  • Precautions to be taken in fog
  • Limitations to safe navigation imposed by fog
  • Navigation in poor visibility

16. Passage planning

  • Preparation of charts and notebook for route planning and making, and use at sea
  • Customs regulations as they apply to yachts
  • Routine for navigating in coastal waters
  • Strategy for course laying
  • Use of waypoints and routes
  • Use of weather forecast information for passage planning strategy
  • Sources of local and national regulations

yachtmaster theory exam

Packs will be delivered for free to destinations within most of the mainland United Kingdom.

We cannot deliver to a PO Box address. A physical address will be required in all circumstances.

A valid contact telephone number for the student will also need to be provided at the time of making the booking.

Packs to Russia must go to a Business address.

Sailtrain will not accept responsibility for Packs sent to Marinas, or C/O addresses. If the pack goes missing after it has been signed for, replacement packs will only be provided at the students expense.

Details of any special delivery requirements should be provided in the notes section of your Booking form.

The shipment of packs to the following countries not shown above will incur the below indicated additional charge:

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  1. Tips and hints for passing your Yachtmaster theory

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    Prepare the boat for the manoeuvre (using the crew) Select the correct direction and angle of approach. Select the correct sail combination for this approach. Control the boat speed on the approach bringing the boat to a stop in a controlled manner. Picking up and secure to the mooring bouy safely.

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