day skipper

Learn to Sail – Day Skipper Course

So you’ve successfully completed your Competent Crew course and looking to take the next step in your sailing life. It’s time to get certified as a Day Skipper. The requirements for this course are a bit more than the previous course and can be found online at:

Do not worry too much about the amount of hours and miles required, as you probably completed these during the Competent Crew course. Check with your chosen school if you have the necessary requirements. Some schools offer a short course to bring you up to speed and ready for this next course. The name says it all, you will now be put in situations where you take control of a vessel, act as skipper, and your crew (usually fellow students) will follow orders.

This course is broken up into two modules, and time depends on whether you are able to do this full time or part time. Full time is around a week per module, making total time two weeks depending on time off between modules. The first module is shore-based theory, and the second module will be spent aboard a yacht and is a practical module, which will include some tasks based around the theory module.

How much does it cost?

The first thing you will realise is that the difference in cost between the first course and this particular course, is quite a bit. In fact, as you progress and gain further certifications, you will find the price begins to increase steadily. There could also be some hidden costs, so check with your school what is included or not. Check to see if the examination and registration is included in the quoted price. You will also be staying on board the second week, so there will be extra costs to cover additional clothing, sleeping bags and other protective gear. This course will also require you to undergo an eye examination and to complete a VHF radio course. Most schools will include a theory pack which contains dividers, parallel rulers, some charts and basic stationary. These packs have to be handed in at the end of the course.

How long does it take?

As stated above, this is usually a two week course, broken up into one week of theory, which is followed by one week of practical, staying on board a yacht. If you can do this full time, then two weeks is the average time it takes.

Is it physically challenging?

As in all sailing, you will be very active at all times. You will be required to move around a rolling vessel, sometimes wet and cold, and perform certain physical duties. This includes hoisting and reefing of sails, operating the cockpit winches and other basic sailing tasks as designated by your skipper or instructor.

Is it mentally challenging?

The theory module in this course is quite intense. As with all chart work, there are guidelines to follow and no margin of error is permitted. There is quite a bit of maths involved, formulas to learn and structures to follow. Then there’s meteorology, tides, signals, lights and of course, collision regulations. This week ends with the examination which covers all you have learnt and practised through the week. You have to prepare for this exam, as it is quite intense. The practical week is not too mentally challenging, but you will be required to complete some tasks based on the theory.

Our experience:

First we had to complete the required VHF radio license. This is a short course (one day) and covers the operating of such radios, their uses, and emergency procedures such as Mayday broadcasts. This was quite informal and relaxed and was also followed by a test. This course is offered by many sailing schools or there are other organisations who you could contact.

Then onto the actual course. We decided on a different school this time, only because we felt like we needed to sail in a different area. This school also had accommodation facilities which were affordable and we would not have to commute too far while doing our theory module.

We found the theory quite intense and we spent the evenings doing chart work and navigation exercises so that we would be prepared for the examination. In our opinion, you can’t wait till the day before exam expect to be sufficiently prepared. It’s important to not only know the theory, but to understand it completely. Once you understand it, the exercises are actually rewarding and it’s nice to know you have the required skills, should your electronics fail. At the end of the week we completed two examinations due to the fact that we had decided to get certified under RYA as well as our local organisation which is known as SAS (South African Sailing). There were some differences in procedures and exercises but this helped us to gain more knowledge.

For our practical week, we had to prepare the yacht as a team. This included drawing up daily galley duties, shopping lists and stocking the vessel according to a certain budget.

Over the next week, we were all given time as skipper and had to delegate tasks to our crew while completing certain manoeuvres and drills. This is a super rewarding week and was a great time that we both really enjoyed. This covers basic sailing, anchoring, pilotage, navigation and man-overboard drills. It also included use of the radio between the vessel and port authorities, some night sailing and mooring. We also did some lessons which covered basic engine maintenance and battery use.

If you complete this course under RYA, then your instructor is assessing you throughout this week and will provide feedback at the end of the course. As we had also signed up for the SAS certificate, we were graded by a representative who came on board on the last day, asked us to perform certain tasks, and evaluated us.

We chose Atlantic Sailing Academy as our sailing school, which are based in Langebaan, Cape Town. We can highly recommend this school.

We were certified by both RYA and SAS…

And our radio course was hosted by SkipperTrainingSA…

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