Yachtmaster Offshore (Sail) preparation and exam

The RYA / MCA Yachtmaster Offshore Certificate of Competence is an assessment of your theoretical knowledge, seamanship and practical skills. It:

  • may be used commercially (with a sea survival, PPR and an MCA medical) order to work on board a commercial vessel of up to 200gt up to 150 miles from a safe haven
  • is a pre-requisite for the MCA's Officer of the Watch qualification, which enables you to work worldwide on vessels of up to 3000gt.

Course content

Pilotage, boat handling, seamanship and navigation. Use of the equipment on board the yacht, rules of the road and meteorology. For more details on the topics covered in the Yachtmaster exam please see Andy's post.

Note: The Yachtmaster Offshore MCA preparation is very much hands-on course to polish existing skills with little time to teach new sailing skills, or learn navigation or other theoretical subjects. It is therefore recommended that you take the RYA Coastal Skipper / Yachtmaster Theory course prior to your practical course so you can put those skills into practice on the water. If you feel that you need help in these areas have a look at our Yachtmaster Pro module.

You will be spending the complete week on board the yacht.

Pre-course experience

The requirements for the Yachtmaster Offshore are laid down by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA). This is laid down as:

  • 50 days seatime
  • mileage - 2500 nautical miles, of which at least 1250 nm must be in tidal waters
  • passages - five qualifying passages of over 60nm (including two of which you have to be skipper) on a yacht of between 7m and 24m LOA
  • VHF radio operators certificate - GMDSS or RYA / MCA VHF (SRC) certificate (please note that the IYT VHF certificate is no longer accepted)
  • first aid certificate that has been taken within the last 3 years (or 5 years for STCW95) that complies with the MCA guidelines - see here for an up to date list

While the MCA defines the minimum experience for Yachtmaster Offshore in quantitative terms, what is more important is quality of experience in different geographical areas and weather conditions.

Further details on the skills required are available on our RYA Yachtmaster Offshore skills post

Assumed knowledge

The standard for Yachtmaster Offshore is high - which is why the qualification is sought after. You will be asked to demonstrate your skills and competence and take full responsibility for the management of the yacht and crew. The CoC is at a level when you can show you have the knowledge to skipper a yacht on any passage, by day or night, during which the yacht is no more than 150nm from harbour.

While the exam is mainly practical you will need a good knowledge of theory to Yachtmaster Theory standard to successfully pass the exam.

Please remember that the preparation week is designed to polish existing skills so if you are wondering what the standard is please have a look at our page "what is involved with Yachtmaster Offshore".

Ability after course

Skipper a yacht on passages by day and night within 150 nm of a safe haven.

Commercially skipper a yacht (with a commercial endorsement) up to 24m.


All our courses are run by one of our experienced instructors.

Itinerary – Preparation

On the Friday evening you join your Instructor for a welcome drink, before being allocated a passage plan to prepare. You are also asked to familiarise yourself with the boat ready for the next day.

On the Saturday morning you will be asked to give a safety briefing with some guidance from your Instructor. For the rest of you time with us, until the Examiner gets on board, you will be polishing your sailing skills.

If you feel that some of the skills identified on our skills page are new to you then we suggest that you do either a week.

We suggest a course in our classroom if your theory knowledge is not at the standard of Yachtmaster Offshore. Choose from Yachtmaster Theory, or why not do a Yachtmaster Theory refresher class? Another option is our on line Yachtmaster Theory course.

Exam details

The MCA examiner will get on board on the Wednesday and examine you for a couple of days. The duration depends on the number of candidates:

  • 1 candidate - 8 to 10 hours
  • 2 candidates - 10 to 18 hours
  • 3 candidates - 18 to 26 hours (spread over two days)
  • 4 candidates - 20 to 36 hours (spread over two days)


We ask our clients to arrive on Friday. We clean our boats and do any maintenance between 10:00 and 17:00 so if you arrive earlier we will look after your bags for you. At 17:00 we invite you to get on the yachts and meet your Instructor, and at 18:30 we hold a welcome drink in our club house to introduce you to the crew on the other boats, and all our Instructors.
Notes: Because of our location you have the advantage that you normally arrive in our marina within 15 minutes of collecting your bags.

On the Friday we ask you to get off the yacht at 10:00 so we can clean her ready for the next week. If you have a later flight we can look after your bags for you – and why not think of our one day courses:
Diesel Engine ; First Aid ; RADAR ; Sea Survival and VHF (SRC) course

As usual with Club Yachting the following is included

  • four days of teaching PLUS the yacht for the two day Yachtmaster exam;
  • Examiners travel costs (a lot of schools charge extra for this)
  • seven nights accommodation;
  • Tuition from an experienced Instructor – we do not use instructors who have just qualified;
  • Light weight waterproof jacket – just in case of the odd wave;
  • Food and drink on board – breakfast and lunch, evening meals when sailing late and a glass of wine, or a beer after a days sailing;
  • All mooring fees, gas and diesel – no hidden extras;
  • Your own berth – no need to share (unless you want to);
  • Freshly laundered sheets, duvets and 2 pillows and towels per person – no sleeping bags with liners or any need to bring your own (we suggest you may be able to fly with hand luggage only);

Notes: We do not include: RYA exam fees (payable direct to the RYA), your flights (try skyscanner for ideas), travel insurance or evening meals ashore.

Must bring your own

Not surprisingly most people pack to much when going sailing so Andy has put together a great sailing holiday packing list - useful for both RYA courses, flotillas and charters.

You will also need to bring with you the following certificates:

  • First Aid
  • VHF (SRC)

and for the Commercial Endorsement:

  • Medical (ENG1, mL5 or equivalent)
  • PPR
  • Sea Survival

Contact us for further details or if you wish to include the course while you are with us.

Need a practical refresher?

If you feel that some of the skills identified on our skills page are new to you then we suggest that you look at:

Need to refresh your Yachtmaster theory

If you need to get your theory up to the standard of Yachtmaster Offshore there are a number of options:

If you prefer there are also RYA books that are available:

Also available are some great flip cards:

Lastly the all essential navigational equipment:

Dates for the RYA Yachtmaster Offshore preparation and exam