D A Y   S K I P P E R   &    Y A C H T M A S T E R ®  T H E O R Y

Day Skipper, Coastal Skipper and Yachtmaster ® Theory

Aztec Sailing's On-line Theory covers all the theory that you will need in order to become a fully qualified Yacht Skipper.

In RYA terms, it covers the theory you need for:

Day Skipper

Coastal Skipper

Yachtmaster ® Offshore


What is 'Theory'?

Theory is the stuff that is easier to learn on dry land, quietly and at your own speed, before you start to use the knowledge on a boat.

In RYA terms, it's what you learn on the Shorebased courses.

Theory topics are: Navigation, Tides, Charts, Navigational Aids, Rules of the Road (Collision Regulations) and Weather. For each topic there are facts you have to know, and concepts you need to understand, before you can successfully learn the practical aspects of what you do as a skipper on a boat.

As there is a huge overlap between RYA Day Skipper and Coastal Skipper / Yactmaster ® Shorebased Courses, we have combined the two here. There is a clear indication of what you need to know for Day Skipper: just stick to the ordinary text, all the more advanced material is coloured like this. I suspect that many Day Skipper students will happily stray into the more 'advanced' Yachtmaster theory (because it's interesting, and not very difficult), and they will then have a single source of reference to come back to when they want to prepare for more advanced skippering.

We also offer help as part of the deal. Just contact Bill Johnson via bill.johnson@aztecsailing.co.uk if you find something you don't understand, or if you would like to give me some feedback.

This section does not cover practical application of the theory, or skills that are taught and learned on the practical courses. Sailing and seamanship require practical skills that can only be learned properly once you are on a boat. The best way to learn about ropework, boat handling or how and when to use the different navigational techniques, is to do it for real.


FAQ: Do I need to do a Shorebased Course?

That depends on you.

If you are new to all this, you will find a shorebased course, with an instructor, incredibly useful.

If you know some of the stuff already and feel you can study it on your own, the good news is that shorebased courses are not compulsory in the RYA scheme; the 'exam' you take, and the Course Completion Certificate you get at the end of Day Skipper or Coastal Skipper / Yachtmaster Shorebased Course are of very little importance. The Practical Courses are far more significant in terms of showing that you have reached a basic standard of competence.

(You can get all the way to Yachtmaster ® Offshore - the first actual qualification that most skippers get, if they go for it - and skipper a boat perfectly safely, without any Course Completion Certificates at all.)

What you need is the knowledge, and this will be assessed orally and in a practical setting when and if you take a practical examination, e.g. Yachtmaster ® Offshore. How you obtain the knowledge is up to you.


Other references

I commend all the books that provide greater detail and more definitive and authoritative information. Where possible I have given references to THE authoritative publications that every skipper should own, such as Chart 5011, Symbols and Abbreviations used on Admiralty Charts, and the RYA or IMO publication of the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea.


How to use this site

This site is arranged like a book on theory, with chapters, and sections within the chapter, that can be navigated by clicking the section names at the side of the page.

Diagrams are all placed in the text to help the explanation. If you want, double-click the diagram to open it in its own window.

A Glossary of Terms is provided for each chapter. The first time a new technical term is introduced, it is in bold red. The best explanation of the term is right there in the text, so we don't hyperlink to the Glossary - we do, however, hyperlink from the Glossary back to the fuller explanation in the text. So if you come across a term somewhere else, look it up in the glossary - then if the short Glossary explanation isn't adequate, double click the term to get to where it is explained.

The text in this colour is for everybody; this colour means Coastal Skipper/Yachtmaster Offshore theory. If you have read and understood every chapter relevant to you - ordinary text for Day Skipper and advanced for Coastal/Yachtmaster, then your knowledge ot the theory is adequate for the corresponding Practical course: Day Skipper (Tidal), or Coastal Skipper (Tidal).

As explained before, there is no need to do a theory exam. But if you want to test your knowledge and understanding, use the Questions at the end of each chapter with answers given.


FAQ2: What Does This Cost?

There is no charge for accessing the very comprehensive Theory on this site. However, I do welcome a contribution, as a lot work has gone into it, and I would like to develop it further.

£5 or £10 would be most welcome. The amount you contribute is up to you; bear in mind that a theory course usually costs in excess of £200.

A printable download of each chapter is available for a small charge. Some people will prefer to print the chapters out for reference, and so that they can read it on paper. The total price compares favourably with the equivalent book on yachting theory.

I would ask you, politely, to respect the Copyright of this material.

Good luck & good sailing!