RYA sailing course in Falmouth, Cornwall

The Difference Between RYA Day Skipper and Competent Crew

The Difference Between the RYA Day Skipper and Competent Crew Courses, what comes first and if its for you?

If you’re thinking about buying a sailing boat, renting a sailing boat or just improving your boating skills the best way forward is take one of the official Royal Yachting Association (RYA) sailing courses.

Two of the most popular are the RYA Day Skipper and Competent Crew courses. Understanding the differences between these two courses is essential for anyone looking to set sail with confidence.

RYA Competent Crew Course: Laying the Foundation

The RYA Competent Crew course is designed for complete beginners or those with minimal sailing experience. Its primary focus is on familiarizing participants with the basics of sailing and life on board. 

Over the course of five days, students learn the following key skills:

Basic Seamanship: Understanding the fundamentals of sailing, including the parts of the boat, basic navigation, and safety procedures.

  • Sail Handling: Learning how to hoist, lower, and adjust sails efficiently.
  • Rope Work: Mastering knots, hitches, and splicing techniques essential for secure mooring and anchoring.
  • Helming: Gaining experience in steering the boat under sail and power.
  • Safety Practices: Emphasizing personal safety and the safety of others on board, including the use of life jackets, harnesses, and man-overboard procedures.

The Competent Crew course is hands-on and practical, allowing participants to develop confidence and proficiency in a supportive environment. It is ideal for those who wish to become valuable crew members rather than taking on a leadership role immediately.

RYA Sailing Courses in Cornwall

RYA Day Skipper Course: Taking the Helm

The RYA Day Skipper course is the next step for those who have completed the Competent Crew course or have equivalent experience. It is designed for sailors who want to take charge of a yacht in familiar waters during daylight hours. This course combines theoretical knowledge with practical application over a five-day period and covers:

  • Navigation and Chart Work: Developing the ability to plot courses, understand tides, and use electronic navigation aids.
  • Meteorology: Learning how to interpret weather forecasts and understand their implications for sailing.
  • Boat Handling Under Sail and Power: Enhancing skills in manoeuvring the yacht in various conditions, including berthing and anchoring.
  • Skippering Techniques: Understanding the responsibilities of a skipper, including passage planning, crew management, and maintaining a safe watch.
  • Safety and Emergency Procedures: Advanced training in dealing with potential emergencies and ensuring the safety of the vessel and crew.

The Day Skipper course culminates in students taking the helm and making decisions as the skipper, under the supervision of an instructor. This practical experience is crucial for building the confidence needed to command a yacht independently.


Choosing the Right Course

The choice between the Competent Crew and Day Skipper courses depends largely on your experience level and sailing goals:


The Competent Crew course is the perfect starting point for those new to sailing. It provides a solid foundation of skills and knowledge, making participants effective and confident crew members.

Aspiring Skippers: 

For those who already have some sailing experience and wish to take on more responsibility, the Day Skipper course is the logical next step. It equips participants with the skills necessary to safely navigate and manage a yacht.


Whether you are looking to become a reliable crew member or aiming to take command of your own yacht, the RYA offers courses tailored to your needs. The Competent Crew course provides the essential building blocks for beginners, while the Day Skipper course opens the door to independent sailing. Both courses emphasise safety, seamanship, and practical skills, ensuring that you are well-prepared for your maritime adventures.

If you’re interested in taking either a RYA Day Skipper or Competent Crew course and either live locally in Cornwall, or fancy visiting us here in Mylor, Falmouth give us a call to discuss your options.