RYA Day Skipper theory

(25 customer reviews)


The RYA Day Skipper theory course is a great entry point to the RYA theory syllabus. It’s a comprehensive introduction to navigation and cruising for new skippers providing the necessary tools to ensure you put out to sea safely.


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  • DS Student Course Pack

RYA Day Skipper Theory Evening Class or Online (choose when booking)

Evening classes are run over 6 weeks at Guildford County School. Classes run over 6 Tuesday evenings (6pm – 10pm) and 1 weekend.

Online courses are taken at your own pace with full support from a qualified RYA instructor. Ideal for those constrained with time or who want to study in the comfort of their own home.

The course provides a solid foundation in boat safety, charts and navigation techniques including integrated navigation using both paper and electronic chart plotter (GPS) tools. Whilst building on the Essential Navigation course, many people start with the RYA Day Skipper Theory Course. You will develop skills to enable you to navigate safely in familiar waters during the day whilst being introduced to the factors to consider when making a passage at night. You’ll learn how to plan and prepare for a day on the water including understanding weather forecasts (meteorology) and passage and pilotage planning. You’ll also cover topics such as coastal navigation, tidal considerations and chart plotting techniques such as course to steer. The course also covers safety equipment including the correct distress procedures and, importantly, the ‘rules of the road’. For the full syllabus, click here. This is a great way to build on your existing knowledge or to get you started in the world of safe seamanship and navigation. On successful completion of the course, you’ll be awarded the RYA Day Skipper Theory certificate.

Our RYA shorebased classes are run from the fabulous facilities at Guildford County School. Learning in a group classroom environment is fun and offers a way to make new sailing friends as well as pick up tips’n’tricks from like-minded people.

It’s a relaxed environment and you’ll have plenty of time to ask the instructor questions.

There’s plenty of free parking on site.

  • When are the next classroom course dates?

    Late Spring 2020

    Tuesday 24th & 31st March, Tuesday 21st & 28th April, 5th & 12th May, Saturday 16th & Sunday 17th May.

    Autumn 2020

    Tuesday 13th & 20th October, Tuesday 3rd, 10th & 17th & 24th November. Saturday 29th & Sunday 30th November.

  • What's in the course syllabus?

    RYA Day Skipper Theory Syllabus

    The Day Skipper / Watch Leader Shorebased Course provides a comprehensive introduction to chartwork, navigation, meteorology and the basics of seamanship.

    This course is ideal for those who have completed Competent Crew course and are looking to improve their skills and learning how to start making skippering decisions. The theory know-how gained from this course is the expected level of knowledge for those looking to go on and do Day Skipper Practical.

    The course covers the following:

    1. Nautical terms

    • Parts of a boat and hull
    • General nautical terminology

    2. Ropework

    • Knowledge of the properties of synthetic ropes in common use
    • Common Knots including, Clove Hitch, Reef Know, Round turn and 2 half hitches, Bowline, Figure of Eight, Rolling Hitch and Sheetbend

    3. Anchorwork

    • Characteristics of different types of anchor
    • Considerations to be taken into account when anchoring

    4. Safety

    • Knowledge of the safety equipment to be carried, its stowage and use (see RYA Boat Safety Handbook, G103)
    • Fire precautions and firefighting
    • Use of personal safety equipment, harnesses and lifejackets.
    • Ability to send a distress signal by VHF radiotelephone.
    • Basic knowledge of rescue procedures including helicopter rescue

    5. International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea

    • Steering and sailing rules (5,7,8,9,10 and 12-19)
    • General rules (all other rules)

    6. Definition of position, course and speed

    • Latitude and longitude
    • Knowledge of standard navigational terms
    • True bearings and courses
    • The knot

    7. Navigational charts and publications

    • Information shown on charts, chart symbols and representation of direction and distance
    • Navigational publications in common use
    • Chart correction

    8. Navigational drawing instruments

    • Use of parallel rulers, dividers and proprietary plotting instruments

    9. Compass

    • Application of variation
    • Awareness of deviation and its causes
    • Use of hand-bearing compass

    10. Chartwork

    • Dead reckoning and estimated position including an awareness of leeway
    • Techniques of visual fixing
    • Satellite-derived positions
    • Use of waypoints to fix a position
    • Course to steer

    11. Tides and tidal streams

    • Tidal definitions, levels and datum
    • Tide tables
    • Use of Admiralty method of determining the tidal height at standard port and awareness of corrections for secondary ports
    • Use of tidal diamonds and tidal stream atlases for chartwork

    12. Visual aids to navigation

    • Lighthouses and beacons, light characteristics

    13. Meteorology

    • Sources of broadcast meteorological information
    • Knowledge of terms used in shipping forecasts, including the Beaufort scale, and their significance to small craft
    • Basic knowledge of highs, lows and fronts

    14. Passage planning

    • Preparation of navigational plan for short coastal passages. Meteorological considerations in planning short coastal passages
    • Use of waypoints on passage.
    • Importance of confirmation of position by an independent source
    • Keeping a navigational

    15. Navigation in restricted visibility

    • Precautions to be taken in, and limitations imposed by fog

    16. Pilotage

    • Use of transits, leading lines and clearing lines
    • IALA system of buoyage for Region A
    • Use of sailing directions
    • Pilotage plans and harbour entry

    17. Marine environment

    • Responsibility for avoiding pollution and protecting the marine environment

  • What time does it start?

    Evening classes

    Our evening classes are normally scheduled to start at 1800hrs. They run until 2200hrs as this enables us to deliver the pre-requisite hours and complete the course syllabus. If there are any changes to this you will be advised in the joining instructions (sent via email) for your specific course.

    Weekend days

    The weekend day-sessions are 8 hours and normally start at 0900hrs. Your instructor or course joining instructions will advise you if this is different however, no classroom based course starts before 0900hrs.

  • What happens if I miss a week?

    We understand that people lead busy lives and have other commitments. Missing one session isn't usually a problem, unless it's the first session. Missing more than one session is not ideal.

    We do provide online materials for revision which can normally be used to catchup should you miss a week.

  • Is there homework?

    As part of the leaning experience, you will be expected to do homework between the classes. This is all done online where the ability to check your answers and get additional support is provided as part of the course.

  • 25 reviews for RYA Day Skipper theory

    1. Anonymous (verified owner)

      Excellent teaching, great format and really learnt a lot – thanks Marcus!

    2. Miles Woodgate (verified owner)

    3. Rupert Holloway (verified owner)

    4. ross (verified owner)

      Course delivered with enthusiasm and knowledge

    5. Toby jenkins (verified owner)

      Good clear instruction.

    6. Damian Whyte (verified owner)

      Well written,succinct….essential reading

    7. Rachel (verified owner)

    8. paulayton

      Thank you Marcus for an excellent course and for being so Patient. This is an excellent course well organised and fun with 6 evenings from 6pm to 10pm and 1 weekend finishing bit before 4pm Sat and Sunday. – great instruction making it all very practical and fun – learnt a lot and good to do it in a group as everyone helps each other. Looking forward to putting it all into practice on the practical course with Marcus, good venue – hot drinks and chocolate biscuits very welcome every time
      thanks again

    9. simon_gearing

      Marcus is an excellent teacher and the course was perfectly balanced with technical information and instruction, as well as being fun and most importantly practical, which left me feeling confident and wanting to learn more and sail as soon as possible. I will miss the Tuesday night lessons. Thank you Marcus!

    10. Nick Dale (verified owner)

      Marcus is an engaging trainer and uses his obvious copious knowledge to make the course both valuable and accessible. I personally valued the classroom setting together with the online access to module material. Thanks, Marcus,

    11. colin.mcbride (verified owner)

      As a complete newbie to sailing it felt like being thrown it at the deep end with so much information to learn but Marcus made it very enjoyable. I’m looking forward to continuing my sailing journey with Marcus as I know I am in safe hands…

    12. Dave Crapnell (verified owner)

      Thoroughly enjoyed the Day Skipper Course and will miss my Tuesday evenings listening to Marcus. He has a very engaging teaching approach which makes the course both informative and fun. Thanks Marcus…now on to the practical

    13. henry (verified owner)

      The course was paced well to enable ( a newbie) me to absorb the knowledge. Engagingly delivered to help us learn. Most importantly, it really gave all of us on the course the confidence to get out there and sail. I would recommend it to anyone at any level.

    14. Jane Hayden (verified owner)

      Thank you Marcus for making the day skipper course so enjoyable. Your enthusiasm and patience made for a very informative and fun course and I have left with not only a Certificate but with a wealth of knowledge and added confidence. I would highly recommend Polka Sailing.

    15. Ross (verified owner)

      Really good enthusiastic teaching approach by Marcus – now signing up to do Day Skipper Practical with Polka Sailing

    16. Rachel (verified owner)

      Marcus made the course really interesting, hitting a great balance between giving easy to understand explanations, whilst providing useful context to some quite complicated subject areas. Not having had any real sailing experience before starting the course, I was a little daunted, but soon felt at ease and found the whole course thoroughly enjoyable- thank you Marcus!

    17. jmckinnon_inuk (verified owner)

      Marcus, thank you so much for the very informative, interesting and entertaining course! I have learned so much and really appreciate your patience and your thorough and easy to follow technique. I feel so confident with all this new knowledge and I am now excited about the sailing practical course! Thanks again and ahoy!

    18. Sian Quiney (verified owner)

      Great course . Evenings flew by with Marcus’s enthusiasm. Clear teaching & homework.
      Excellent compact format to cover 40 hours of course work .
      Many thanks

    19. Oliver Borders (verified owner)

      I’ve just finished doing day skipper with Marcus over the weekend. I had been tempted to do the course online but I’m glad I didn’t. It was much better having Marcus there to explain the theory and discuss how things have worked for him with his previous experiences. I’d definitely recommend doing this course and I will be looking to do the practical with Polka in the new year.

    20. David Plender

      Having just completed my Day Skipper Theory with Polka Sailing I would like to say a big thank you to Marcus for the way in which he presented the course. His enthusiasm for sailing and his ” positive your can do this approach” were excellent. Even at the end of a long assessment day his enthusiasm, and passion were unwavering. I thoroughly enjoyed the course and the new skills learnt. I can’t wait to put these into practice and complete the Day Skipper Practical as I left the course motivated to do more. If you want to learn more about sailing from someone who is enthusiastic and loves sailing look no further than Marcus at Polka Sailing

    21. Trevor Barden

      Did the Day Skipper theory course with Marcus last autumn…well structured, well presented and well taught. All very professional but in a fun environment…..and I passed!!

    22. Lizzie T

      I really enjoyed my day skipper course with Marcus. He explained things simply but in enough depth so not to lose those with more experience, using visual aids and class participation to keep everyone awake! It was an intensive course but we were prepped enough to all pass and I found the one-to-one review at the end very beneficial so I won’t forget the bits I got wrong in a hurry. Thanks v much.

    23. Sarah Plender

      Having just completed the RYA Day Skipper Theory course with Polka Sailing having had very little previous sailing experience I can honestly say that our instructor Marcus has the patience of a saint! His genuine passion for sailing and teaching made the lessons fun and has left me eager to put into practice what I have learnt. Thank you Marcus and Polka Sailing

    24. Chloe Davis

      Just completed the day skipper theory course and would highly recommend polka sailing and in particular Marcus. I thoroughly enjoyed the course, Marcus is a great teacher and I learnt so much with a great group of people in a relaxed and comfortable environment, would recommend to all.

    25. David Stubley

      Marcus is a passionate and knowledgeable sailor and his enthusiasm makes classroom learning good fun. Thanks for your patience
      Marcus. The fog has definitely cleared!

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