Getting your Day Skipper practical qualification

Once you have passed your RYA Day Skipper theory examination, why delay in going for your practical? Now is the time to do something positive. We interviewed four London Corinthian Sailing Club Members who share the secrets of their practical courses.

Selina Holtby joined the LCSC in 1989 and was a Day Skipper graduate of the 1991 class. Selina went on to take her Yachtmaster theory in 1995 and spent six months sailing in the Caribbean before returning to London. Selina booked a Day Skipper practical course whilst at the 1997 Boat Show with a Solent based school and passed in May that year.

"Visiting the Boat Show made me very enthusiastic about taking my practical qualifications, but when the time came to travel down to the Solent I was very busy at work and wasn't exactly in a motivated frame of mind. In all honesty I hadn't done much revision and wasn't as focused as I should have been for the five day course.

"Nevertheless, the school and the boat skipper helped me remember most of my theory so that I was able to achieve my goal and pass the course. The high point for me was accepting the challenge of responsibility - it really helped me become aware of how responsible you have to be when skippering a boat. The low point was one of the other students who was not prepared to share or delegate duties and this selfishness became rather tiresome.

"The course cost me a few hundred pounds including a discount and I felt it represented excellent value for money. My only regret was not taking it sooner - ideally with some of my fellow LCSC graduates immediately after the theory course."

James Alsop joined the LCSC in 1993 and is a Day Skipper 1995 theory graduate. James thoroughly enjoyed Antigua Week in 1997 and now sails and races with other LCSC members at offshore events. He is training for the LCSC 2001 Fastnet Team. James booked two linked Sunsail courses - a week in The Canaries during December 1996 and two 'follow up' days in The Solent the following June.

"I really felt like a good, warm, winter holiday and heard about the Sunsail option of a week in The Canaries followed by a two day 'follow-up' course in the Solent. The 'holiday' part cost nearly 700 inclusive, although the flights were dreadful and the travel arrangements very poor. However the 'Oceanis 350' and the skipper were brilliant! There were four students in total and everything was rather laid back and highly enjoyable.

"However the "Solent follow-up" (a further 120 at the time) was a real test, as we had to re-prove all our 'Canaries qualifications' again over a two day period. It was much harder than I had imagined and a personality clash between the skipper and one of the other students caused some friction aboard, which didn't help things much.

"The high point of the course was consolidating all the knowledge I obtained in the theory classes. The low point was the friction aboard the second boat. With hindsight, this method of obtaining my practical qualification was not very efficient, quick or cheap - but I got a really good holiday out of it!"

Stephen Hill joined in 1995 and was also an LCSC Day Skipper theory graduate from that same year. Steve, together with other navigation class friends, was part of the successful 1997 LCSC Fastnet Team (skippered by Viv Cherry from British Steel Challenge fame). Steve has since obtained further qualifications and has become a full time Captain / Skipper working mainly in France. Steve booked a sailing course out of Dartmouth during the summer of 1996.

"I decided to go on the course so I could get more boat handling confidence and my practical qualification. It cost about 275 for the week plus travelling expenses. Our boat was a "First 36" with a Dutch skipper.

"The high point for me was a really good sail from Plymouth back to Dartmouth in a Force 5 to 6 - it was excellent! The low point was a navigation error I made, but you certainly learn from your mistakes.

"I felt the course was really good value for money and I recommend it - but with one reservation. You are there to learn, to 'take orders' and not get too distressed if the skipper shouts at you for forgetting something important. Your life may depend upon remembering that mistake!"

Catriona Gray joined in 1991 and graduated from the first LCSC Day Skipper theory class of that same year. In 1999 she passed her Yachtmaster theory qualification and has won various "Ladies Helm" prizes at offshore events. She is currently training for the LCSC 2001 Fastnet Team. To obtain her Day Skipper practical endorsement she booked a course in Scotland with three other LCSC members during Easter 1992.

"During the LCSC's first evening classes I got together with three other students and looked at the advertisements at the rear of the sailing magazines. I contacted a couple of likely companies and we decided the West Coast of Scotland appealed. The sailing school in Largs welcomed us aboard 'Salad Days', a 'Westerly Konsort 29' that made me feel at home immediately as this was the same type of boat my parents owned at the time!

"The high point of the trip was sailing in one of the most beautiful areas of the British Isles. Up to this point my sailing had been confined mainly to the south coast and Channel crossings. The low point was the time it took to get to Largs - two trains via Glasgow."

"We were very lucky with the weather and all thoroughly enjoyed the five day course and the location. I seem to recall the costs were quite competitive when compared to southern schools. However the extra travelling time, transport costs and vagaries of Scottish weather may put some students off."

Let the LCSC help you!

Don't procrastinate any further. Now is the chance to upgrade your RYA theory qualification with a practical course 'endorsement'.

Speak with Chris Eade, LCSC Manager, for more information on practical courses, sailing schools and locations appropriate for your needs.

Consider making training arrangements with fellow class students or Members - it really helps if you know someone when you go on the practical course.

If you want to go racing or need experience in certain aspects of boat handling, the LCSC organises various 'skill building' weekends each year.

Get yourself additional practical qualifications - skippers need crew with skills! The LCSC organises or can provide advice on VHF, First Aid, Diesel Maintenance and Sea Survival courses.

Remember - use the Club to 'network' and get experience by:

  speaking to the Offshore Group organisers to find out what is going on
  checking the clubhouse notice board and web site regularly for events and 'crew wanted' adverts
  putting a note on the board offering yourself as crew
  committing to an event or opportunity and paying any required deposit as soon as possible to show you are serious and keen

Remember, the Club Manager is here to help you - visit on a Tuesday evening and ask Chris to introduce you to other like-minded Members.

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Copyright © London Corinthian Sailing Club, 15 Mar 2001