A Typical RYA Course Week

Exploring a Week on an RYA Course: Insights from an Instructor 

Are you curious about what a week on a Royal Yachting Association course at Sail Ionian entails? 

Every week is different, and tailored to the weather and students’ needs, but here is a general outline of what to expect. 

Day 1 – Sunday 

We suggest arriving at our base in Vliho, Lefkada around 2pm or 3pm on the first day, but we can adjust our schedule to accommodate the various arrival times of our students. We do understand that some flights may come later. We will arrange taxi transfers from the local airport (Preveza) for you. 

When you arrive, you will meet the Chief Instructor at the café beside Sail Ionian for introductions and a relaxed discussion about the course structure. We will find out everyone’s background in sailing and expectations for the week ahead. This first gathering sets the social tone for the week ahead.  

With a mix of RYA Competent Crew and RYA Day Skipper students, there is a diverse range of experience levels on board, which creates a supportive learning environment. Moving to the yacht, we handle practical matters like assigning cabins and ensuring everyone feels comfortable in their home for the week, part of the course is learning to live aboard and share a small space, so this settling in period is important. Safety is paramount, so we conduct a thorough safety briefing and familiarize students with the yacht’s equipment, a session lasting about 45 minutes to an hour. 

We will outline potential plans for the week, discussing destinations and getting to know one another better. Although the official start of the course is on Monday morning, our Sunday activities serve as valuable preparation and bonding time. 

As evening approaches, students have the option to dine at one of the local tavernas or take a taxi to Nidri, or to a local beach. With an early night ahead, everyone can rest up for the adventures awaiting them. The yacht will remain at our base on Sunday night, and students have accommodation on board. 

Bavaria 41 Plan B Sail Ionian

Instructor Kitty teaching on PLAN B

Day 2 – Monday 

We begin the day in Vliho Bay by going through our morning checklist and preparing the boat for sea. After casting off for the first time, we will stay in the large bay near the base for the morning which gives us plenty of space to focus on power handling without too many distractions. We start with easy conditions to help build confidence among the students, allowing everyone to practice maneuvering the boat in different situations, without worrying about competing for docking space. 

After a stop for lunch, we will discuss passage planning in depth, while students may have learned about it in their Day Skipper theory course, putting it into practice is essential. Each day of the course a Day Skipper student is usually tasked with drawing up a passage plan to a bay or nearby harbour. They are then responsible for acting as skipper of the yacht for the planned passage. The students must draw on everything they have learnt to date, to organise the crew, and get the boat safely and proficiently to the destination. Once we arrive, the skipper is debriefed, and the planning responsibility is passed to the next student. This hands-on approach allows students to take charge of their learning and gain practical experience in navigation and planning. 

Competent Crew students are taught along the way by the instructor, with a hands-on approach, getting involved in all aspects of sailing the yacht. 

On any given passage, the sails are hoisted and sailing drills are conducted, including practice with Man Over Board (MOB) procedures.  

After securing the boat in the final destination harbor for the evening, individual feedback is provided to each student, highlighting areas for improvement, and offering guidance for their development. Then, the next student is assigned the task of planning our passage to a bay for the next day, ensuring everyone can contribute to our journey. 

With the day’s activities completed, we head ashore for a well-deserved dinner, ready to relax and recharge for the adventures ahead. 


Day 3 – Tuesday 

During a typical RYA course, the entire crew falls into a routine. We wake up early to prepare the boat for the day ahead. One of the skippers leads the passage plan, and we set off from the harbor towards a bay for lunch. 

As we sail, we engage in drills to practice different maneuvers. When we anchor for lunch and a swim, we conduct a reefing session while the boat faces the wind, allowing everyone to see without worrying about the boat’s direction. After lunch, we continue training by practicing sailing triangular courses, focusing on different points of sail, and refining our sail trim. 

Once we reach our next harbor and secure the boat, we head ashore to a taverna. Throughout the day we will fit in sessions on weather, buoyage, and tidal information are covered, supplying valuable insights and knowledge to the crew.  


Day 4 – Wednesday 

After breakfast, the crew prepares the boat for the day’s activities. Typically, we stay locally in the harbor for a substantial power handling session, covering mooring buoys, stern-to, and side-to maneuvers. Each crew member can practice multiple times, gradually increasing the difficulty with scenarios like strong crosswinds and close-quarter maneuvering. Competent Crew students are drilled with rope handling and assisting with setting up the boat and helping to moor. 

At this, the halfway point of the course, we will spend a little time reviewing logbooks and discussing emergency scenarios such as engine failure, helicopter rescue, prop wraps, and steering failure. This discussion ensures that everyone is well-prepared to handle unexpected situations. 

In the evening, we embark on a 4-hour night sail, beginning as soon as it gets dark.  Night sailing may be a new experience for some novice students, leading to a mix of nerves and excitement. We return to the harbor in the early hours of the morning, secure the boat, and head to bed for a well-deserved rest. 

Instructor Rachel teaching on CALYPSO

Day 5 – Thursday 

A slightly later start after last nights sailing. With the end of the course in sight, activities are tailored to address individual needs. Students take on more responsibilities, proving newfound skills with confidence. Surprise MOB drills keep everyone sharp, enhancing situational awareness and teamwork. 

Competent Crew students are by now familiar with most day-to-day drills and are starting to pick up helming skills, understand how to deal with other marine traffic, and are getting to grips with things like weather and buoyage. Over lunch they are set lose in the inflatable dinghy to learn how to row, usually a great fun break! 

The rota of passage planning continues through the week, with each Day Skipper student taking their turn to organise crew, plan the navigation, and skipper the yacht. 

Every evening we stop at a different harbour ensuring students see the local sailing area. We typically stop on some of the following islands: Lefkada, Meganisi, Kefalonia, Ithaca, Kastos & Kalamos. 


Day 6 – Friday 

On the final day of the course, the crew should be capable of managing the yacht on their own. We take the time to address any remaining concerns and conclude the course. The day is spent ironing out any last problems, and making sure everyone is confident and happy after the week. There will be time to address any last concerns any of the students have.

Upon returning to Vliho on Friday afternoon, we secure the boat and meet for our final debrief at the café and to distribute certificates. After that, you are on your own as a crew! Providing at least one of the Day Skipper candidates on your boat has passed and the conditions are safe, the Instructor will leave, and you have an additional day to practice and build confidence in your skills, giving you a taste of what it’s like to charter on your own for the future. 

It’s a fantastic way to get a taste of what a bareboat charter is really like – ready for next time.  And if you’d like to read about what your first bareboat charter is like with Sail Ionian, then check out my blog post on Why The Ionian which includes information on our complimentary route planning service, stern-to mooring clinic and all the other assistance that we know first timers may need!

Interested in experiencing a typical RYA course? Check out our full range of courses on the website here or for any questions, email us: info@sailionian.com.

We offer RYA courses every week from April to October, providing an optimal learning environment in the Ionian.

Updated by Fiona & Hannah 7th March 2024

This post was written by admin