RYA Sailing Syllabus

Youth beginners’ courses

The Youth Scheme is usually completed in small dinghies suitable for your size. These will be any or all of:

  • Oppies – an eight-foot dinghy with an amazing manoeuvrability for its size
  • Toppers – 12 feet long – the standard dinghy for teaching larger youngsters and teenagers
  • Coypu – Double-hander, 12 ft dinghy. Safe, stable and great fun!
  • Hartley 12 – also a double hander dinghy, newly introduced, designed for sailing schools, can carry a spinnaker.

To make the most of our courses, you need to ensure you are confident with the skills of one course before moving on to the next. Most courses are a minimum of two days long (or an equivalent number of short sessions). They may be run over a longer period, especially if you haven’t sailed since your last course. All qualifications are assessed on ability, not on attendance. Sailing is a sport which gets better with practice, and you should try to sail between courses whenever you can. Practice makes perfect!

Stage 1
Stage 2
Stage 3
Stage 4
A basic understanding of how a boat sailing, with some experience of steering and handling the boat
A range of sailing skills and knowledge to help in becoming a confident sailor
Rigging, launching and sailing in any direction. Equivalent to Level 2 in the National Sailing Scheme
Sail a double handed boat as crew or helm, and solve a variety of problems afloat. (optional if Stage 3 was taken in a double hander
Assumed knowledge
None Stage 1, unless you are doing a combined Stage 1 and 2 course. Basic knowledge and steering ability Up to and including the Stage 2 course Up to and including Stage 3
Minimum duration
2 days 2 days 2 days 2 days
Minimum age
We can take  children only over the age of 8 We can take  children only over the age of 8 We can take  children only over the age of 8 We can take  children only over the age of 8
Course content
Launching and recovery, steering, parts of the boat, basic sailing Basic sailing skills, ropework, collision avoidance Rigging, launching and recovery, sailing techniques, capsize recovery, sailing theory Rigging, launching and recovery, sailing techniques and manoeuvres in crewed boats, recovering a man overboard
Ability after course
Able to steer and understand basic principles Able to tack and control boat speed, and understand basic principles Able to launch and sail a dinghy around a triangle in moderate conditions Can launch and return to a beach, jetty or mooring, and sail a crewed dinghy around a triangle in moderate conditions

Adult beginners’ courses

The scheme is comprised of a series of two-day courses enabling you to progress quickly from beginner to experts in a controlled, safe and enjoyable environment. Each course can be taken in a dinghy or a small keelboat. We use:

  • Toppers – (as above) for teenagers and lighter adults
  • Topazes – a larger single-handed dinghy well suited for adult beginners
  • Wayfarers – the workhorse of sailing schools for the last 50 years! A 16ft double-hander dinghy you sit in rather than on
  • Norfolk Oyster – 18ft heavy dinghy/small keelboat, takes six when sailing – very useful for introductory sessions.

As for the Youth courses (above), all the qualifications depend on ability, so you do usually need to get some practice after completing one Level before moving to the next.

Level 1
Level 2
Level 3
Introducing you sailing with all you need to know to get afloat under supervision
Setting out the foundations of sailing for you
Consolidating skills and trying new ones 
Assumed knowledge
None Sailing skills to the standard of Level 1 Sailing skills to the standard of Level 2
Minimum duration
2 days 2 days, but is often combined with the Level 1 course into a 4 or 5 day course 2 days or equivalent
Minimum age
16 16 16
Course content
How to sail in all directions, including an awareness of launching and recovering Rigging, launching, sailing in all directions. Capsize recovery and essential safety knowledge Coaching of level 1 and 2 skills and taster sessions from the advanced modules
Ability after course
Able to sail in light winds under supervision Able to sail and make decisions in good conditions More confident in sailing skills and techniques, and ready to progress onto the advanced modules