RYA Yachtmaster Theory Syllabus

Read to learn the necessary theory!


Yachmaster Noice Tom Cunliffe YM RYA Yachmaster book1 RYA Rules book Rules book2 Reeds Skipper2

The following subjects are part of the required theory knowldge and will be assessed by the Yachtmaster Examiner. The theory is actually the same for the Coastal Skipper as for the Yachtmaster Offore and well worth knowing.

In a Yachtmaster Prep course, you will be guided through the subjects in order to brush up your knowledge, concentrating on the issues you might need an extra help with.

Having said that, you need to come well prepared and, for instance, you should know all the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea.  Other issues, such as tidal calculations or weather, we will discuss on the course in order to coach you to successfully passing of the theoretical part of the Yachtmaster Exam.

The books

It is highly recommended to have bought, studied and learned the “Rules of the Roads” by means of one of the following books:

RYA International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea
A Seaman’s Guide to the Rule of the Road
Pocket Book of the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea: A Seaman’s Guide

The following book is a good summery with a lot of illustrative pictures, but very little explaining text. It is mainly useful as a brush-up or ground for discussions:

Yachtmaster: Advanced Navigation Theory, Safety and Seamanship

I would strongly suggest you prepare yourself and buy one of the two following books. Tom Cunliffe writes very entertaining and personal, while the book by Alison Noice is more structured and straight forward. They both have the same content and it is more a matter of taste whether you prefer Tom’s personal way of describing things (I do very much so!) or if you are more of a strict “this-is-how-it-goes” type:

–  by Tom Cunliffe: The Complete Yachtmaster: Sailing, Seamanship and Navigation for the Modern Yacht Skipper
– by Alison Noice: Yachtmaster for Sail and Power, The Complete Course for the RYA Coastal and Offshore Yachtmaster Certificate

The following little booklet is a perfect little pocket guide to have onboard:

Reeds Skipper’s Handbook

Sailors interested in Ocean sailing, do not need to look further than to the new book by Tom Cunliffe. It’s a ‘must-have guide’ for anyone planning to sail beyond the horizon.

– The Complete Ocean Skipper by Tom Cunliffe

Please note that all books by Tom Cunliffe can be purchased directly from Tom here, whereby you will receive signed copies.


The Syllabus

1. Position
– Dead reckoning and estimated position
– Satellite-derived position
– Use of waypoints to fix position
– Radar fixes
– Techniques of visual fixing
– Fixes using a mixture of position lines
– Relative accuracy of different methods of position fixing
– Areas of uncertainty2. The magnetic compass
– Allowance for variation
– Change of variation with time and position
– Causes of deviation
– Swing for deviation
– Allowance for deviation
– Different types of compass

3. Tides
– Causes of tides – Springs and Neaps
– Tide tables – sources
– Tidal levels and datum
– Standard and secondary ports
– Tidal anomalies (e.g. Solent)

4. Tidal streams
– Sources of tidal information
– Tidal stream information in sailing directions and Almanacs
– Allowance for tidal streams in computing a course to steer
– Tide rips, overfalls and races
– Tidal observation buoys, beacons etc

5. Buoyage
– IALA system buoyange in Region A
– Limitations of buoys as navigational aids

6. Lights
– Characteristics
– Ranges – visual, luminous and nominal
– Rising and diping distances
– Light lists

7. Pilotage
– Harbour regulations and control signals
– Methods of pre-planning
– Clearing lines
– Use of soundings
– Transits and leading lines

8. GPS and chart plotters
– Principles of poerationand limitations of use
– Raster and vector charts
– Datum
– Importance of confirmation of position by an independent source and keeping a separate record of position
– Importance of paper charts

9. Echo sounders
– Principles of operation and limitations of use10. Logs
– Principles of operation and limitations of use11. Deck log
– Importance of log as yacht’s official document
– Layout of log, hourly and occasional entries

12. Meteorology
– Basic terms, the Beaufort scale
– Air masses
– Cloud types
– Weather patterns associated with pressure and frontal systems
– Sources of weather forecasts
– Ability to interpret a shipping forecast, weatherfax and weather satellite information
– Land and sea breeze
– Sea fog
– Use of a barometer as a forecasting aid

13. Rule of the Road
– A sound knowledge of the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, except Annexes 1 and 3

14. Safety at Sea
– Personal safety, use of lifejackets, safety harnesses and lifelines
– Fire prevention and fire fighting
– Distress signals
– Coastguard and Boat Safety Scheme
– Preparation for heavy weather
– Liferafts and helicopter rescue
– Understanding of capabilities of vessel and basic knowledge of stability

15. Navigation in restricted visibility
– Precautions to be taken in fog
– Limitations to safe navigation imposed by fog
– Navigation strategy in poor visibility

16. Passage planning
– Preparation of charts and notebook for route planning and making, and use at sea
– Customs regulations as they apply to yachts
– Routine for navigating in coastal waters
– Strategy for course laying
– Use of waypoints and routes
– Use of weather forecast information for passage planning strategy
– Sources of local and national regulations

17. Marine Environment
– Responsibility to minimize pollution and protect the marine environment