How to get a yacht skipper licence in the UK?

Gert Svaiko

So, you’re looking to get a yacht skipper licence in the UK. Good for you! The sun, the sea - the unforgettable views… Taking a boat out onto the open waters is undoubtedly one of the best ways to spend your precious leisure time. But first, let’s have a thorough look at what you need to make your dream happen.

In this guide, we will cover everything that you need to know about different yacht licence types, the requirements for getting a licence, and how long it takes to get one. We’ll also cover yacht licence costs. Read on to learn everything you need to know about getting a yacht licence in the UK.

And, if you find yourself sailing your yacht abroad, consider checking out the Wise account from the money services provider Wise. It lets you send and spend in over 40 currencies, converting your pounds using the fair mid-market exchange rate and only adding a small, transparent currency conversion fee.


Table of contents

Yacht licence types in the UK

Whether you’re looking to purchase a yacht, have one already, or will be renting instead, yachts come in many different sizes. And based on the size, you’ll need the correct licence. Another thing to consider is where and how you’ll be sailing. Different licences will give you different permissions for where you can take your vessel.

You can get all the licences we cover for both motor-powered yachts and sailing yachts.

On a side note, you technically don’t need a sailing licence in the UK to take your own yacht out on the water.¹ But for many different reasons that we’ll cover below, you’ll see why getting one is probably the smart thing to do.

If you don’t have any previous experience with sailing, it can be potentially dangerous to yourself, your yacht, and to others with you or in the water around you, if you decide to sail without training. Weather conditions can change rapidly, and only a trained skipper will know how to deal with these situations.

Another thing to consider is insurance. When you sail a yacht without owning a licence, it will likely mean that the insurance policy will not cover any possible accidents.

Day Skipper

If you’re chartering a yacht from a rental company, this is the licence they will often ask for. A Day Skipper licence allows you to command a 30 to 45-foot yacht and sail during the daytime.

The Day Skipper certificate can also be used to work on a commercial craft. However, you’ll need to get your licence commercially endorsed through RYA for that. There are many nuances when it comes to commercial licences, so make sure you fulfil all the requirements based on your specific circumstances.²

Coastal Skipper

The main difference between the Day Skipper and Coastal Skipper qualifications is that the latter lets you skipper a yacht in coastal waters at night and sail alone with a higher level of skill.

Aim for the Coastal Skipper licence if you want to sail independently and take longer voyages.


This is the ultimate licence you can get when it comes to sailing. It’s a well-known and respected qualification around the world. There is no specific curriculum outlined to become a Yachtmaster®, though you can take courses to prepare. RYA lets you take a test once you have enough sailing experience

The Yachtmaster® licence is further broken down into three categories: Coastal, Offshore, and Ocean. Starting from the Coastal licence, a commercial licence will allow you to command small vessels up to 79 feet in length.

YM Coastal

The Yachtmaster® Coastal allows you to skipper a yacht on coastal cruises. However, you can’t undertake longer passages. You can take the exam under sail or motor.⁴

YM Offshore

Yachtmaster® Offshore lets you skipper a cruising yacht up to 150 miles from harbour. Passages can be of any length.⁵

YM Ocean

With the Yachtmaster® Ocean licence you can skipper a yacht on passages of any length in any part of the world.⁶

International Certificate for Operators of Pleasure Craft or the ICC

This is the right licence for you, if you’re looking to either hire a boat abroad or operate your own boat outside the UK.

The ICC is issued by the Royal Yachting Association (RYA). It’s meant to be used overseas when you need to show the local authorities, that you have the necessary qualifications to handle a yacht.

When you visit another country, you’ll also have to comply with their own maritime laws. Visit RYA’s dedicated page to learn more about where you can and can’t sail with the ICC.⁷


Requirements and qualifications for a yacht licence

Let’s have a closer look at yacht licence requirements and any yacht licence qualifications you might need.

License typeMinimum ageTheoretical knowledgeSailing experience
Day Skipper⁸162 exams5 days and 100 miles of sailing, with 4 hours of night sailing
Coastal Skipper⁹18Knowledge at the level of Coastal Skipper/Yachtmaster Theory course15 days with 2 as a skipper. 300 miles of sailing with 8 hours of night sailing
YM Coastal¹⁰18Yachtmaster Theory Course800 miles and 30 days of sailing. Or 400 miles and 20 days if you've completed the Coastal Skipper practical course
YM Offshore¹¹18Yachtmaster Theory CourseAt least 2,500 miles and 50 days of sailing, 5 of those as a skipper. 5 passages over 60 nautical miles, 2 overnight, and 2 as a skipper
YM Ocean¹²18Hold a RYA/MCA Yachtmaster Offshore certificate of Competence

Oral plus written test or Yachtmaster Ocean Theory course

A complex qualifying passage with navigational records that must be narrated to the examiner


The ICC is a bit like an international driving permit.

All you need to do is show the government you have an existing RYA licence, submit your personal documents and they will provide you with the ICC.

The ICC is issued only to UK residents.


Step-by-step guide on how to get a yacht licence in the UK

If you’re getting your first yacht licence, here’s how to go about it:

  1. Make sure you have the necessary experience to enrol in the courses.
  2. Enrol in your chosen school and provide any needed documents.
  3. Complete your theoretical studies and take your exams.
  4. Continue with the practical lessons and complete them.
  5. On successful completion of the course, you’ll be awarded your licence.

How long does it take to get a yacht licence?

This depends on the course you’re taking and how long it takes you to get the necessary experience.

Usually, it will be a few weeks for the Day and Coastal Skipper training, as you’ll be spreading out your sailing days on weekends.

Getting the Yachtmaster licence can take from a few weeks to years. It depends on many factors like your previous experience and what qualifications you want to get.

Popular sailing and maritime training schools in the UK

It’s not easy to pick the best maritime or sailing school to get your yacht licence with so many great options around. Make your choice based on the licence you want to get, the location of the school, and your budget.

Here are a few schools you can consider:

How much does it cost to get a yacht licence in the UK?

Depending on the licence you’re getting and the route you’re taking, you can expect to pay from around 1,000 pounds to nearly 5,000 pounds.

You can also end up paying more than we’ve listed if you opt for 1:1 lessons. Another cost is any additional courses you’ll be taking, which will vary depending on your specific needs. Let’s take a closer look at the average yacht licence costs:

Licence typeFirst Class Sailing costMendez Marine cost¹⁴
Day Skipper licencePractical: £947

Theory in person or hybrid: £360 to £380

Online theory: £265

Practical: £1,025

Theory in person: £355

Online theory: £290

Coastal Skipper licencePractical: between £947 and £987¹⁵

Theory around £360 to £385

Practical: between £947 and £987

Theory: £400

YachtmasterYachtmaster Coastal Prep: £987¹⁷

Yachtmaster Offshore Prep: £987¹⁸

Yachtmaster Ocean Theory: £425

RYA Yachtmaster Theory Refresher: £250

RYA Yachtmaster Ocean Theory: £485

RYA Coastal Skipper Yachtmaster Theory: £400

RYA Ocean Yachtmaster Theory Online: £295

RYA Coastal Skipper / Yachtmaster Theory Online: £290

RYA Yachtmaster™ Sail – Power Exam Prep: £1,500

RYA Yachtmaster™ Power – Exam Prep Course: £1,500

If you need to finance your yacht skipper licence in currency other than the British pound, beware of the currency conversion and transfer costs. This is where Wise can help.

With the Wise account, you can manage your money securely in 40+ currencies. It’s not a bank account but offers many similar features.

You can send and convert money using the fair mid-market exchange rate and you’ll only pay a small currency conversion fee that you can see upfront. When sending money across borders, this could save you a ton.

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Ocean Sports Tuition

This provider offers a fast-track program to get your Yachtmaster licence in 4 weeks.

Fast-track Yachtmaster program: £4,956.²⁰

You’ll also need to cover the exam costs, which range from £180 to £241.²¹

Are there any financing options or scholarships?

We couldn’t find many scholarship options online. But we still found some. UKSA helps you with funding if you’re looking to pursue a career in the maritime industry.

And Trinity House and RYA offer an exciting Yachtmaster Scholarship.

Hopefully, you now have a good overview of the different types of yacht licences in the UK and how to go about getting one. Bon voyage!

Sources used:

  1. Admiral Marine - What qualifications do I need to sail a yacht?
  2. RYA - Day Skipper
  3. RYA - What is an RYA Yachtmaster?
  4. RYA- Yachtmaster Ocean Exam
  5. RYA- Yachtmaster Offshore exam
  6. RYA- Yachtmaster Coastal Exam
  7. RYA - UK ICC issued by RYA | boating abroad
  8. First Class Sailing - FAQs on the RYA Day Skipper Course
  9. First Class Sailing - RYA Coastal Skipper Practical Course
  10. First Class Sailing - RYA Yachtmaster Coastal Course
  11. First Class Sailing - RYA Yachtmaster Offshore Course
  12. First Class Sailing - RYA Yachtmaster Ocean Course
  13. First Class Sailing - Day Skipper Course Price
  14. Mendez Marine - RYA Courses Price List
  15. First Class Sailing - RYA Coastal Skipper Course (Prices & Availability)
  16. First Class Sailing - Coastal Skipper / Yachtmaster Prices
  17. First Class Sailing - RYA Yachtmaster Coastal Course Prices
  18. First Class Sailing - RYA Yachtmaster Offshore Course Prices
  19. First Class Sailing - RYA Yachtmaster Ocean Course Prices
  20. Ocean Sports Tuition - RYA / MCA Yachtmaster Academy
  21. RYA - Exam fees | Pricing for RYA Certificate of Competence exams

Sources last checked on date: 15-Mar-2024

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