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Family sailing holidays are great fun, and not just for the privileged few any more. Anyone can pick up boating skills, from dinghy basics to yachting and windsurfing, at training centres and beach clubs worldwide. Learning together is an amazing experience, kids as young as eight earn valuable qualifications, and find a passion for sailing which – as any keen sailor will tell you – lasts for life.

The Royal Yachting Association (RYA) has 1,600 training centres in the UK alone, as well as RYA-qualified instructors teaching worldwide. RYA-recognised centres and beach clubs are everywhere from the Canary Islands to Croatia: basically if the conditions are right for sailing, there could be an RYA-recognised training centre on hand to show you the ropes.

But, incredible as learning is on holiday, honing new skills and building up experiences on home territory is just as rewarding. From two-day beginner yachting to week long Day Skipper certification, you’ll find perfect courses to suit every ambition and level of experience.

Ready to set sail? Have a look at the range of RYA training courses available all over the UK right now, and decide which one is right for your family.

Yachts RYA training courses

1/6 Yachting

Learning yachting skills is an incredible holiday experience for families. Kids as young as eight are more than ready to pick up the basics, and as far as locations go: you’ll find RYA recognised training centres from the Mediterranean to the Caribbean. Or you could try a European flotilla holiday, for sociable and fun skill building in the company of other first time sailing families.

Whether you’re bitten by the boating bug on holiday and want to continue learning at home, or keen to get started straight away, RYA have yachting courses all over the UK for beginners and more experienced sailors.

RYA Start Yachting

  • What you learn: yacht steering; sail handling; ropework; basic on-board safety.
  • Who’s it for: beginners and anyone from age eight.
  • Course length: two days.
  • Qualification: RYA Start Yachting Certificate
  • What’s next: RYA Competent Crew course in just three days, or over two weekends.

Find out more about RYA Start Yachting and your nearest RYA training centre

Woman steering a ship RYA training courses

Photo credit: Sail Ionian

Family sailing RYA training courses

photo credit: Learn 2 Sail

RYA Competent Crew

  • What you learn: steering and sail handling; keeping lookout; dinghy rowing; day to day on-board routine.
  • Who’s it for: anyone from age 12.
  • Course length: five days.
  • End of course achievement: you’re a useful crew member, not just a passenger.
  • Qualification: RYA Competent Crew Certificate
  • What’s next: RYA Day Skipper course: learning to take charge of a yacht.

Find out more about RYA Competent Crew and your nearest RYA training centre

RYA Day Skipper Practical for Sail Cruising

  • What you learn: all aspects of skippering including, sail trim; stern-to mooring; pilotage; passage planning; anchoring and safety management on board.
  • Who’s it for: anyone from age 16 upwards with a minimum of five days, 100 miles and four night hours on board a sailing yacht. RYA Competent Crew Certificate also recommended.
  • Course length: five days for motor yacht; five days for sail yacht.
  • End of course achievement: you’re able to take charge of a yacht, and its crew. This course also allows you to apply for an ICC (International Certificate of Competence) which some holiday companies request in order for you to charter a yacht abroad.
  • Qualification: RYA Day Skipper Certificate.

Find out more about RYA Day Skipper and your nearest RYA training centre

Sailing boat RYA training courses


Motor yacht family RYA training courses

2/6 Motor Cruising

Getting to grips with the fundamentals of crewing on a motor yacht is a great introduction to sailing for younger kids, fantastic for boosting confidence, and an excellent way to start building the type of team skills that last a lifetime.

RYA Motor Cruising courses start kids from age eight with the basics of seamanship, and progress right through to valuable Day Skipper qualifications for young sailors of 16 and over.

RYA Start Motor Cruising

  • What you learn: seamanship; personal safety; dealing with emergencies; coming alongside; picking up a mooring; boat handling.
  • Who’s it for: beginners and anyone from age eight.
  • Course length: two days you’re a useful crew member and able to assist at the helm.
  • End of course achievement: you’re a useful crew member and able to assist at the helm.
  • Qualification: RYA Start Motor Cruising Certificate
  • What’s next: RYA Helmsman course: learning to manoeuvre a motor cruiser in sheltered waters.

Find out more about RYA Start Motor Cruising and your nearest RYA training centre

Family kids steering boat RYA training courses
boy steering boat with woman RYA training courses

RYA Helmsman

  • What you learn: how to steer and handle a boat; engine checks and safety.
  • Who’s it for: anyone from age 12.
  • Course length: two days.
  • End of course achievement: you’re able to manoeuvre a motorboat around a marina, handle it in sheltered waters, and moor safely.
  • Qualification: RYA Helmsman Certificate
  • What’s next: RYA Day Skipper course: learning to take charge of a motorboat and its crew.

Find out more about RYA Helmsman and your nearest RYA training centre

RYA Day Skipper Practical for Motor Cruising

  • What you learn: all aspects of motorboat skippering including, stern-to mooring; pilotage; passage planning; anchoring and safety management on board.
  • Who’s it for: anyone from age 16 with a minimum of five days, 100 miles and four night hours on board a sailing yacht. RYA Day Skipper Theory Certificate also recommended.
  • Course length: four days.
  • End of course achievement: with both the RYA Day Skipper Theory and Practical Certificate you’re able to skipper a short passage, accompanied by an RYA instructor. So you have the experience of being in charge of a motorboat, its crew, and the travel itinerary.
  • Qualification: RYA Day Skipper Practical Certificate.

Find out more about RYA Day Skipper for Motor Cruising and your nearest RYA training centre

Yacht near coast RYA training courses


Family powerboating RYA training courses

3/6 Powerboating

RIBs and sports boats are fast, easy to handle and fun for family days out cruising round the UK’s incredible coastline and discovering secret spots where only boats can go. They’re also a good introduction to boating for both kids and adults.

Powerboating gives over 12s the experience of helming a powerboat during the two-day RYA Level 2 Powerboating course.

RYA Level 1 Start Powerboating

  • What you learn: how to prep a boat and crew; how to handle a boat; picking up and securing to a mooring buoy; leaving; coming alongside; towing.
  • Who’s it for: beginners and anyone from age eight.
  • Course length: one day.
  • End of course achievement: you’re a useful crew member and able to assist at the helm
  • Qualification: RYA Level 1 Start Powerboating Certificate
  • What’s next: RYA Powerboat Handling Level 2: the basis of an International Certificate of Competence.

Find out more about RYA Level 1. Start Powerboating and your nearest RYA training centre

Boy fishing RYA training courses

photo credit: Mylor Sailing and Powerboat School

Boat in the sea RYA training courses

RYA Powerboat Handling Level 2

  • What you learn: all the skills necessary to competently drive a powerboat without supervision.
  • Who’s it for: beginners and anyone from age 12.
  • Course length: two days.
  • End of course achievement: you have a thorough grounding in boat handling and can take control of a powerboat in a familiar area.
  • Qualification: RYA Powerboat Handling Level 2 Certificate

Find out more about RYA Powerboat Handling Level 2 and your nearest RYA training centre



Girl dinghy sailing RYA training courses

photo credit: Minorca Sailing

4/6 Dinghy Sailing

Holiday companies worldwide now offer RYA recognised dinghy courses, and they’re a fantastic first taste of boating for kids. No experience is necessary, centres supply everything from boats to safety equipment, and fully qualified RYA instructors get young sailors off to the best start. Plus, families can take lessons together, pick up basic dinghy skills quickly, and spend precious holiday time really sailing, instead of just learning the ropes.

Getting to grips with dinghy sailing is great fun on holiday, and just as easy to do at any RYA training centre in the UK. Level 1 courses are ideal for beginners of any age, and kids also have the option of learning with the RYA Youth Sailing Scheme.

RYA Dinghy Level 1

  • What you learn: how to sail a dinghy in all directions; awareness of launching and recovery.
  • Who’s it for: beginners and anyone of all ages.
  • Course length: two days or 16 hours, delivered over a number of sessions.
  • End of course achievement: you’re able to sail a dinghy in light winds, with supervision.
  • Qualification: RYA Dinghy Level 1 or RYA Youth Stage 1 Certificate.
  • What’s next: RYA Dinghy Level 2 or Stage 2.

Find out more about RYA Dinghy Level 1. and your nearest RYA training centre

Woman and child sailing RYA training courses

photo credit: Minorca Sailing



 Boy windsurfing RYA training courses

photo credit: RYA

5/6 Windsurfing

Learning to windsurf gives kids a real sense of achievement, and it’s fun to do on holiday in locations around the world.. Companies like Minorca Sailing, Mark Warner, Ocean Elements, and Neilson are RYA recognised, and offer fantastic windsurfing courses from Greece to the Balearics during spring and summer: it’s amazing how much easier it is to start windsurfing when the sun’s up.

If you want to pick up some windsurfing basics before your holiday, or continue honing your new found skills once you’re back home, RYA have training centres all over the UK providing tuition for beginners, and windsurfing is also covered in the RYA Youth Sailing Scheme.

RYA Start Windsurfing

  • What you learn: windsurfing basics, enabling you to sail in light winds, and how to use equipment correctly.
  • Who’s it for: beginners
  • Course length: eight to 10 hours afloat
  • End of course achievement: you’re able to sail to and return from a given point, in light winds.
  • Qualification: RYA Start Windsurfing Certificate or RYA Youth Stage 1.
  • What’s next: RYA Intermediate (planing) RYA Intermediate (non-planing, RYA Advanced, or RYA Youth Scheme).

Find out more about RYA Start Windsurfing and your nearest RYA training centre

Boy smiling windsurfing RYA training courses

photo credit: Neilson



Family river cruise boat RYA training courses

6/6 Narrowboat or river cruiser sailing

Easy-going freedom and a sense of complete escapism are just a couple of reasons families love cruising the inland waterways. Along with the fact that many of the UK and Europe’s inland waterways are idyllically lovely. Start as you mean to go on and learn the sailing basics together too. Then just pick your stretch of peaceful water and make your own family adventure.

RYA Inland Waterways Crew

  • What you learn: personal safety; on-board communication; throwing a mooring line; basic boat handling; lock operation; look-out skills; emergency skills; environmental awareness.
  • Who’s it for: beginners and anyone from age eight.
  • Course length: one day
  • End of course achievement: helping out on a boat on the inland waterways.
  • Qualification: RYA Inland Waterways Crew Certificate.
  • What’s next: RYA Inland Waterways Helmsman course

Find out more about RYA Inland Waterways and your nearest RYA training centre

River boat RYA training courses
River barge RYA training courses

RYA Inland Waterways Helmsman

  • What you learn: safety; locks and tunnels skills; avoiding collisions; basic engine maintenance.
  • Who’s it for: beginners from age 12.
  • Course length: two day
  • End of course achievement: you’re able to helm a boat or cruiser safely on inland waterways.
  • Qualification: RYA Inland Waterways Helmsman Certificate.

Find out more about RYA Inland Waterways Helmsman and your nearest RYA training centre


Boating is so much more than a sport, it’s a way of life, and the earlier kids begin learning the better. Find your nearest RYA boating course and get the best start on courses designed with kids and families in mind.

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