Learning to Sail: Day Skipper Course
Ahoy there! My name’s Rebecca and I work in the Marketing Department at MedSailors HQ. 👋🏻
Last month, I was lucky enough to join Rock Sailing School for 9 days as a student on their Day Skipper Express course in Gibraltar. For those of you that haven’t heard of a Day Skipper course before, it’s basically the lowest qualification needed to hire a yacht, and provides a basic overview of everything you need to know before sailing a big boat*.
Having sailed with MedSailors on the Croatia Discovery and Greece Saronic route, I was already fairly familiar with yachts before starting the course but what I wasn’t aware of was just how much there is to know about moving a boat from A – B!
For the first half of the course, we spend four days on land, going through the RYA Day Skipper theory syllabus. It quickly became apparent that there is A LOT to learn when it comes to sailing on the seven seas! Did you know that there are two Norths? Magnetic and True? Yeah, me neither… Mind blown!
During the four theory days, we learnt how the moon affects tides, why trigonometry was so important at school (you need to use it for working out your course to steer, AKA which direction to steer the boat in to get to where you want to go when taking into account the effects of the tide), to remembering what to do in the event of a May Day. It turns out there is a huge amount to learn about sailing (and that’s not even the half of it)!
After four full-on days in the classroom, and two exam papers later, it was time to put our new found knowledge to good use and start the Practical part of the course (Phew!).
The following day, we met Skipper Amy, our Instructor for the week. Coincidentally, Amy is also a MedSailors Skipper and was sponsored through The Yacht Academy’s “Train to Work” scheme in 2016 at Rock Sailing School. There, she spent three months training to become a Yachtmaster Offshore Skipper, the qualification needed to become a professional Skipper, before spending five months working in the Med for MedSailors (not bad, hey?).
After quick introductions, Amy gave my Crewmates and I a safety briefing of Bombay, our boat for the week. By mid-morning we were ready to take our yacht our for a spin but having mainly sailed dinghy boats myself, it took some getting used to steering a much larger vessel but it wasn’t long before I felt quite at home behind the wheel.
One of my favourite parts of the week (aside from the sailing of course), was getting to see… DOLPHINS! I couldn’t quite believe how many there were in the Gibraltar Straights and they would often swim right alongside the bow of the boat too!
Being based in Gibraltar for the start of the week, I also got onto see my fair share of monkey’s too. The Barbary macaques live up on The Rock which was only a short walk from the marina where Bombay Sapphire was moored. Beware, they’re rather audacious animals and they’re not afraid to steal your snacks (I saw an ape snatch a bag of Haribos off a couple of tourists which was highly amusing)!
The rest of the course consisted of practising our sailing skills which involved lots of tacking and gybing (turning the boat through and behind the wind), anchoring, man overboard drills, as well as plenty of mooring practice too, which is a whole lot harder than it looks!
A huge plus for completing the course at Rock Sailing School in Gibraltar is that you’ll sail along the coast of Spain during the Practical part of the course, and if you’re as lucky as I was, to Spanish Morocco too! For a big foodie, enjoying Spanish tapas meals during the course was the icing on the cake to an unforgettable week.
All in all, it was a brilliant week. Thank you Skipper Amy and Rock Sailing School, it’s a week I won’t forget, and who knows, maybe one day I’ll be back to complete my Yachtmaster Offshore Qualification to become a MedSailors Skipper!
*If you’ve sailed with MedSailors before, don’t panic – all of our Skippers are Yachtmaster qualified Skippers, meaning that they’ve done 3 months of training to become skilled sailors, unlike me that only trained for 9 days.
If you would like to get into sailing, but don’t know where to start, take a look at The Yacht Academy where you can train to work as a Yachtmaster Offshore Skipper, and after successful competition of the scheme, become a MedSailors Skipper!