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For Sail! Sail training for yachting

11 Sep 2019 by Ted Morley

The wind was blowing a stiff 20+ kts and the rig groaned under tension as the sails propelled us, no engine and no exhaust- just the wind and our determination drove us forward, a test of our seamanship and skill as we worked to master the forces of nature…

Sailing is regarded by some as the true essence of yachting, and many large sailing mega yachts exist today. Many professional sailors today started out as dingy sailors in their youth and worked their up to crewing on super yachts, and ultimately as a mate or Master. But how can a person advance their knowledge if they are looking at working aboard a sailing yacht? Both the USCG and the MCA have pathways for a Sail Endorsement, albeit with different paths to achieve it.

Let’s start with the US system. The USCG Sail or Auxiliary Sail Endorsement starts with the premise that the candidate has sufficient sea time and experience and merely needs to demonstrate the core knowledge. The requirements state a candidate must have documented 180 days of sailing experience for a near coastal Mate or Inland Master to receive the endorsement, and 360 days of sailing experience to add it to a Master’s license. You have the option of testing at the USCG REC or taking an approved course, typically a 4-hour approved course and then testing at the school.   


The MCA path progresses to a Yachtmaster or Master of Yachts up to 200 ton, either power or sail, depending on your experience and training. Many candidates start by taking an approved course. An example of the education path would be the RYA Competent Crew, designed to provide 5 days of training and requires no previous sea time or knowledge. Moving on from there one can attend a Day Skipper or Coastal Skipper which is where the pre-course requirements and sea time experience starts to come into play. Day skipper starts with a minimum of 5 days and 100 miles onboard a sailing yacht with at least 4 hours at night. For Coastal skipper the requirements go up to 15 days, with 2 as skipper, and 300 miles with at least 8 hours at night. These culminate with a Master level certificate that requires 50 days of sea service and up to 3,000 miles, with at least 48 hours at night. This path also requires not only training and testing, but also demonstration of skills in order to receive the certification.


The US and MCA systems differ in the level of experience needed and the amount of training they require. Depending on your citizenship and Flag State, one or both may an answer in how to achieve your dream of making a career at sea under sail. There are other Flag States that offer solutions and certifications, your best bet is to look at the options and find the one that best suites your needs and goals.   


Captain Morley is the Chief Operations Officer at MPT in Ft Lauderdale Fl. He holds several licenses, including a USCG Master Unlimited Tonnage and is an Associate Fellow of the Nautical Institute as well as a Member of the Royal Institute of Navigation in London. For more information, or questions, please email him at or call 1-954-525-1014.