Junior deckhands working on board the average superyacht are not expected to perform command duties; however, the Royal Yachting Association (RYA) Yachtmaster Offshore Certificate of Competency, which enables the holder to skipper a vessel of up to 200gt, is increasingly cited as a prerequisite for crew starting out in the industry. The RYA has raised concerns about the number of unsuitable Yachtmaster candidates coming from the superyacht sector, who are prematurely rushing through the qualification. In issue 71 we examine the detrimental impact that this may be having on training and on the value of the Yachtmaster ticket in the industry and, here, we bring you a preview of the article.

In order to be eligible to take the RYA Yachtmaster Offshore exam, candidates must have previously accrued a seatime of no less than 50 days and 2,500 nautical miles, including at least five passages of over 60 miles (and acting as skipper for at least two of these passages). To obtain a Yachtmaster Offshore CoC to work on board a commercial vessel subject to the Maritime and Coastguard Agency’s (MCA’s) codes of practice, it is possible to get the qualification commercially endorsed. But with an increasing number of superyacht crew taking the Yachtmaster exam, the RYA has become aware of common issues with candidates from the superyacht sector.

“Captains are becoming dismissive of the qualification and are not advising their crew to prepare for their studies,” explains Linda Revill, principal of Aigua Sea School. “Yachtmaster has sadly become an entry-level qualification in order to gain a position on deck and this is not what the scheme is about. Ultimately, the Yachtmaster CoC is the title for a master of a yacht up to 200gt, which is a huge responsibility and level of command. We often get candidates who walk into our school and when we discuss the prerequisites of experience with them, it is clear they don’t have it; they can’t possibly have skipper experience when they’ve worked on a 50m motoryacht for three years.”

“Yachtmaster has sadly become an entry-level qualification in order to gain a position on deck and this is not what the scheme is about."

The lack of suitable experience is one troubling factor the RYA has highlighted in its observations of superyacht candidates, and the Association feels there is insufficient understanding about what the ticket actually is and that experience is fundamental. “Many crew are being put on the Yachtmaster exam having absolutely no relevant command experience whatsoever,” explains Richard Falk, chief examiner at the RYA. “They have driven a tender and have been on lookout on the bridge, but they have never actually had any command experience. It is not appropriate that a deckhand who has polished their way across the Atlantic uses that seatime towards their Yachtmaster. We are seeing a constant weakness in underpinning navigation and seamanship skills and this stems from the natural aspiration to want to do the next ticket to get more responsibility.”

Captain Massimo Marras of Vulcan 46 agrees that crewmembers incorrectly view the ticket as a way to progress rather than confirmation of a level of competence. “Among young crewmembers with poor or no experience, almost all are dreaming of taking their Yachtmaster in order to quickly climb the ladder, without considering the need for having some good experience first,” he comments. “This is probably the result of [misinformation] from marketing the Yachtmaster as a course and the fact that in the pleasure yacht sector chaos still surrounds licensing.”

Issue 71 of The Crew Report features this article in full, in which the topic is further debated and possible solutions are discussed. Click here to download issue 71.