There are several ways you can increase your sailing skills without taking a formal recognised course and being tied to a sylllabus:
- Most skippers on Skippered Charters, smaller Crewed Charters and yacht based Cabin Charters will be happy to let you take part in sailing the yacht and will pass on tips. This however is a bit ad hoc and some skippers are better than others at teaching; after all they are not qualified instructors (usually). They are also not being paid to instruct, so may get weary if you try to turn the cruise in to one long training session.
- Sailing schools will also be happy to arrange tailored tuition, whether you are beginners or old hands looking for a refresher. They are used to providing experience building opportunities as the RYA scheme requires this.
- Many yacht suppliers will supply an instructor, rather than a skipper, with a Bareboat if you ask. The downside is they will often be locals, their teaching experience and instructing qualifications may be limited (or nil), and there may be language issues.
- A number of tour operators offer training that doesn’t lead to a recognised qualification but may be useful none the less. Indeed, depending on your aims and ambitions it may be a better solution. These are sometimes called Pre-Flotilla or Personalised/Tailored courses.
Pre-flotilla courses arose from a desire to sell Flotilla holidays to those that hadn’t sailed before. They are usually slightly cheaper than formal courses as the instructors do not need to be formally qualified, though of course that can put a question mark over the quality of the training you receive. The incentive the operators have to maintain tuition standards is that you will usually be heading off later on one of their yachts, without an instructor!
Though the name suggests the courses are taken before the Flotilla holiday, they are usually run in parallel. The standard course lasts 6 days, usually enough for an instructor to get a group of novices to the point where they can then sail with the Flotilla without the instructor on board. For crews that start out with some experience, such as experienced dinghy sailors, the 6 days may be reduced to three.
How do they cram into just a week what would normally be a weeks Competent Crew course, then (for the skipper) a weeks Day Skipper theory and a further weeks practical? By spreading the learning around. So the skipper won’t know quite as much but others in the group will know the rest (it helps too that the Med is non tidal)!
No formal skippers certificate is issued but this may not be an issue, depending on your future sailing plans. For Bareboat Charter you need a skippers certificate but for Flotillas you can sometimes get away without and several flotilla companies will recognise courses you have taken with their competitors. So a Pre-Flotilla course will usually be enough to get you sailing on a Flotilla in Turkey or in a few places Greece. In Croatia, the skipper must have a recognised certificate – it’s the law and it’s rigorously enforced. The Pre-Flotilla course approach is not available there.