What is an Ocean Yachtmaster

What is an Ocean Yachtmaster? and How to become an Ocean Yachtmaster

The RYA/MCA Ocean Yachtmaster Certificate of Competence (CoC) is the highest level certificate in the RYA scheme. It can be used by blue water leisure sailors and by commercial skippers and crew. Under the MCA Codes of practice the Ocean Yachtmaster Certificate of Competence holder, (with relevant commercial endorsement etc.) can skipper a vessel;

  • Up to 200 tonnes
  • Carrying up to 12 passengers
  • Anywhere globally (i.e. beyond the 150 miles from a safe haven limit imposed upon a Yachtmaster Offshore).

Furthermore the Yachtmaster Ocean CoC is the minimum requirement for certain officer positions on board larger (over 200 tonne) yachts.

There are 5 stepping stones to becoming an Ocean Yachtmaster CoC holder. Steps 1-4 can be taken in any order although the order presented below is the most logical. Step 5 can only be completed once the first 4 steps have been completed.

  1. Yachtmaster Offshore Certificate of Competence
  2. RYA Ocean Yachtmaster Shorebased Course
  3. Qualifying Passage
  4. Sights and Compass Check by sextant at sea
  5. RYA/MCA Ocean Yachtmaster Certificate of Competence Oral Exam

It is technically possible to take the Ocean Yachtmaster CoC Oral exam without having previously completed the RYA Ocean Shorebased Course but not advised as it involves an additional written exam and you would require all of the relevant knowledge taught on the course. Further information is detailed the relevant 5 steps below;

Becoming a Yachtmaster Offshore Certificate of Competence Holder

While you can proceed towards the RYA Ocean shorebased course and the Ocean practical steps (qualifying passage and sights) you can not proceed to the Oral exam without first holding the Yachtmaster Offshore Certificate of Competence.

RYA Ocean Yachtmaster Shorebased Course

This is a 40-hour theory course. It can be taken;

  • Over 5 consecutive days face to face in the classroom
  • Over 13 evenings face to face night school in the classroom
  • Over 5.5 days face to face using zoom
  • Online in your own time.

Whichever format you choose the course culminates in a written paper.

The course concentrates on astro navigation, i.e using a sextant and the heavenly bodies (sun, moon, stars and planets) to fix your position. The course also devotes time to ocean voyage planning and worldwide meteorology.

Full details can be found at Ocean Yachtmaster Shorebased Course


While you don’t strictly need to be a Yachtmaster Offshore before taking the Ocean Yachtmaster Shorebased Course, the following knowledge is assumed before the Ocean Shorebased course starts;

  • Use of plotting instruments (plotter, dividers etc.)
  • Latitude and longitude, knots and nautical miles
  • Variation and deviation
  • Application of UT, DST
  • Position Fixing
    • 2/3 Point fixes and angles of cut
    • Dead Reckoning / EP (and ideally the Running Fix)
    • Errors
    • GPS and other electronic nav aids
  • Coastal/offshore voyage planning
  • Coastal and offshore meteorology in particular;
    • Sources of forecast information
    • Synoptic charts
    • Low pressure systems
  • Coastal communications /distress comms. (Navtex, VHF, EPIRBs and SARTs)

Is the Ocean Shorebased Written Exam Invigilated?

If you take a face to face Ocean Yachtmaster Shorebased Course then the written paper is invigilated and marked by your Instructor.

If you choose to take the Online or Webinar RYA Ocean Yachtmaster Shorebased Course then face to face invigilation may be required (see table below).

Reason for taking the Ocean Yachtmaster Shorebased Course


I am taking the course for fun/ and/or for my own interest Invigilation not required
I intend to use the knowledge for leisure sailing Invigilation not required
I intend to use this course as a pre requisite for the RYA/MCA Ocean Yachtmaster Certificate of Competence Exam Invigilation required by an RYA Instructor, otherwise you will be required to complete a written exam at the time of your Ocean Yachtmaster Certificate of Competence Oral Exam
I intend to use this certificate as a pre requisite for the MCA Master 200 (unlimited) Certificate of Competence Invigilation required by an RYA Instructor
I intend to become a STCW Chief Mate (and possibly Master 500/3000) Invigilation required by an RYA Instructor

What qualifies as a RYA Yachtmaster Ocean Qualifying Passage?

A qualifying passage must have been taken in the last 10 years. Sea time prior to this date does not qualify. The passage must meet the following requirements

Ocean Candidate’s Role On Board

For your qualifying passage you should be either the skipper or mate in sole charge of a watch. You must have been fully involved in the planning of the passage, including selection of the route, the navigational plan, checking the material condition of the vessel and her equipment, storing with spare gear, water and victuals and organising the watch-keeping routine.

If the skipper changes role at any point during the passage, then neither skipper can use the passage as a qualifying passage.

It is our opinion that it is impossible for multiple Ocean Yachtmaster candidates to use the same passage as their qualifying passage as you can not all fit the definitions above. More than two candidates would be highly unlikely more than three impossible.

Ocean Qualifying Passage

The passage has several minimum requirements

  • Departure and arrival ports must be more than 600 miles apart by the shortest navigable route
  • Minimum non-stop distance of 600 miles must have been run by the log
  • At least 200 miles of that passage must have been more 50 miles from land (or charted objects capable of being used for navigation/position fixing, such as an offshore oil rig)
  • The vessel must have been at sea continuously for at least 96 hours

Passages such as recognised races which may not comply exactly with these requirements may be submitted to the RYA for consideration before the voyage.

Examples of Ocean qualifying passages (non stop passages)

  • Trans-Atlantic ARC Rally (Canary Islands to St. Lucia/Caribbean)
  • Between Azores and anywhere in mainland Europe/UK or the Canary Islands
  • Between Bermuda and any of; Bahamas, Caribbean, Canada or most of USA (parts of North Carolina fall below the requirements)
  • Between Bermuda and the Azores or Europe
  • Solent/UK to Cascais/Portugal,Algarve, Southern Spain or Gibraltar (assuming you follow the rum line or stay offshore when crossing Biscay)
  • Trans Pacific Passage (excluding passages between Alaska and Russia, on or close to the Bering Sea)
  • Atlantic Germany (Elbe) to Scotland, where the 200 mile run is impossible due to oil rigs)
  • Gibraltar to Northern Lanzarote where the mileage falls slightly below 600
  • RORC Fastnet Race which does not follow the shortest navigable route or have the 200 mile run
  • Northern Spain to Majorca, although well over 600 miles, very little of the passage is over 50 miles from land

If you still are not sure about whether a passage qualifies, then check out the RYA’s definition of a qualifying passage.

Vessel used for Ocean Qualifying Passage

The yacht (or vessel) must be;

  • Minimum size 7m, LWL
  • Maximum size 500 tonnes (If the vessel is over 24m LOA then the candidate would need to hold an appropriate Certificate of Competence to act as Officer of the Watch on the passage).

Sights and Compass Check by Sextant at Sea

You are required to provide your Ocean Examiner with a minimum of’

  • Sun Run Mer Pass (or sun run sun, sun run planet etc.)
  • Compass check carried out using the bearing of the sun, moon, a star or planet

Sights are usually taken on the qualifying passage however in some circumstances (such as lots of cloud cover) this is not possible. If sights have been taken on another passage then the following requirement apply to this passage.

  • The vessel must of been out of sight of land and charted objects when the sights are taken/used.
  • The vessel must be on a passage by the shortest navigable route. You can not therefore simply head offshore take sights and return to departure port.

We always advise candidates to present the examiner with more than the minimum required sights. If you present the examiner with additional sights and your preferred set suffers from errors you still stand a chance of passing the exam.

RYA/MCA Ocean Yachtmaster Certificate of Competence Oral Exam

Prior to the exam you will need to provide the examiner with;

  • A narrative account of the planning and execution of the qualifying passage providing all relevant details.
  • Navigational records, completed on board a yacht on passage, out of sight of land showing that the candidate has navigated the yacht without the use of electronic navigational aids. The records must include as a minimum, planning, reduction and plotting of a sun run meridian altitude sight and a compass check carried out using the bearing of the sun, moon, a star or planet.

During the oral exam you will be required to answer questions on all aspects of ocean passage making in a yacht, including passage planning, navigation, worldwide meteorology, crew management and yacht preparation, maintenance and repairs.

If you already hold the RYA Ocean Shorebased Course Certificate, the exam typically takes 1.5 hours although examiners can continue questioning considerably longer. If you do not hold the Ocean Shorebased certificate then your exam will take considerably longer as you will also have to take a written test.

Does the Ocean Yachtmaster Qualifying Passage have to be on the same type of vessel as I took my Yachtmaster Offshore Exam on (i.e. power or sail)?

Most candidates will qualify in the same kind of vessel as they passed their Offshore exam, however it is possible to qualify as a Yachtmaster Offshore (power) and then compete the Yachtmaster Ocean requirements on a sail vessel (or vice versa).

I hold a OOW (Yacht 3000gt) CoC but not a Yachtmaster Offshore CoC

If you passed the Yachtmaster Coastal Certificate of Competence Exam instead of the Yachtmaster Offshore Certificate of Competence Exam as your entry requirement into the OOW 3000 CoC then you will not be eligible to hold the Yachtmaster Ocean Certificate of Competence. On passing the oral exam you will receive a pass confirmation certificate.

How do I commercially endorse the Yachtmaster Ocean Certificate of Competence?

Those working under the MCA Codes of practice will require a commercial endorsement. Information can be found at RYA Commercial Endorsements. If you already hold a commercial endorsement on your Yachtmaster Offshore CoC then it is simply transferred across.

Do I require any other certificates to operate commercially as an Ocean Yachtmaster?

To operate a coded sailing yacht in Category 1 or 0 waters (i.e. Over 60 miles from a safe haven) you will additionally require a RYA Diesel Certificate.

To operate the mandatory GMDSS radio equipment on a commercial vessel in Sea Area A2 (more than about 35 miles offshore) you will require either a Long Range Certificate (LRC) or STCW General Operator Certificate (GOC).

To skipper a coded vessel in Category 1 or 0 waters (i.e. Over 60 miles from a safe haven) you will additionally need to hold STCW Proficiency in Medical First Aid and Proficiency in Medical Care, unless there is a current qualified nurse practitioner (or higher) on board.

If working aboard a vessel in Category 1 or 0 waters (i.e. Over 60 miles from a safe haven) you will need a ENG1 Medical certificate. The alternatives which are suitable further inshore such as ML5 Medical Certificate  are not valid in category 1 and 0 waters.