Learn to sail with RYA Competent Crew

The RYA Competent Crew course is for beginners and those who would like to become active crew members rather than just passengers. By the end of the course you should be able to steer, handle sails, keep a lookout, row a dinghy and assist in all the day to day duties on board. Runs over five days. £530-590 per person, see below for details.

RYA Competent Crew is five days in total. If you have already done a two day RYA Start Yachting course you can top up to RYA Competent Crew with a further three days or two weekends. We aim to run a three day RYA Competent Crew top up course on the second weekend of every month.

“I remembered and possibly learnt more in those five days then on past sailing trips. The skipper was very knowledgeable and was able to teach at all the levels of competence of students. As a dyslexic I like to see pictures and enjoyed the visual aids. Thank you for being great and staying ethical while demonstrating total professionalism.”

“I couldn’t recommend Sail Boat Project more highly. What you do and the people genuinely have a love for the water and it shows. The course was perfect – as an introduction but in actual fact I learnt so much more. We had an excellent skipper in Bruno and support too. It was one of the most rewarding five days I’ve spent with a group of great folks doing something totally new in years. The professionalism, knowledge, practical hands on experience and warmth was exceptional. The food was bloody amazing. It’s inspired me to do more sailing when I get the chance.”

Courses run from Itchenor in Chichester harbour.

We also offer RYA Competent Crew as Teen sails exlusively for 13-17yr olds.

Prices are £530 March-April and October or £590 May-September; all inclusive.

Assumed knowledge: None

Ability after course: A basic knowledge of yachting and how to be a useful crew member

Course content


This chartlet gives an idea of the sailing area we have to choose from during this trip. The shelter afforded by the Isle of Wight keeps many options open with plenty of anchorages and marinas to choose from.

Knowledge of sea terms and parts of a boat, her rigging and sails
Sail handling
Fire precautions and fighting
Use of personal safety equipment
Man overboard
Emergency equipment
Affected or not by seasickness
General duties
Manners and customs
Rules of the road
Using dinghies

By the end of the course you will be able to steer, handle sails, keep a lookout, row a dinghy and assist in all the day to day routines

Dates & Rates

Our rates are all inclusive, covering all food onboard, hire of sailing waterproofs and visitor mooring costs.

10% lower rates are available in March, April and October.

Courses run from Chichester harbour, please see below for details.

  • RYA Competent Crew

    5 day practical RYA course £590

    September 18 @ 9:30 am - September 22 @ 5:00 pm at Chichester Harbour
  • RYA Competent Crew 3 day top up

    3 day practical RYA course for people who have already completed their RYA Start Yachting 2 day course £318. This course takes place onboard Karic.

    October 11 @ 9:30 am - October 13 @ 5:00 pm at Chichester Harbour
  • RYA Competent Crew

    5 day practical RYA course £530. This course takes place onboard Karic.

    October 16 @ 9:30 am - October 20 @ 5:00 pm at Chichester Harbour


A Typical Day

Overhear the shipping forecast that the skipper is noting down while the kettle is on.

Outline of the day's plans and where we're aiming to sail to.

Students prepare the boat to leave the marina and off we go.
Short sailing passage, practising 'tacking' (turning the boat through the wind).
Learning 'rules of the road' as we meet other vessels.

Anchor in a sheltered spot for lunch.
Rest or reading for short presentations later - not a test, just a way to help you find information and learn.
Review the morning's activities and a chance to ask questions .

Weigh anchor (pull it up!) and we're underway again.
Demonstration of how to recover someone who falls overboard, and then we practise together as a crew.
Debrief and discuss the exercise while continue on passage.
Tea and snacks as required!

Pilotage (finding our way) into harbour or river entrance, with everyone helping look out for marks.
Anchor for the evening.
Dinner onboard.
Very short presentation by students on using flares and how a liferaft works, from earlier reading.

Glass of wine and tall tales or row to the pub.

Everyone knackered, early night!


How many other people will there be onboard?
On our RYA courses we have up to five students per instructor..
For our sailing trips we have up to six people onboard plus skipper and volunteer first mate.
We can have up to ten people onboard for group activities.

Where do we sleep? Do we go back to the marina each night?
We all sleep onboard, with a berth allocated to you. We usually stay in a different place each night, which could be at anchor or mooring in a marina with walk ashore access to showers and toilets. Please Note: The saloon is classed as a sleeping area. Exact sleeping arrangements are worked out with your skipper at the start of your course or trip depending on the mix of crew.


Do we eat onboard? Do you cater for special diets?
All meals and snacks are included in our rates and our vessels are well stocked for your time onboard. We provide vegetarian and vegan food by default as part of our commitment to lowering our company's carbon footprint, although please feel free to eat anything you want ashore. Thanks to our partners at Infinity Foods we have plenty of great snacks and ingredients. While we all take turns making meals, there are always some homemade pre-prepared dishes so you can make the most of your sailing and learning time. Please let us know about any other dietary needs - we are pretty familiar with various allergies and diets.

Is there a toilet onboard?
Each of our vessels are equipped with at least one sea toilet, called a 'heads', and by boat standards they are quite roomy, with washbasins. They have a slight knack to using them, which your skipper will show you, but they are pretty similar to a home flush toilet. We do ask you to use toilets ashore when in a marina.

Do you provide waterproofs?
Yes, we provide salapette trousers and jackets which are wind and waterproof, as well as sailing boots which provide a secure grip on deck. Please feel free to bring your own gear or to ask us for advice on where to purchase affordable sailing gear. Lifejackets and safety harnesses are provided.

Will it be rough, what if I feel sick?
Due to where our vessels are moored, the first days' sailing you will experience will be in sheltered waters, and we'll stay in such waters for entry and beginner levels. We want you to enjoy your sailing and our skippers remain very aware of how people are feeling and do their best to avoid unnecessarily unpleasant conditions by planning ahead.

What if the weather is really bad, what weather don't we go out in?
Sailing is obviously very weather dependent. We reserve the right to cancel trips and courses at our discretion, due to adverse weather. If we are forced to do so, we will be in touch with you in the days beforehand to advise and we will work with you to attempt to find you a suitable replacement or if not we will refund all of your money. However, Sail Boat Project cannot be held responsible for any other loss that you may have incurred due to cancellation of your course or trip. The final decision on whether a course or trip goes ahead is always based on the capabilities of those onboard and we are not interested in forcing anyone into being forced into a position they are uncomfortable with.

Will I get a certificate?
All the RYA practical and theory courses we deliver lead to a nationally recognised qualification within the RYA's sail cruising scheme, if you have met the syllabus requirements. We also issue certificate sof achievement as part of the RYA Sailability scheme and we have our own certificates of achievement for groups.

Do you make arrangements for people with special needs, learning or physical?
Yes, we have experience of taking people out sailing with a range of different needs. Our ethos is to make things possible and we will always work with you to allow inclusion and participation from everyone. While our vessels are not specifically adapted, for example for wheelchair users, we will always think about what changes we can make to get people out on the water. We use a variety of learning materials that engage and include people and our skippers and instructors are always learning and sharing with each other techniques to help people make the most of their time with us.

Can I talk to an instructor or skipper in advance?
Yes, if we can't put you through to one of our instructors or skippers when you call the office, we will pass on you details and have someone get back to you as soon as possible to have a chat with you.

Do you allow alcohol onboard?
Yes we do, in moderation! We may share a bottle of wine onboard or visit a pub during a course or trip, but please remember alcohol and getting used to the motion of the sea don't mix well.

Should I bring my log book?
Yes, if you have a sailing log book this is really good to bring along. For courses it will outline your syllabus, help your instructor see what experience you have and you can get it signed off at the end. For sailing trips you can record the nautical miles sailed and treat it as a mile builder towards any examinations you go for. They are also a useful record for your own interest. We always have log books available for sale onboard for £6.

Is it all sailing, is there time to explore places we visit?
Depending on the level of course you are on, there is usually time to explore a couple of the places we visit. The Competent Crew course includes using a dinghy, so you'll be able to explore from the water! On our sailing trips part of the idea is to have a look around sowewhere new. We usually agree as a group when to have time ashore as we always need to work around the weather and tides. If you have any particular requests make sure you let your skipper know.

Will I see any wildlife?
Plenty of birdlife and the odd seal - in Chichester harbour there is a whole seal colony at certain times of the year. Marine mammals are not as abundant as we'd like them to be, although porpoises in Poole Bay and dolphins off Chichester bar have been recent sightings. If we are lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time we would never move in close or cause any undue stress. We have marine wildlife spotter guides onboard to help you prepare.

What our previous crews said

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I had a lovely crew, skipper and mate included; resulting in an excellent trip and going vegy for the week was also not too bad.

Competent Crew member 6th August 2019

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There was really tasty food, time for fun such as swimming and I learned all the skills I needed in a calm and relaxed way

Competent Crew member 2nd August 2019

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Thank you for a great couple of days,look forward to finishing the course in a couple of months.

Michael 12th July 2019

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Oscar and I had a great weekend. We were both mentally exhausted when we returned home.

We learnt so much and look forward to getting more experience this weekend.

Dan 12th July 2019

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The captain was a consummate sailor and I felt totally safe even though we had very strong winds. I enjoyed taking the helm & learnt a lot.

Anonymous survey response 24th June 2019

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As a complete beginner I am really pleased with the amount I have learnt in these 5 days. Over the time, my confidence grew significantly. The wind was excellent!

Anonymous survey response 24th June 2019

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It was a relaxing course, knowledgable skipper, good fun, interesting, learned a lot, lucky with the weather

12th June 2019

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Relaxing, knowledgable skipper, good fun, interesting, learned a lot, lucky with the weather

11th June 2019

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Have sailed with the Sail Boat Project on three different occasions now (lucky me), and finally managed to get my comp crew - thanks to patience of instructors and my crew mates 🙂 I've loved learning how to sail and found it really soothing - would recommend it to anyone with a busy brain and a need to switch off. I wanted to sail specifically with Sail Boat Project because I felt that I would be putting my money into an organisation with a community spirit and commitment to environmental sustainability - so much more than just a sailing school.

Mireille 22nd October 2018

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I had an amazing week doing my Comp Crew course with the Sail Boat Project. Would love to do more sailing with them, just need to find the time!

Aaron 22nd October 2018

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I couldn't recommend the Sail Boat Project enough. I've completed two courses so far, next steps are Day Skipper theory and Day Skipper practical thank you so much guys for everything you've done for me

4th November 2016

Thanks for giving us such a great time and for all your patience and knowledge you shared. I can't imagine all the work involved in what you do. I really appreciate it - thank you. If I get the chance to sail a big boat again I will do it with Sail Boat Project.

Giles 3rd June 2016

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I now feel confident to be a member of any crew, can't think of any way of improving the course, very relaxed and friendly, instruction was clear and precise.

8th October 2015

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It far outreached my expectations, it was brilliant, brilliant skipper, very friendly and a really relaxed but informative learning experience. Learned so much, a fantastic few days. Sail Boat Project rocks! Thank you so much.

8th October 2015

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Great to learn from someone as experienced, friendly, and fun as Jason. I also felt he was excellent at supporting each person at their level, and making sure everyone was fully included.

8th October 2015

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Very knowledgeable and fun teaching style. Our skipper ensured everyone covered all requirements for their course. I had a brilliant 5 days, though it was hard work it was still fun. Would definitely recommend Sail Boat Project to others.

8th October 2015

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The course was great. Dhara was a really good teacher - very thorough but also patient. I was really impressed that he took every opportunity during the course to try to teach things and reinforce what he had already taught us. Food was really good (and plentiful) - one of us is a veggie and was really grateful to be well catered for.

8th October 2015

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Ben was a great teacher - very knowledgeable and incredibly calm and patient.

8th October 2015

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The skipper answered most of our questions and admitted when he didn't know. His calm was extremely valuable when teaching us about sailing and directing us on things to do on the boat. It allowed me to feel very comfortable and didn't feel panic arise at any time. There was a lot of trust that I felt towards him.

8th October 2015

What To Bring
  • Clothing layers - even if it's sunny or warm on land it can get quite chilly when sailing
  • Hat, sun cream, lip salve, sunglasses, gloves
  • If you're staying overnight or longer you'll need to bring a sleeping bag, pillow, towel, toiletries
  • Any medication you would normally require
  • Pack your belongings in a soft bag that can be easily stowed
  • Do bring any of your favourite snacks or soft drinks as we may not be near any shops
    (If you have your own foul weather gear you are welcome to bring it)
  • If you haven't been sailing before and don't know if you might get seasick, some good advice is to have a sensible breakfast and don't drink lots of alcohol the night before!
  • Bring seasickness pills if you might need them.
What We Provide
  • Lifejackets
  • All meals & snacks while on board (vegetarian/vegan)
  • Sleeping berth
  • Course books in advance (if applicable)
  • Access to our onboard sailing library, including RYA course books (copies available to buy)
  • Quality XM foul weather trousers, jackets and waterproof deck boots
    (If you have your own foul weather gear you are welcome to bring it)
  • Please feel free to discuss equipment concerns with us prior to your sailing trip or course, we will happily advise on purchases if you would like to buy your own gear.
If you want to make a booking

Book now

If you want to talk to one of our instructors or have a more general enquiry either call (+44) 07576 248 348 or fill in the form below.
We will do our best to get back to you as soon as possible.

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Our Boats

Jalapeno is a Dutch built Standfast, a solid roomy boat that handles the sea well. We can take bookings for up to 10 people on Jalapeno and there is room for everyone to eat and plan together around the central saloon table. There is an unusually large amount of flat deck, a great spot for a picnic at anchor!

Our RYA courses and sailing trips from Chichester marina are run on Jalapeno.

Facilities include heads (toilet/washroom), galley with gas oven and heating.

Cascadeur is a French built Jeanneau. She has up to ten berths in four cabins, with room for everyone to sit and eat round the circular table in the main cabin, or use the cockpit table to eat or work together outside. We can take bookings for up to 10 people on Cascadeur.

Our RYA courses and sailing trips from Southampton are run on Cascadeur.

Facilities include two heads (toilet/washroom), gas cooker with oven, heating.

Karic is a British built Westerly Renown ketch - a ketch means there are two masts, so three sets of sails for people to learn how to use. She has berths for six people to sleep in three cabins, with room for everyone to sit and eat round the table in the main cabin. Designed for family cruising, Karic is a safe, sturdy boat. There is a centre cockpit with room for a crew of six to sit in comfort.

Facilities include a roomy heads (toilet/washroom) and meths 2 hob cooker