AUSTRALIAN YACHTING FEDERATION
Thank you for your enquiry regarding the AYF YACHTMASTER qualification.
It is regarded as the most useful and credible of all yachting qualifications both in Australia and overseas. The three qualification schemes are:
- National Yacht Cruising SchemeTL4
- National Motor Cruising SchemeTL5
- National Yacht Racing SchemeTL6
They are administered in Victoria by Yachting Victoria examiners who will arrange examination by way of a practical assessment, usually one-day tests of the candidate’s competency to skipper a yacht.
What is a Yachtmaster?
The definition is ‘a yachtsman or woman competent to skipper a cruising yacht, motor cruising, or racing yacht on any passage which can be completed without the use of astro-navigation’. In practice this means coastal passages. As any yacht skipper will tell you, those passages close to land, into bays, harbours and estuaries or across shipping lanes are the most difficult, particularly if the weather is rough or visibility poor. A yachtmaster needs wealth of knowledge not only to cope with plain sailing or motor cruising but also to be able to cope when things go wrong. The competitive pressure when racing adds an additional element.
What experience do I need before the assessment?
This varies slightly according to the scheme of interest and you should consult the relevant logbook. As an approximate guide, 50 days on board, 2.500 miles logged offshore, 5 passages over 60 mile, and 2 as skipper. Remember the assessment is essentially a test of ability to take charge of a yacht so your experience as skipper is the most important. From experience this mileage requirement is considered to be the bare minimum necessary to gain sufficient competence to sit the assessment. Candidates are advised to sail in a variety of weather conditions to a variety of harbours and anchorages.
A Yachtmaster should be able to enter any well-charted harbour with sufficient depth by day or night for the first time.
The only way to gain confidence is by practice, particularly at night when skill is required in picking out navigation lights and buoys against a background of shore lights.
Before taking the assessment, be more adventurous than the usual weekend trip or race to your favourite destination. Try some long passages to new harbours, bays, entrances and anchorages, possibly those that require you to obtain a good knowledge from charts, pilots, tidal heights, lead lights etc. Attempt the occasional night entry and be aware of the problems. Most Yachtmaster assessments involve some night sailing.
Do I need any certificates before the assessment?
Before the assessment you need to hold a restricted Radio Operator’s Certificate and a First Aid Certificate. A TL4, TL5 or TL6 logbook showing your sailing experience in the personal log section.
You stand a better chance of passing if you have attended previous AYF accredited courses, but these are not essential.
What happens during an assessment?
Having completed the application attached and returning it with your logbook and fee, an assessment date and time will be arranged. For the Yachtmaster sail, it is preferable to have three or four candidates do their assessment together with the examiner on a yacht fully equipped to Cat 2 AYF safety regs. This then allows the examiner to assess candidates as both skipper and crew. All assessments are slightly nerve racking even for highly experienced or professional skippers, but you can unwind by talking to the examiner and making sure you understand what is required, familiarise yourself with the vessel and it’s handling. The examiner understands that this first hour or two is difficult and will emphasise that ht eidea is to find out what you can achieve rather than pick holes.
A common misconception is that if a person has completed sufficient courses and had their logbook stamped off, they have obtained their Yachtmaster, but these are Course Completion certificates. The Yachtmaster certificate is a certificate of COMPETENCE and is only awarded after completing the practical assessment by an AYF appointed examiner. This certificate is only intended for yachtsmen and women who are widely experienced in the handling and running of vessels (sail and power).
A person holding such a certificate should be capable of taking charge of an unfamiliar vessel and successfully completing long coastal passages..
There are no tricks in this assessment that lasts about 12 hours.
Candidates are expected to be able to cope with the various situations that will arise from time to time as the skipper of the yacht. During the assessment leadership, boat-handling, navigation and general resourcefulness will be checked or tested in a practical way. The candidate is not expected to behave in a special fashion, a practical seaman like solution to the problem is all that is required.
Various simulated disasters, mostly imaginary, will befall the vessel and crew. There is a clumsy float that simulates a man over-board and should be speedily retrieved. Other situations and breakage are only limited by the examiner’s imagination. Anchoring, coming alongside or leaving wharves, allowing for leeway, knowing the vessel’s turning circle and how far she carries her way, are more of the area which may be examined.
Before undertaking a passage, all aspects of the vessel must be checked to ensure she is ready. Outside expertise may be required in some areas but self sufficiency should be the aim, as outside assistance will not always be available. The rig and the engine are two areas that are avoided by many, but with only a little trouble, they will not turn out to be such a mystery after all. For the purpose of the assessment, a brief check of the boat is carried out to show the examiner whether the candidate is familiar with this less exciting area of the yacht.
The basic navigation instrument is the compass and a good knowledge of it is essential. It is important to know the accuracy of the charts and what the various symbols mean.
You must know your position accurately throughout the assessment. Good skippers spend their time on deck observing. A common mistake is to be busy plotting fixes when a glance on deck would confirm the yacht’s position from a navigation buoy or transit. Marks are not awarded for over-navigating.
Navigation is tested with the candidate seated at the chart table unable to see the outside of the boat. This ‘blind navigation’ is an exercise but is an important test of the candidate’s ability. The aim is to navigate the boat from the present (known) position to a point on the chart. The boat’s log and other resources are available but GPS will not, and the crew on deck will respond to most requests from the navigator. The candidate will be closely watched for accuracy, speed, fluency and familiarity with a chart. Obviously these are all necessary skills when navigating in a real situation at sea.
The assessment will involve boat-handling under power and sail (and in race conditions for the TL6 scheme). The power handling is usually done in harbour and often involves some sort of berthing and unberthing to pontoons, piles or mooring. You should understand how your boat is going to react under power. What is it’s turning circle? Does it have a predictable "kick" astern? Can you turn in a confined space?
Similarly, practice manoeuvring under sail, picking up mooring buoys and short tacking. Don’t hesitate to change sails or reef if you think the boat has unsuitable sails for the task ahead. The examiner is not looking for first time every time success but you do need to demonstrate a good understanding of how the boat reacts at slow speed.
An understanding of setting an anchor, anchor types and uses play an important pain in ensuring the vessel is in competent hands.
Again, experience in a variety of conditions is the key to success.
The assessment will almost always include some kind of simulated man overboard recovery. Nearly every month the yacht magazines suggest new ideas for this manoeuvre and there are as many methods as there are yachting books. You have to discover a system that works for you and your boat. It might involve a tack or a gybe but it must end up the yacht stopped next to the "man" in the water. Clarify with the examiner whether he expects you to handle the boat with or without the engine.
Most candidates understand safety procedures and are safely conscious. Do remember that if you’ve decided that a harness should be worn at night you should follow your own advice. Candidates will be expected to have a knowledge of what safety equipment is required for category 2 under the AYF safety regulations and how to use this equipment.
Listen to the forecast before the assessment, you will be asked questions about the present weather situation and how this might affect a passage plan. You need to understand how weather systems influence sea conditions and how to make yachting plans based on this knowledge. Frequently decisions based on the weather include other variables such as type of boat and strength of crew, so the examiner might ask you to consider a number of possibilities. Your opinions based on experience are required, there is rarely a definitive answer.
Ability as Skipper
The most important assessment on the day is whether you are fully in command of the yacht. Being in charge is not about shouting or giving a stream of commands. It is about leading the crew, communicating with them, making sure that they understand what is going on and listening to them when they have something to tell you. It is a quality sensed by the crew when they feel safe and confident that the correct decisions are being made.
Even the best skippers make mistakes but the overall impression is one of quiet competence. The examiner is looking for this ability which is based on experience and knowledge, hence the requirement for skippered passages before taking the assessment.
What will assessment cost?
The current fee for assessment at Yachtmaster Level $275 however it is recommended that you arrange a meeting with your examiner to discuss your preparations and the suitability of experience gathered, courses attended etc. before attempting assessment.
YACHTMASTER OFFSHORE EXAMINATION
NOTES FOR CANDIDATES.
The purpose of the examination is to test your ability as the skipper of a coastal or offshore cruising yacht. All the questions put by the examiner are designed to give you the opportunity to show that you have this ability. There are no trick Questions, neither are there any "Model Answers" required.
The examiner will be aware that you are likely to be apprehensive about the examination and will try to ensure that they ask questions or set tasks clearly and unambiguously. If you do not understand a question, however, hesitancy in answering can only be interpreted as lack of knowledge. Candidates will not be penalised for asking the examiner to clarify a question.
The normal duration of an oral examination is 3 hours, in some cases, it can be completed in a shorter time, in others, it takes a little longer.
During the examination you will be asked to carry out practical tests in chart-work and rope-work. You should therefore, provide your own navigational drawing instruments, rigging knife and spike. The examination centre will provide any necessary charts and navigational tables. Candidates during examinations may use no reference books.
The provision of the yacht for a practical examination is the responsibility of the candidate (within limits). The yacht must be in sound, seaworthy condition and equipped to the standards set out in the AYF Safety Regulations for Category II and in accordance with appropriate State Regulations for large craft. The candidate must ensure that adequate charts, navigational publications, duel, water and victuals sufficient for 18 hours at sea, are on board.
If a candidate is unable to provide a yacht, examination centres may be able to assist.
During the examination, crewmembers will be asked to take NO initiative in an attempt to make the skippers job easier. It is the skipper who is being examined and if the crew sails the boat in spite of m rather than because of, the skipper’s presence it will be impossible to carry out a satisfactory examination. Please make sure that your crew understands this.
If you suffer from any physical disability that impairs your ability to play full and active role in the sailing of your boat, please make this known to the examiner before the start of the examination.
The Yachtmaster Offshore Examinations can contain an element of navigation but candidates must remember that it is their overall ability as skippers and not just their skill as navigators, which is being tested. Concentration on navigation to the detriment of good seamanship, can lead to failure of the examination.
Candidates who narrowly fail to show the required standards of (theory) knowledge may, at the discretion of the examiner, take a partial re-examination of the earliest convenient date.
An application form follows.
Suite 2 / 77 Beach Road (PO Box 83)
Sandringham Vic 3191
Phone: 03 9597 0066 Fax: 03 9598 7384
Application Form for Examination for Yachtmaster Certificates
Contact No: (hm) (m) (wk)
I wish to apply for examination for: (circle the certificate you are seeking)
- AYF YACHTMASTER OFFSHORE CERTIFICATE $275
This includes the issue of the AYF certificate to successful candidates)
- AYF YACHTMASTER OCEAN CERTIFICATE $220
- AYF YACHTMASTER OCEAN CERTIFICATE $220
I have previously been examined for the above by (Examiner) at (place) Yes No
Please note: There may be an additional fee payable if the candidate is unable to supply a suitable yacht Please discuss this the cost of this with the Examiner prior to undertaking the Examination.
- I currently hold an Inshore Skipper Instructor Certificate and would like to be assessed as a Yachtmaster Offshore Instructor.
- I wish to apply to become an Instructor and would like details of future Instructor Courses
I confirm that I understand the requirements of the syllabus applicable and enclose my AYF logbook, TL4/5 (delete as appropriate), which details my experience to date.
I declare to the best of my knowledge that:
- the experience detailed in my AYF log book is accurate
- I have not withheld information that tends in any way to misrepresent my eligibility for examination.
- I believe that I am physically fit to take part in strenuous activity and do not suffer from any physical disability or illness that may impair my ability to skipper a yacht at sea.
- Candidate’s must hold a restricted radio operators certificate of proficiency
- I hold a Senior First Aid Certificate No.
I enclose a cheque / postal order for $ to cover the examination fee made payable to Yachting Victoria
Please return with LOGBOOK completed to the Yachting Victoria at PO Box 83, Sandringham, 3191 or fax at: 9598 7384..
For further details or information please drop a line to Michelle.