My experience doing a SAS Day Sailor course . – Larry Rowland
I’ve been messing around with boats and sailing dinghies almost my whole life but am quite new to keelers and honestly wondered what I could actually learn after all these years to justify the course cost and time. I was also a bit worried that my older brain would let me down and embarrass me with the theoretical exams on navigation and colregs, lights and bouyage etc.
Boy ! – was I wrong as by the second day I quickly realized that I still had a lot to learn. In reality, anyone can sail a yacht – point it in any direction, haul on a rope or two and one is bound to get going ! It’s the specialist knowledge like yacht handling, correct sail settings, course steering and manoeuvres, winch operation and even emergency management etc that one needs.
This professional Day Sailor course, run over 9 days by Offshore Sailing Academy (Saturday to the following Sunday), teaches you the right way. The course structure is fairly laid back and is usually lectures in theory in the morning and then immediately on to the boats for practical offshore sailing and exercises covering that (and the previous) days’ theory. The course is split into 35 aspects of yachting and sailing, covering everything, including weather, eg : Every morning the daily synoptic chart is analysed and discussed to determine the expected weather for the day.
The two highly experienced instructors, Werner and Kyle, each have 10’s of thousands of sea miles and have sailed and delivered boats all over the world. The course pace is casual but thorough, however the students are also expected to study in their own time. For example, the ships lights section is covered in detail and covered again and again, helped by some easily remembered rhymes etc but one still needs to study.
Both instructors are quite willing to spend extra hours with the students and often we returned from sea and continued in the class room in our own time with their input. Practical sea time is busy and fun and carried out in all weather conditions. All boat handling is covered with all students sharing duties and gaining valuable experience. We even fun raced the sister Academy yacht and its students which honed all our skills and there is always time for a swim!
The course ensures that each student completes at least 200 sea miles as well as one night entry. The training must have been excellent as I even passed with flying colours but the exams are stringent with no quarter given and a 75% pass rate is required. Nobody just gets puts through and one of our four students actually failed.
Note that Offshore Sailing Academy is one of only two sailing schools in Durban accredited to test and mark these SA Sailing exams. I also found the Academy to be professional, friendly and nothing was too much trouble.
Was the R9200 cost and 9 days of my time worth it ? Absolutely !! The safety and value of your life, crew and vessel is worth more than that.
I plan to continue with the Coastal Skippers qualification in the near future and will continue this with Offshore Sailing Academy.