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May 29th 2018. By Gael Pawson.


The RYA (Royal Yachting Association) is well known for its training and qualifications and you will often find it mentioned in connection with all forms of boating in the UK, but what exactly does it do?

The Royal Yachting Association, widely known as the RYA, is the national governing body for all forms of boating in the UK. Its remit includes dinghy and yacht racing, motor and sail cruising, RIBs and sports boats, powerboat racing, windsurfing, canal and river boat cruising, and personal watercraft

The RYA is a membership association. It was founded in 1875 as the Yacht Racing Association, before it was renamed in 1952 as the Royal Yachting Association. Today it employs over 140 professional staff, mostly based at its headquarters in Hamble on the UK’s South Coast. Other staff work regionally, while RYA Scotland, RYA Northern Ireland and RYA Cymru Wales are organised as autonomous bodies, with their own bases in their respective home countries.

The RYA has over 110,000 personal members and 1,500 affiliated clubs and class associations and an annual turnover of around £22 million. Its income comes mainly from its membership subscriptions, club affiliation fees (most sailing clubs, yacht clubs and class associations in the UK  as well as some from overseas are RYA-affiliated), training activities, and the sale of RYA publications. It also receives some lottery funding to support Britain’s national sailing squad, which competes at international events including the Olympic Games, and its supporting development programme.

RYA Olympic Sailing

The RYA leads the world in terms of its Olympic sailing programme. Photo British Sailing Team.

RYA racing

The RYA administers the international racing rules of sailing (including windsurfing) in the UK (being a member of the sport’s national governing body, World Sailing), and the sport of powerboating.

In the sailing arena, the RYA runs the British Olympic sailing team and its coaching and development schemes actively support over 600 of Britain’s top sailors, from talented juniors to Olympic and World champions. Sailing is one of Britain’s most successful Olympic sports.

The RYA Powerboat Racing Department helps some 250 people to race powerboats over the three disciplines of Offshore, Circuit and Jet Sport with several representing Great Britain in international competition.

RYA Dinghy Show

The RYA is involved in all the UK’s major boat shows, helping to promote the sport, and organises its own show, the annual Dinghy Show, each March.

The RYA’s role in boating participation

The RYA has targeted participation programmes which provide opportunities for people of all ages and abilities to get out on the water. These include initiatives such as RYA OnBoard, RYA Sailability and RYA Active Marinas.

RYA Regional Development Officers work with clubs and training centres across the country to develop regular participation. Growing and marketing the sport is also a fundamental part of the RYA. The annual RYA Dinghy Show, for example, held each spring, provides a national showcase for affiliated class associations, clubs and the industry.

The water offers a unique range of opportunities for disabled people to enjoy physical activity at all levels of ability and take part in competitive events.
RYA Sailability has established more than 200 ‘accredited sites’ (sailing clubs or organisations with varying levels of accessible facilities) throughout the UK.

The RYA represents boaters’s interests

The RYA works widely as an advocate for boaters, working with government and other organisations from the public, private, media and not for profit sectors. It represents members’ interests on over 50 statutory and consultative committees in the UK and internationally. It uses these forums to offer advice and share its expertise to assist in shaping policy which affects users of the UK’s waters.

Issues such as ‘red diesel’ (diesel used for boats which traditionally had a lower level of tax) and legislation regarding safety, qualifications and a wide variety of other topics have involved lobbying and advice from the RYA working in the interests of its members.

RYA 1 basic powerboat tuition

RYA 1 basic powerboat tuition courses are extremely popular, while their Yachtmaster certificates are among their top-end awards recognised around the world.

Internationally-recognised RYA training

While RYA Training originated for leisure purposes more than 40 years ago, for the last 20 years the RYA has also developed an extensive suite of courses and statutory qualifications that are formally recognised for commercial use in more than 20 other countries around the world.

The RYA is recognised worldwide for its expertise in sailing, windsurfing and powerboating training at both recreational and professional levels. The RYA provides the world’s most widely recognised practical and theoretical training courses for boating, from novice to expert level, in all boating disciplines. You may well have heard of many of its qualifications, especially those of Day Skipper or Yachtmaster.

Organisations that have adopted RYA training in the UK include the Royal Navy, RNLI, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, the MoD, the Police and the Fire Service. RYA qualifications are also widely used within the superyacht and workboat sectors and the RYA’s dinghy, windsurfing and power boating instructor qualifications are the qualifications of choice for those working within the watersports industry.

The RYA’s training schemes span 2,500 RYA recognised training centres the length and breadth of the UK and in 58 countries around the world including Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Indonesia, Thailand and the USA. Each year 250,000 people learn how to sail or safely operate windsurfers, dinghies, yachts, motorboats, narrowboats, powerboats and personal watercraft and everything in between. Over 25,000 professionals working on commercial vessels across the world have RYA Certificates of Competence.

RYA courses are run by RYA recognised instructors in regional training centres, outdoor activity centres, schools, colleges, universities, businesses, sailing clubs, voluntary organisations and holiday resorts. The team of highly skilled RYA Trainers and Coaches mentor a network of 25,000 instructors; empowering them to teach and inspire all those who want to learn more about the exhilaration of being out on the water – whether it’s for work or play.

RYA publications

The RYA is a leading maritime publisher, with over 110 titles to its name. Its publications are highly regarded internationally and RYA titles have been translated into more than 20 foreign languages. The organisation’s membership magazine, RYA Magazine, has the highest circulation of all the UK’s leading boating magazines.

A national treasure

As well as all the work outlined above, the RYA has a legal department that helps to advise and support its affilliated clubs and organisations, and works to help organisations secure funding for boating-related projects. Its work to promote boating and improve its participation and help those wishing to learn is the envy of the world. It’s hardly surprising that you will find it referenced when trying to find any information on any aspect of boating, including buying and selling boats. We are extremely lucky to have it as such a strong and active force in the UK.


Gael Pawson is the editor of Yachts & Yachting Magazine and the founder of Creating Waves. A keen racer, she has sailed all her life, and started writing about the subject whilst studying journalism at university. Dinghies and small keelboats are her first loves, but she has cruised and raced a huge variety of boats in locations across the world.