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Guest Post – Day Skipper Course With First Class Sailing, Southampton

This guest post is written by one of my super hardcore level one training crew mates, Yana Domina. Yana is a feisty Russian and possibly one of the strongest women I’ve ever met (on so many levels). Yana is a geophysicist and lives and works on a research ship. She’s going to be crew on the 17/18 Clipper Race and is a just learning to sail. She recently did her Day Skipper course with First Class Sailing in Southampton.

Yana doing a recent ice dive – see what I mean about being super hardcore

 Yana’s Day Skipper Course with First Class Sailing, Southampton:

“First of all, I planned to do my day skipper course a long time ago, but I have never had enough motivation.  I did my level 1 training for the Clipper Race, and I felt empowered enough to take  do the course and improve my skills. I also thought it would be good to do some extra training before my next level of Clipper Race training and before the race itself.

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Originally, I planned to do just the RYA Navigation and the Day Skipper theory, but when First Class Sailing school suggested that I take a practical course, I thought a little bit and agreed. Only problem was that I only had 2 weeks left do do the theory course (a prerequisite for the practical). I had some vacation due at works, so I crammed the theory in – studying for  3-4 hours every day.  I managed to pass the exam just 2 days before the practical course.

As I live quite far away from UK, I only had the option of doing the on-line theory course and to supplement this I bought my own full on-line versions of the training almanac. But there is a definite drawback of this, as prior to my practical I had no real practice or experience with real paper charts.

Manhattan – First Class Sailing

I joined Manhattan (a Jeanneau 379), which was a nice, comfortable, boat on the Sunday evening in Shamrock Quay, Southampton. The team for the week consisted of Instructor James and 3 other people: all Londoners, and quite an amusing bunch of people. We had a rather lazy theoretical start on Monday, and in the evening moved to another marina on the River Humble. The weather was
rather uninspiring: wind and currents all mixed together and we were not able to do much sail work unfortunately. On a positive note though, by doing the course in the winter we had more hours of darkness which meant we got a lot of nigh time sailing practice in, without actually having to sail really late at night. It also meant we had the whole Solent at our disposal.

Night sailing on the Day Skipper course with First Class Sailing

During the week, we stayed in Humble, East Cowes, Portsmouth, Beaulieu River and eventually, we were back in Southampton. We were moving from one marina to another every day, trying to do as
much of sailing as possible. The wind force was 5-6, and we were the only visible sailing boat in the Solent – apart from the occasional ferries or container ship. The fresh winds allowed us to make more than 8 knots under sail, which was nice.

The day skipper course is not all about learning to sail though, it also about responsibility: from the point of renting the boat to the everyday management and crew safety. So we heard a lot of scary stories of people being not responsible enough and what kind of mishaps occurred next. I think hearing these stories is really important and will definitely make for more responsible sailors.

We tried to have meals cooked on board only, in order to
get used to sailing life. And those are rare days when I’m happy to
have roll and bacon for breakfast 🙂


Boat checks, navigation planning, man overboard drills were carried out every day. It wasn’t exactly easy to do with the given weather. On one of the days I (other people had their turns) was responsible for running the boat from A to B, including tank checks, navigation planning (actually, delegating this task), marina payments, un-mooring etc. And we were almost on time! Of course, next time should be easier, although not sure it will work with a group of friends having vacations.I’ve definitely learnt a lot though and am more confident and competent.

The course with First Class Sailing was very interesting and useful and the instructor was quite a character! Still for me, there is always room for improvement and many things to learn and practice, so I hope to do more “special” courses: such as MOB drills and boat parking in marinas. And, of course, start planning my first sailing holiday (together with more experienced friends)!”

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