COVID-19: General and scheme-specific considerations for running RYA training activity

This page was last updated 30 September 2021

The considerations below are intended to assist RYA recognised training centres (RTCs) carrying out RYA training activity during the coronavirus pandemic.

The list is not exhaustive, but is designed to stimulate ideas and to help RTCs consider all areas of their operation when looking for ways to mitigate the risks associated with COVID-19. 

RTCs must always ensure they are aware of, and comply with, the latest guidance from the Government in the country in which they are operating, particularly concerning:

  • social distancing
  • restrictions on gatherings
  • additional requirements, such as wearing a face covering
  • increased cleaning of work areas
  • frequent washing of hands or the use of hand sanitiser

Due to the provision of RYA training in many different countries, each with their own response to the coronavirus pandemic, centres must make their best judgement after taking all the relevant guidance and advice into account and completing their own risk assessments. 

General considerations

These are unprecedented times and it is likely that many potential students will be concerned about COVID-19 for some time to come. Outlining and communicating the adjustments and extra steps you are taking to prevent the spread of coronavirus at your centre will reassure students and also encourage them to follow these measures from the start. This may be the difference between a booking or not. 

When communicating these measures, try to make the information as welcoming and accessible as possible. A ‘walk-round’ video showing the changes you have in place - such as hand washing stations, one-way systems around buildings, distance markers etc. - it may take a little while to make, but is likely to reach more people than a large text-based communication.

Administration, booking and pre-course procedures

  • No-one with any symptoms of COVID-19 should attend the training centre, therefore consider including this within the booking process.
  • Booking and course information should state short term changes due to COVID-19 situation and requirements on students.
  • Consider utilising booking procedures to maintain records of visitors to support local initiatives like NHS 'Test and Trace'. Be mindful for GDPR and ensure students are aware of this additional use of personal information. 
  • Review emergency procedures or action plans and communicate changes.
  • Where possible use a paperless booking and payment process. Avoid handling cash. 
  • Operating procedures should be updated to detail the hygiene regime required for your centre.
  • A detailed list of what to clean, how often and with which cleaning products will enable instructors and/or students to maintain the hygiene levels required.
  • Do your national regulations identify certain groups who do not need to socially distance? E.g. a family group. If so, these may be a target audience in the early stages of returning to activity. Be mindful not to directly or indirectly discriminate against customers or members with protected characteristics. The RYA Legal Team has issued ‘COVID-19 and Discrimination’ guidance to assist clubs and centres.
  • If students are required to bring additional equipment due to your COVID-19 operating procedures, ensure this is communicated well in advance of the course (face coverings, their own food/drinks/cups etc.).
  • Is there any pre-learning the students or instructor could undertake using either RYA books, eBooks or other distance learning techniques such as video? If so, include this in the confirmation or joining instructions.


Delivering theory sessions (practical and shorebased courses)

  • The over-arching theme around the globe is appropriate social distancing measures and a significantly increased hygiene regime, including washing hands and cleaning contact surfaces.
  • Consider what theory can be taught in an open area rather than inside or aboard the vessel.
  • Practical course theory can be delivered ashore with social distancing. Try to incorporate as much theory into the practical session as possible.
  • To enable effective cleaning throughout the course, remove any soft furnishings that are difficult to clean.
  • Remove any visual aids or equipment not necessary for the lesson being taught.
  • Consider wearing face coverings and respect others decision to wear one. Even if you choose not to, others may feel uncomfortable and wish everyone around them to wear one too, think about how you will address this. If you do choose to enforce the wearing of face coverings, ensure students are fully aware of this requirement and be mindful of those who are unable to wear one (e.g. young children, those with respiratory conditions or who may find it difficult to manage them correctly).
  • Students and instructors should fully maintain social distancing and other Government regulations in force during routine instruction.


Practical delivery

  • If there is a requirement to maintain social distancing, the following areas should be considered:
    • Can this take place on your vessels with your usual teaching ratios? If not reduce them.
    • Assess if there is any need to reduce numbers afloat and/or rearrange teaching areas to facilitate social distancing during training.
    • If there is a need to be below deck or inside a vessel that is enclosed? If so, how will you maintain air flow and consider how many can be in that area at any time. Factor in weather conditions when planning for different scenarios. 
    • Where multiple courses are being delivered, consider staggering the start/finish times and rest breaks throughout the day to limit numbers congregating in communal areas.
    • Launching/recovery of boats: consider clearly marking designated zones for preparing boats, waiting to launch etc.
    • Safety cover/coaching boats: if not single-manned, maintain social distancing. The use of two-way voice communications, such as two-way UHF radio with headsets, may assist on-water tuition from a distance.


Clothing and personal equipment

  • Where possible, utilise students’ own personal flotation devices/wetsuits/waterproofs etc. Reasonable steps should be taken to ensure any student-owned equipment is serviceable and suitable. Generic advice about cleaning and storing personal flotation devices and equipment is available here: COVID-19 Virus: Cleaning & Storing your Life Jackets
  • All equipment used by students requires cleaning in line with the latest Government guidelines. This may be best carried out by the students who have used the specific equipment. General advice about cleaning is available here: COVID-19: cleaning in non-healthcare settings.
  • Consider issuing specific equipment to a student for the duration of the course. For courses over multiple sessions or days, allow this to be stored at the centre.
  • Is any additional clothing necessary to protect the student and/or the instructor? E.g. face coverings or hand sanitiser etc.



  • If social distancing is required, what additional signposting will assist? E.g. marking the suitable distances where queuing may be necessary, introducing separate entry and exit routes to permit one-way traffic, identifying passing points where pedestrian congestion may occur, marking out waiting areas during launching and recovery etc.
  • Where young children are being taught, consider asking parents to assist their children to change into activity clothing to prevent unnecessary instructor intervention and to manage the time efficiently.
  • Changing rooms are an area of increased risk of transmission. If the use of changing and shower facilities is permitted, ensure they are only used if essential, can accommodate necessary social distancing and hygiene requirements and are made available to participants with disabilities or special needs. 
  • Is there a need for restrictions on toilet facilities? E.g. one-way flow or controlling access.
  • Are you able to safely provide catering, or should students and staff bring their own cups, drinks and food?

Scheme-specific considerations

Shorebased courses

Groups meeting indoors are at an increased risk of infection from COVID-19 unless appropriate measures are taken. Each country has issued its own restrictions about how many and who can meet indoors under various circumstances. RTCs should adhere to their local advice.

The over-arching theme around the globe is appropriate social distancing measures, ventilation and a significantly increased hygiene regime, including washing hands and cleaning contact surfaces.

Not everyone will be comfortable meeting strangers indoors as restrictions lift and therefore the ongoing use of online video learning should still be considered for the time being. For guidance and top tips for running virtual training sessions click here


SRC course and assessment

  • Classroom training and assessment should ensure all students have one radio each and be arranged to respect social distancing guidelines. Students should not share any training radios, procedure cards or course books for the duration of the course.
  • Cover microphone with a plastic bag taped in place to prevent any moisture from a student from entering the mic grill while speaking.
  • Where possible, minimise the use of paper for the written assessment. Consider laminated assessment papers which can be cleaned after the assessment, or projecting the question onto a screen.
  • Consider photographing/scanning each student's answers using a smart phone prior to marking to avoid contact with the paper - once scanned the papers can be destroyed. Electronic storing of the assessment answers is acceptable. Ensure the student name, date, assessment paper number and instructor name are included on the answer sheet.
  • SRC assessments cannot be conducted online or by monitoring with a webcam. The assessment must be face-to-face utilising training radios.


Navigation courses

  • Navigation course final assessments may be taken remotely, but the tick box indicating a non-invigilated exam on the back of the certificate must be completed. This will void the certificate for anybody wishing to use if for an MCA purpose, for example:
    • Using Day Skipper Theory for a commercial endorsement on a Day Skipper practical certificate.
    • Using Coastal Skipper/Yachtmaster Offshore theory certificate as a prerequisite for the MCA Master (Code vessel up to 200t) or OOW (Yacht 3000t).
    • Using Yachtmaster Ocean theory certificate to be exempt from the written paper in a Yachtmaster Ocean oral exam or as evidence for the MCA Chief Mate (Yacht 3000t).
  • Do not provide shared training material or equipment to students.


First Aid course

Follow the latest Resus UK guidelines, in particular: 

  • Course numbers restricted to the number of manikins available - one per student plus one for the instructor. Students use the same manikin for all demonstrations. After each course each manikin should be thoroughly disinfected in line with the latest advice. Lungs/bladders should be safely discarded. 
  • If certain hands-on activity cannot be demonstrated or observed due to social distancing or lack of alternative techniques in the classroom, initially establish their understanding whilst in the classroom. Following this, consider witnessing the candidates carrying out these tasks with a household member via video conference. Typical topics would be the use of dressings, or the recovery position. 
  • Ensure you offer advice concerning CPR during the COVID-19 pandemic. Consult the following: Resus UK statement and UK guidance


Sea Survival course

  • One of the key course objectives is learning and experiencing the techniques required to safely take to a liferaft, using team work to improve your chances of survival. We have amended the guidance for conducting the various elements of the wet drill  to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 where restrictions are in place. View the COVID-19 wet drill guidance here.  

Offshore Personal Survival Course (RYA/World Sailing)

  • Theory delivery - not everyone will be comfortable meeting strangers indoors as restrictions are lifted and therefore the ongoing use of online video learning should still be considered. 
  • Practical delivery - for the practical element of the course, please follow the guidance for the Sea Survival course above. 

Diesel Engine course

  • We believe a successful course could be run with social distancing still in place.
  • Effective cleaning of engines and tools should be carried out after each student has completed a task.


Radar course

  • This course should be possible whilst complying with social distancing guidelines.
  • Students must not share a radar simulator.


Online courses

  • SRC centres (or any other centres that offer face-to-face support for online students) are to observe the guidelines for shorebased teaching/exams.
  • Emphasise to SRC students that there is a practical exam to complete in addition to the online course, which may be harder to arrange while restrictions remain in place. 


Sail and Motor Cruising

  • Sail and Motor Cruising courses do not need to be residential until further notice (see temporary variations).
  • Avoid entering enclosed spaces/going below unless necessary. Try and maximise airflow with open hatches and port lights where possible. If necessary, limit the number of people that have access to these areas in line with your local regulations.
  • Consider what theory can be done off the vessel, even on a pontoon mid-course. If off the boat, take some markers to mark off safe areas to sit/stand.
  • If possible use a vessel with navigational aids accessible from on the deck or discover if your equipment can use a manufacturer’s app to share information wirelessly to a smart device.
  • Consider which drills can be demonstrated by the instructor on another vessel moored alongside, e.g. winch drills, rigging, slipping mooring lines, hoisting sails etc. to avoid cross contamination.
  • Identify areas on board, such as the foredeck, where explanations can take place.
  • Identify areas for the instructor to position themselves.
  • Two-way radios may be useful to coach people, many don’t need a mic close to the face to work. Consider if you need one per person to be viable.
  • Reduce transference risks through adapting your teaching. For example, think about giving students more time on the helm in one go, with less changeovers and therefore less need for cleaning/wiping down.
  • When handling lines and fenders consider hand sanitiser at bow and stern, or leave fenders rigged and enough lines for one per student (different colours).



  • Theory can be delivered ashore using social distancing. Try to incorporate as much theory into the practical session as possible.
  • Are training or visual aids large enough to be seen from a distance?
  • Potential for remote theory sessions, e.g. chart introduction being covered by video conferencing. Students could borrow laminated charts from the centre (to be cleaned after use), to be returned at the end of the course. Discuss your ideas with RYA Training.
  • Use training vessels which allow for social distancing. Large RIBS and open-decked vessels (pneumatic commandos/Jaffas/O-boats) would be preferable over small RIBs as students can space out around the vessel.
  • Choreograph how changing roles will happen. Think about passing back-to-back, a one-way system for moving around the boat and the instructor stepping out of the way. Make the most of being alongside using the pontoon or quayside to change positions.
  • Establish a cleaning routine for touch points such as helm, throttle, kill cord and key. Encourage hand sanitising after using shared resources (MOB, boathook, lines or cleats etc.)
  • Could each student be issued with a kill cord for the duration of the course?


Personal Watercraft

Under normal operating conditions, the first session of the Personal Watercraft (PW) Proficiency course sees the instructor on the PW with the student, first demonstrating the controls, then sitting on the back supporting the student as they take control for the first time. The instructor would be wearing the kill cord at this stage. It is a brief introduction to the use of a kill cord, steering, forwards / neutral / reverse (where fitted), stopping and restarting the engine. It should take around 2-3 minutes per student.

Although brief, this session is important in terms of safety and setting the tone for the rest of the course.

Obviously this first session, and any sessions where you would normally be in close contact with students, present considerable difficulties at the moment. With this in mind, we have temporarily suspended the need to share a PW with your student, provided you can adequately introduce the elements covered in the first session (see temporary variations).


  • How to introduce the controls:
    • Could you do it before going afloat?
    • Short video of the controls from the point of view of the rider
    • Instructor sitting on PW pointing out and explaining the controls
    • A laminated card with a photo of the handlebars and controls
  • How can the student’s first experience at the controls be as safe as possible?
  • Do you need to change the location where you usually conduct the first session?
  • How will the instructor communicate with the student?
  • If the instructor is operating from a safety boat, what measures should they take to ensure demonstrations can take place when new skills are introduced? (E.g. student switching on to the safety boat, instructor using student’s PW etc.)
  • How will theory sessions be run effectively?
  • When considering all the above, especially procedures such as switching from the safety boat to the PW and demonstrating on board the PW, how will the key touch points be disinfected at each changeover? Also, remember that only those from the same household may share a PW.


Inland Waterways

  • Establish a cleaning routine for touchpoints such as tiller/wheel and throttle. Wash hands after using shared resources e.g. windlasses, boathook, lines or cleats etc.
  • Caution at locks with approaches from the general public looking to engage in conversations. Both instructors and candidates should be vigilant.
  • Choreograph how changing roles will happen, such as, passing points on the vessel, instructor stepping out of the way etc. Make the most of being moored up to change positions using the pontoon or towpath.



  • All land-based tuition should be kept to a minimum. For example, when delivering land drills where simulators are necessary, a perimeter can be marked out to prescribe the social distancing required.
  • Extra caution should be taken in assessing a student’s capability to use equipment within their abilities. This is particularly important for foiling.
  • It is especially important to follow good practice, such as safety boats approaching from the masthead.


Dinghy, Keelboat and Multihull Sailing

  • Assess each type of craft to determine how they may be used whilst complying with the current social distancing requirements. For example:
    • Single-handers will most likely meet any social distancing requirement, provided they are single crewed.
    • Allowing members of the same household to sail a double-hander but without an instructor.
  • To limit the need for sharing equipment, such as during land drills, maximise students practising in/on their own equipment and adaptations such as shallow waters which can provide an alternative in a controlled environment.
  • Using masthead floatation on all feasible craft will reduce inversion and aid recovery, minimising the need for instructor intervention.
  • Prioritise methods which use the mast tip or centreboard to recover the boat, reducing contact of the student’s craft. For example:
    • For single-handers the scoop method may still be a consideration with the instructor using leverage from the centreboard,
    • Recovery of the craft by the instructor from the centreboard or mast tip then returning to the bow to enable the student to climb in from the back of the boat.
  • Can people in the water board the safety boat without (or with minimal) instructor assistance?
  • Review methods where the instructor can recover capsized boats without student assistance, whilst maintaining student safety in the water. It is especially important to follow good practice such as safety boats approaching from the masthead.


Due to the current restrictions in place around the world, there are a number of additional requirements and adjustments in place affecting exams and whether or not they can proceed - read our latest guidance

Additional RYA guidance

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