First aid


The default first aid training required for those holding any RYA instructor qualifications or commercial endorsements is the RYA First Aid course. This course is widely available and designed for the specific demands of providing first aid afloat. It is also accepted by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) for use on board small commercial vessels and by World Sailing for compliance with the Offshore Special Regulations, and covers the requirements of the Health and Safety regulations for the purposes of emergency first aid at work training.

Please read the guidance below for your type of RYA qualification:

RYA exam candidates, Basic Sea Survival Instructors, Offshore Personal Survival Instructors, non-commercially endorsed practical instructors and RYA Race coaches

This section applies to:

  • Exam candidates for RYA Yachtmaster Coastal and Offshore or Advanced Powerboat Certificates of Competence
  • Practical instructors except RYA Cruising, Yachtmaster or Advanced Powerboat Instructors
  • RYA Race coaches

These groups may choose to take the RYA First Aid Course or use alternative first aid qualifications, providing the course meets the minimum requirements given below.

Minimum requirements

Course duration: 1 day with at least 6 hours instructional time.

Course outcomes:

  1. Understand the role of a first aider in regard to:
    The importance of preventing cross infection
    The need for recording and/or reporting incidents and accident
    Assessing a scenario and circumstances to ensure they act safely, promptly and effectively in an emergency
  2. Can perform CPR to current protocols, and understand the differential for drowning.
  3. Understand the importance of the recovery position and the need to modify it for small spaces.
  4. Can administer first aid to those who are unconscious
  5. Can identify types of external bleeding and control bleeding
  6. Can use appropriate dressings, bandages and other first aid equipment available, including improvised dressings and bandages.
  7. Understand the term shock, recognise and treat it
  8. Can recognise and understands the treatment for hypothermia following immersion and/or exposure.
  9. Recognise the signs of a reduced level of response, with particular reference to serious head injuries.
  10. Can administer suitable first aid for:
    breathing difficulties
    chest pain
    diabetic emergency
    burns, including scalds, chemical and electrical
    minor injuries including small cuts, grazes, bruises and small splinters
  11. Can choose suitable first aid equipment

First aid certificates should be refreshed or renewed every three years, other than STCW First Aid certificates which may be refreshed up to every 5 years.

Exam candidates intending to gain a commercial endorsement - please see the 'Commercial endorsement holders' section below.

Commercial endorsement holders

On vessels certified under the UK’s Small Commercial Vessel Codes of Practice up to category 2 area of operation, the minimum first aid qualification required is the RYA First Aid, STCW Elementary First Aid or Sea Fish first aid. If an individual is responsible for the first aid on board, the first aid course must cover the use of Category C medical stores as detailed in MSN 1905 (M+F). The RYA First Aid course is the preferred option as the use of Category C medical stores forms part of the syllabus.

You may need a higher level of certification subject to the nature of the vessel on which you work.

When applying for or renewing a commercial endorsement you will be asked to sign a declaration confirming that you understand your responsibility with regard to maintaining a valid first aid certificate.

RYA Cruising, Yachtmaster and Advanced Powerboat Instructors

Cruising and Yachtmaster Instructors and Advanced Powerboat instructors teaching the Advanced Powerboat course should hold a valid commercial endorsement and therefore comply with the requirements detailed in the 'Commercial endorsement holders' section above. Advanced Powerboat Instructors who don’t hold a commercial endorsement may only teach up to the Intermediate course.

Note: Instructors holding the Australian medical fitness certificates are limited to instruction in Australia and do not have the commercial endorsement added to their certificate.

Medical Professionals

For UK registered practicing doctors, nurses, paramedics, physician associates and dentists we are able to accept your medical qualification and evidence of current registration in lieu of a first aid certificate. This can usually be done through the provision of your registration number for your relevant professional body. 

For non-UK registered medical professionals we are able to accept your qualification in lieu of a first aid certificate subject to:

  • evidence of your registration with the relevant regulatory body for your country with a translation into English where necessary
  • evidence that you are currently practicing with a translation into English where necessary

If you are unable to provide the above evidence, you will need to complete an appropriate first aid qualification.

In every case, once retired and no longer practicing, a First Aid Certificate will be required within 3 years from the date of removal.