COVID-19: RYA training in the UK

Back to Top
Sub menu

    This page was last updated on 14 October 2020.

    The RYA are committed to our fundamental principles of supporting our boating community to be considerate and conservative in our return to the water. 

    Coronavirus Regulations

    The regulations enable the Government and devolved administrations to do a number of things; determine what businesses must stay closed and what can open, and restrict certain business activities and gatherings. While guidance sets out how the Governments consider people should behave, the regulations set out how people must behave and it is the regulations (rather than the guidance) that may be enforced within the law. 

    The regulations in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are now significantly diverse. RTCs should make sure they are familiar with both the regulations and guidance in their location.

    Home Countries

    The COVID-19 restrictions continue to differ for each of the Home Countries. Centres must make sure they are familiar with and continue to follow their local Government guidance. For further details, please follow the links below: 


    Northern Ireland:


    Current guidance for England

    In England, the current measures to stop the virus spreading include: washing your hands regularly, wearing a face covering in enclosed spaces and making space by staying at least 2 metres apart from people not in your household - or 1 metre with a face covering or other precautions.

    Areas that are experiencing local COVID-19 outbreaks will be subject to local restrictions and therefore different guidance and legislation may apply. Centres should ensure they are familiar with and comply with the local restrictions for the area in which they operate.

    From 14 October 2020 a new system called ‘local COVID alert levels’ will come into effect. Local COVID alert levels set out information for local authorities, residents and workers about what to do and how to manage the outbreak in their area. For further information on the different levels and to check the local COVID alert level of your local area, please visit the GOV.UK website.

    Training centres, both practical and shorebased, must put in place appropriate measures to mitigate against the transmission of COVID-19 and comply with Government guidance. 

    It is important to remember that the COVID-19 crisis is far from over. We are still not in a ‘business as normal’ phase and it is therefore essential that you continue to adhere to all guidance to avoid the spread of infection and the further tightening of restrictions. This includes properly assessing all aspects of your operation and taking whatever steps are necessary to safeguard yourselves, your employees, volunteers and your students. 

    The guidance that follows applies to COVID Alert Level 1 (Medium). If you are in an area of COVID Alert Level 2 (High) or 3 (Very High), check local restrictions.

    What this means for RYA Training activity

    The broad and diverse nature of the RYA’s training schemes means that each training activity needs to be assessed by the individual RTC, in the context of its own operations, in order to determine whether it can recommence whilst still complying with Government restrictions. The RYA does not intend to regulate the Government advice but aims to support RTCs in making the best decision they can. 

    We believe that the following are pertinent to RYA training within the UK: 

    1. gathering is defined as “when two or more people are present together in the same place in order to engage in any form of social interaction with each other, or to undertake any other activity with each other”.
    2. Exemptions to the limits on gatherings include a gathering which is "reasonably necessary for the purposes of education and training”. This is good news for RTCs. The law also puts the emphasis on the organiser to "carry out a risk assessment which would satisfy the requirements of regulation 3 of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999..." and that "in determining whether all reasonable measures have been taken to limit the risk of transmission of the coronavirus... any guidance issued by the Government relevant to the gathering in questions must be taken into account".
    3. Overnight accommodation in hotels and other establishments will be permitted, but communal accommodation and facilities should be limited.
    4. The need to follow government guidance is emphasised within the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (No. 2) (England) Regulations 2020, as detailed in point 2 above. Whilst it is clear that every step we take must be lawful, it is equally important that we objectively assess our ongoing return to training in line with the latest Government advice.

    Groups meeting indoors

    Impact on classroom, enclosed steering positions or vessels with accommodation 

    It is possible to deliver classroom activity provided social distancing is in place and the area is COVID-19 Secure. Numbers may need to be reduced to ensure social distancing is possible. 

    Following a detailed risk assessment to establish suitable measures, it may be safe to deliver training with more than six people in the classroom. These measures must be in line with COVID-19 Secure guidance and should ensure that sufficient space is available to make sure adequate social distancing and hygiene is maintained.

    The conduct of SRC assessments and invigilated navigation courses can take place indoors in line with the restrictions in place.

    Centres operating vessels with enclosed areas may need to limit the numbers in these spaces to ensure compliance with the limits on gathering or meeting indoors. This may mean a more regulated system of who can access these areas at any one time.

    Groups meeting outdoors

    Impacts all practical schemes

    In the case of dinghy sailing and windsurfing, it is clearly possible to arrange on-the-water sessions with groups of up to six (including the instructor), providing appropriate social distancing occurs, and relevant measures are in place with regards cleaning of equipment and so on. Dinghy sailing would need to occur in single-handers, other than for helm and crew from the same household. It may be necessary to consider a minimum level of experience, and possibly age of students given restrictions in areas such as shared changing rooms and shower facilities. If multiple groups of six can be suitably separated, then more than one session could take place.

    Similarly, with the temporary relaxation in the requirement for the instructor to share a personal watercraft (PW) with a student during the first session (find out more), in some situations it may be possible for PW training activity to recommence, provided the measures listed above can be followed. Please note that the maximum ratio of one instructor to six students on a maximum of three PWs remains. Under current restrictions, only those from the same household may share a PW.   

    Powerboat, Cruising and Inland Waterways training centres may be able to deliver practical courses provided they are able to maintain social distancing whilst onboard. This may limit numbers.

    For further guidance on running practical courses during the coronavirus pandemic click here

    Crews from different households

    Whilst the recent RYA Guidance on a ‘Return to Team Sports’ was written for the competitive and racing elements of our sport, where the actual sailing activity and therefore contact with others is by definition relatively short lived, some of the principles can be applied in an RYA training environment. 

    When considering this framework centres should carefully read and familiarise themselves with the RYA Guidance, considering the current situation, ability to put the required mitigations in place, and most importantly risk versus benefit to individual students.

    Ultimately, it will be the responsibility of the RYA recognised training centre to risk assess each and every activity it undertakes to determine whether or not the activity should go ahead and if so what additional mitigating measures may be needed in order to do so safely.

    Dinghy sailing

    We believe it may be possible for RYA training centres to use this guidance and method of risk assessment to restart improver (Stage 4/Level 3) and above training in double-handers.

    Centres would need to risk assess the individual class of boat and courses they are looking to run in conjunction with the RYA’s Guidance on sailing and racing with participants from different households, especially in accordance with the RYA Flow Chart and Risk Assessment. Centres should pay careful consideration to areas such as the type of boats this may be possible in, the proximity of the students in the boat, possible mitigation required, timeframes in which students will find themselves in certain situations and the benefit over teaching in a single-handed craft.

    Students must be provided with sufficient information to be able to make an informed decision regarding their participation on the course, including expectations when in the boat and what the course will entail.

    RYA Dinghy Instructor training and RYA beginner courses (Youth Stage 1-3 and Level 1&2), are currently not included within this framework or guidance due to lack of knowledge and experience held by the individuals leading to an additional duty of care. The nature of this level of training requires prolonged periods of face-to-face contact, compromising the ability to maintain distance, as well as a high level of cross contact.

    Staying onboard overnight 

    One of the exceptions to the above is live aboard courses conducted on yachts. It would still appear that such activity has limitations due to the Government guidance in terms of what is permitted. We do believe that the accommodation in vessels used for the RYA Yachtmaster™ scheme are suitable for overnight stays, as long as there are sufficient cabins to accommodate each individual or household group, and that communal areas are able to support social distancing. 

    If cabin arrangements aren't suitable for overnight stays, the relaxation of the residential requirement of these courses (find out more) means these courses could be possible provided social distancing and other COVID-19 Secure measures are applied.

    Further information:

    In addition to the UK-specific information above, centres should ensure they are familiar with the temporary adjustments to the RYA Conditions of Recognition and the General and scheme-specific considerations for running RYA training activity

    Government guidance

    The UK Government has issued the following guidance on the phased return of sport and recreation, and working safely during coronavirus: 

    RYA Guidance

    If you have any questions, or want to discuss any of the guidance in further detail, please contact the RYA Training team by emailing or calling +44 (0) 23 8060 4181.