COVID-19: RYA training in the UK

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    This page was last updated on 04 August 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.

    There is still some ambiguity around what activity can and cannot take place. It is therefore important we clarify as much as we can, and acknowledge the areas where we cannot be clear or certain. We appreciate that this can be frustrating, but it is the correct thing for a respected National Governing Body (NGB) and sector to adopt.

    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 and the pace at which restrictions are eased varies considerably. 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 over your nose and mouth in enclosed spaces and staying at least a metre away from people not in your household. If you are feeling unwell, get a test and do not leave home for at least ten days. 

    • People are able to leave their homes and travel for exercise and recreation.
    • All forms of recreational watersports practiced on open waterways are permitted, including but not limited to: sailing, windsurfing and the use of motorised craft (in line with guidance issued by the relevant navigation authority). 
    • Where possible, people from different households should stay two metres apart. In situations where it is not possible, a distance of one metre (1m+) must be observed, but only where additional measures are in place to reduce the risk of infection. This may include face coverings and/or screens.   
    • Groups of up to six people are allowed to meet in outdoor spaces provided those from different households follow social distancing guidelines. 
    • Two households (support bubbles count as one household) can meet in any location - public or private, indoors or outdoors - provided those from different households follow social distancing guidelines.  
    • It is against the law for gatherings with more than 30 people to take place in private homes (including gardens or outdoor spaces) or in a public outdoors space, unless planned by an organisation in compliance with COVID-19 Secure guidance, in which case the limit is derived from an appropriate risk assessment.    
    • Restaurants, bars, clubhouses and outdoor sports facilities are able to open provided they follow COVID-19 Secure guidelines.Changing rooms may be opened and must be available for participants with disabilities or special needs. These facilities are areas of increased risk of transmission and general use should be avoided where possible. Centres should make sure they are familiar with the Government guidance for 'Changing rooms and showers'.
    • People can stay overnight away from their homes with members of their own household or support bubble, or with members of one other household (provided social distancing guidelines are followed). This includes overnight stays on boats. 
    • Localised lockdowns may be implemented in regions experiencing surges in coronavirus cases.

    FAQs and further details can be found on 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 not entering into a ‘business as normal’ phase, but rather an easing of restrictions. It is therefore essential that you properly assess all aspects of your operation and take whatever steps are necessary to safeguard yourselves, your employees, volunteers and your students. 


    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. A 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 detailed in law 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 to two household groups.
    4. The Prime Minister recently stated: "from now on we will ask people to follow guidance on social contact instead of legislation". 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

    Significant impact on classroom, enclosed steering positions or vessels with accommodation 

    It is possible to deliver classroom activity with up to two households/support bubbles1 in one classroom, provided social distancing is in place and the area is COVID-19 Secure. The instructor would count as one household in this instance.

    Following a detailed risk assessment to establish suitable measures, it may be safe to deliver training to more than two households.  These measures must be in line with COVID-secure guidance and should ensure that sufficient space is available to make sure separate two-household groups do not interact with each other.  

    Note1: a ‘support bubble’ is the linking of one household (of one person, or a single parent with dependent children) with a second household. The two can be viewed as a single household, for the purposes of COVID-19 restrictions meaning they can spend time together in each other’s homes and do not need to stay 2 metres apart. Once a bubble is formed it should not be changed or altered.

    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 may fall outside of Government guidance in terms of what is permitted and we do not believe that the accommodation in vessels used for the RYA Yachtmaster™ scheme are suitable for overnight stays of more than two households. In this context an instructor would be one household.

    The relaxation of the residential requirement of these courses (find out more) means these courses could be possible if the 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.