club life article

Skippering is a journey


We‘ve been thinking about the different stages of learning new boating skills and techniques, because improving your skills on the water never stops.  How do you plan to continue your journey as a skipper?

Learning doesn’t end in the classroom, whatever the subject, and when it comes to boating, experience is everything.  Even for seasoned skippers, a day on the water can throw up a new challenge, and until you’ve had to deal with a tangled anchor, flooded engines or unexpected bad weather, you can’t get beyond the theory.



And the need to learn doesn’t stop just because you’ve got qualifications or miles under your belt.  We must be open to learning new skills if we are to keep up with the technology or challenge our abilities, even for those who are at the top of their game.  We are all on a continuous learning curve.

Whether starting out as a crew member, feeling a bit rusty as a skipper, wanting to learn something new, or extending your technical skills, being able to put your learning into practice throughout the year, across a range of boats, with supportive crew and a mentor to guide you on a regular basis, can make all the difference.

It’s important to practice regularly, as skills can quickly go cold if you haven’t stepped aboard a boat for a few months. For UK boaters in particular, it’s worth dedicating some time to training or keeping your hand in over the winter months, in order to ensure you’re at the top of your game come the main boating season.


1:1 Training

Typically, boat training is focused on group learning where you need to demonstrate a specific level of competence in a controlled situation, after which you are on your own when it comes to putting those skills into practice.  The formal qualifications are great to have, and ensure you have the range of knowledge needed at each level, but having a way to practice, test and develop your skills during a regular day on the water is what turns knowledge into expertise.

The problem is that spending a morning practicing marina boat handling or having individual tuition to hone your sail trim, heavy weather techniques or test your navigation skills can be hard to come by, and expensive on a one-off basis.  Where it does exist, time and commitments can make it hard to match up with pre-determined timetabling and location.  And even where you have access to a boat to set your own schedule and line up your own instructor, it can be hard to recruit friends and family who are keen to sail and come with the right skill-sets to be your crew.



It was all these factors, and more, that inspired us to come up with our range of bespoke training options and make them available to all club members, because we could see how to use our boat sharing model to make such bespoke learning both feasible and affordable, and with a unique mix of sail and power boat options.  It wouldn’t just be about preparing for competence-based testing, although that could be part of it as we are an RYA training centre.  Most importantly we wanted to create an environment where members could spend as much training time on the water as they wanted during the year, and be able to focus on the specific things that mattered to them, whether in a small group setting or on a 1:1 basis with an instructor.


Shared training

Individual tuition is important at all levels, but equally we could also see that our member community had an important role to play, as the ability to work in groups with a professional instructor, and alongside like-minded boaters who you can get to know over time, enables real team development and skills sharing.

We knew the supportive group environment would have broad appeal to all levels of skipper. Experience had taught us that whilst bespoke tuition is a highly efficient and productive way to learn, the shared group environment was a cost-effective way for skippers wanting to polish key skills – or simply keep their hand in. Over time, our calendar of shared events has grown to include a range of key skill training days, sociable day trips, mile building adventure trips and yacht racing – which takes your sail trim, navigation and deck work to the next level.



We also knew that a group environment could also play an important role in helping with moving into skippering for the first time, which can seem daunting; whereas skippering on a boat you have got to know over time, with familiar faces as team members, can smooth that transition. And once beyond that first skippering experience, we could see that being able to sail boats from across our fleet could give a unique learning experience, testing and building skills on different boats with different challenges.

We can all learn from our mistakes, but being mentored over time in an environment where you can test your knowledge and extend your skills is how the best sailors are shaped, whatever stage you’re at.


Drawing on how Pure Latitude members have been using our training and events to build their boating expertise, we’ve put together a line-up of skipper profiles. Where are you at in your journey as a skipper?


You’ve got the taste for sailing, might have done competent crew, so that leap from boat to shore when coming in to moor up is slightly less daunting than the first few times.  Now, you want to try and get experience and skills to take it to the next stage but you don’t have the contacts to get on the water regularly, and you don’t want to pick up bad habits.

‘Starters’ boating with Pure Latitude might enjoy:

A range of crewing opportunities including social sails, upskilling days and a bit of adventure. Complete the RYA Day Skipper qualification under a mentored training membership and go on to make your first tentative trips taking charge of a boat with your friends.


Aspiring skippers

You might have your day skipper qualification and maybe even survived a Greek flotilla week.  Now the family wants you to do a real charter next summer and you’re imagining a boat waiting for you in Hamble for you to step aboard on a Friday evening. But outside the dreaming, the actual prospect of being alone at sea with no one to turn to, whether crossing the Solent to the Isle of Wight or between the islands of the Adriatic Sea, is pretty daunting.

‘Aspiring skippers’ often chose to:

Refresh the basics with some 1:1 instructor time before venturing out with the family. Through our flexible Fleet membership plans you will gain essential hands-on skippering experience and mix in crewing on more adventurous trips to keep improving and pushing your boating boundaries.




You haven’t sailed since you decided you were too old for family holidays, or maybe the last sail was with the crew at university, or just before the first baby arrived.  Now you’re determined to mark out some free time to get back on the water, but you need to brush up your skills and get to grips with the new technology that now features, and you need to find some crew to sail with.

‘Returners’ need to:

Just go boating again! Crew membership is an easy way to get afloat and provides access to some fun sociable event days (including stuff like Round the Island race). If you already have skippering experience, take a Fleet membership, dust off the yellow oilies and complete a boat familiarisation with one of our professional instructors.



You may have a wealth of experience but decide to move sideways and need new skills, such as making the shift from sail to power, which may be the logical step when retiring from sail cruising, or because of the attraction of some different on-water experiences, such as powering across to Yarmouth and back for lunch, or taking a motor boat trip down the Thames.  Whatever the reason, it demands building on old skills for new ambitions.

‘Switchers’ shouldn’t underestimate the value of quality training:

If you are testing the idea of going to the “dark side” then join a few event days, be it social or skill based, to ensure you’re going to like the ‘switch’. Move forwards with some bespoke 1:1 tuition to ensure you’re up to speed on your new steed. Pick from our range of Fleet memberships and you’ll have it all covered.


Horizon scanners

It may be that you’re thinking of going blue-water sailing and want to get some long-term experience handling a bigger boat before you buy, or maybe finally get to grips with that whole celestial malarkey.  For others, it may just feel like you’ve plateaued and need something to challenge you and reignite the surge of excitement you used to feel.

‘Horizon scanners’ love the variety of Pure Latitude:

With Fleet membership you can mix in some of our adventure trips in the UK and the Med, with your own passage making through extended 8 day bookings. Our range of bases in different cruising areas around the UK and the Med means we’ll expand your horizons in no time.




Going round the cans is what excites you, but it’s hard to find a spot on a boat where you can learn how to be a valued crew member, because many skippers want you to have some experience before adding you to the team.  It feels like you just can’t win this one, despite your enthusiasm.  You just want to get out on the water and learn (and yes, maybe you’d be prepared to join the crew back at the bar afterwards to relive how it all went…)

‘Racers’ can take part in world renown yachting regattas:

Available in both the UK and the Med, Pure Latitude members don’t just spectate, but actually participate in a carefully selected range of iconic yacht races. Crews come with a variety of experience levels but everyone has the competitive drive to sail hard, not to mention the partying!



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