Instructor guide to competence assessments

On this page:

1.       Introduction

2.       Boat systems

3.       Navigation and seamanship

4.       On the water

5.       Assessment report

1. Introduction

Competence assessments check that our members have the necessary knowledge and skills to fully enjoy the boats by evaluating their skills across the 3 skill areas detailed in the relevant sections below. Passing a competence assessment provides the member with access not only to the boat they are on but to other similar boats within that class.

The purpose of this page is to give the assessor the information to clearly understand what we’re trying to achieve with the competence assessment and to conduct the assessment to the same standard every time.

What we expect of a competent skipper

We assess competence to operate a boat via a practical and oral test. Importantly this includes boating theory, knowledge of our procedures, bases and boats and practical ability to handle the boat under power and sail (when relevant). We categorise boats into types and approve usage by type or boat category.

• Theory – All areas of the RYA day skipper syllabus should be understood plus full capability in reading charts, an almanac and tidal data. Ability to demonstrate clear logical passage planning, pilotage and risk assessment with appropriate contingency plans.

• Boat Handling – Demonstrate clear boat management, especially communication with crew for all handling requirements. e.g. confident close quarters manoeuvring and docking, strategies for adverse conditions, sail (where relevant) handling including reefing.

The competence assessment will evaluate navigation, boat management and boat handling skills plus knowledge of Pure Latitude procedures, location details and boat specific systems. Therefore members will need to have familiiarised themselves (self-induction) with the boat you are assessing them on.

The process should be relaxed and include guidance, but the necessary skills must be demonstrated by the end of the session.

Instructor obligations

In order to conduct a competence assessment, instructors are expected to understand generic PL processes as well as the specific competency assessment processes as detailed on this page.

Member obligations

Members will arrive and be expected to self induct on the boat they are being assessed on in advance of the competence assessment. However, in the case of competency assessments that are run as part of bespoke tuition or RYA courses, the member may prefer to self induct on the boat under your guidance and as part of the training.

2. Assessment: Boat systems

Assessors need to check that the member has read the relevant base and boat guide documents and understand how to operate the systems onboard the boat. A few related questions would be:

• Have you read the base and boat guides? (This simple question tells you a lot, but you need to also test their understanding)

• How many seacocks are onboard and can you tell me where they are?

• Where is the link switch, what does it do and how do you operate it?

• Do you know where the anchor windlass breaker is?

• Where are the first aid kits?

• Do you know where all the fire extinguishers are?

• Where is the liferaft and how to you get it ready?

• How many lifejackets are onboard and where are they?

• Show me how to check the engine and run through a start up, manual stop

• Do you understand how the reefing system works? (sailboats obviously)


You’ll get a general feeling of how well they have picked up and understood the information on the boat as well as their general experience level, but with some you will need to ask detailed questions to ascertain their level of understanding.

Make sure they are aware that understanding how the boat works is an important part of being a competent skipper and facilitates hassle free days on the water.

3. Assessment: Navigation and seamanship

Ensuring that the member knows how to navigate safely and shows appropriate caution/diligence in passage planning, is a key part of the competency assessment. Relevant questions would be:

• Have you checked the weather and tide for today?

• Do you know the Hamble river tidal curve and how would you use it?

• What would be a good plan for today’s conditions if returning to Hamble and what are the hazards to consider?

• Given the forecast, describe any boat preparation you feel is sensible before setting off today.

4. Assessment: Boat handling

Assessing the members ability to safely handle the boat, particularly in close quarters marina situations, is a key component in the competence assessment. Areas to cover include:

Crew brief and depart from pontoon taking into account wind and tide – Can they do this sensibly without any guidance and with good awareness of the wind and tide? – using lines and springs appropriately.

180° turn in confined space – Get them to come straight back into the marina turn the boat around then head back out. Did they take into the account wind and tide and turn into the strongest element?

Coming alongside a pontoon – Try to go through a few examples of berthing. But at least one forward and one astern. Did they move fenders around depending on parking forward or reverse? Did they brief on lines and where crew should be?


5. Assessment reporting

Following completion of the assessment you need to fill out an instructor report form (available via 1. Quick Links on the main instructor page). You are under no pressure to pass the member as competent – we simply ask for honest and accurate feedback detailing their strengths and weaknesses, but you will need to select from one of 3 possible outcomes are:

Competent – approved to take all boats in the assessed class.

Conditionally Competent – some conditions on usage. E.g. boat type, fair weather or range they may sail.

Training required – in the unlikely event that competence is not demonstrated at the necessary level, please let us know that further training is required.

Please ensure you add sufficient detail in the notes section of the form to provide us with a good understanding of the members strengths and weaknesses.

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