ASA versus RYA Sailing Courses

Navigating the Waves – ASA versus RYA Sailing Courses for Couples and Families. If you’ve ever dreamt of setting sail with your loved ones, exploring the open seas, and living the cruising lifestyle, it’s an amazing path to join. The first step on this thrilling journey might involve choosing the right sailing courses, and two organizations that stand out like beacons on the nautical horizon are the American Sailing Association (ASA) and the Royal Yachting Association (RYA).

The first class my husband, Simon, took was a three-day course on how to sail a sailboat offered by a sailing vacation company called Sunsail. Simon and I and another couple wanted to charter a 44′ sailboat in the Mediterranean for a week. After looking into the requirements to charter, we discovered that only one of us had to qualify. Simon and my girlfriend’s husband went and did the course.

Sunsail recommended an RYA course at the time, so that’s the path we followed. If you plan to sail outside of America, RYA is more internationally recognized.

But allow me to back up. Let me introduce ASA and RYA, and then we’ll get into some of the advantages and disadvantages. Keep reading!

Looking for something more robust than RYA or ASA? My husband, Simon, offers Sailing Lifestyle Experiences!

ASA Sailing Courses: Setting Sail the American Way

ASA offers a range of courses tailored to sailors of all levels, making it an ideal choice for families setting their sights on becoming sailing cruisers.

Beginner-Friendly Bliss: ASA 101, also known as Basic Keelboat Sailing, is where many start their seafaring training. Perfect for beginners, this course teaches you the ropes (literally) of handling a sailboat, understanding wind direction, and the basic maneuvers to navigate the waters safely.

Family-Focused Learning: ASA courses are designed with families in mind. ASA 103 (Coastal Cruising) and ASA 104 (Bareboat Cruising) allow families to learn together, ensuring everyone is on the same page regarding tacking, jibing, and anchoring. By taking the Bareboat Cruising, you can charter a boat on your own!

Navigating the Seascape: ASA 105 (Coastal Navigation) is the compass rose on your sailing map. This course equips you with the skills to plot your course, read nautical charts, and navigate coastal waters—a crucial skill for families eyeing a life at sea.

Safety First, Always: ASA emphasizes safety, and ASA 118 (Docking Endorsement) is a gem. It’s not just about setting sail but also about docking gracefully. Because let’s face it, you want to look like pros when you glide into that marina.

(Side rant – I’m not sure why ASA or RYA fail to teach docking in mainstream courses. It drives me nuts! Docking is such a necessary skill. When we did our RYA Day Skippers, we asked our teacher if he could spend more time teaching us to dock. He told us that if we went fast through all the necessary coursework, he’d teach us what we wanted to know. Let me tell you, we learned more about docking from our teacher than what we learned in all of our courses combined. Okay, rant over, but perhaps it’s worth asking your instructor if you can spend some time docking?!)

Skip the sailing schools and learn what you need to know – Join Simon on a Sailing Lifestyle Experience!

RYA Sailing Courses: Sailing with a Touch of Royal Elegance

Let’s hop across the pond and explore what the Royal Yachting Association offers.

Start with a Splash: RYA Start Yachting is perfect for sailing novices, offering a taste of life on the water. It’s a great initiation for families looking to test the waters (pun intended) before fully committing to the cruising lifestyle.

Family-Friendly Fun: RYA Competent Crew is a family-friendly course that turns landlubbers into capable crew members. It’s all about teamwork, communication, and building the confidence to take on the high seas as a family unit.

The Skipper’s Seat: RYA Day Skipper is where the magic happens. This course transforms you into the captain of your ship, teaching you the skills needed to plan and execute a successful voyage. Perfect for families eyeing independent adventures.

Celestial Navigation: RYA offers a course for adventurous spirits who fancy navigating by the stars. Unleash your inner navigator and impress your crew with your newfound ability to find true north using the heavens.

One thing that RYA does is offer professional courses. Simon had to do his Yacht Master to become a charter captain. Before we could sell our Sailing Lifestyle Experiences, he had to be qualified to take paying guests. In the US, it’s a different system. ASA is recreational; you work with the Coastguard for the professional side of things.

I add this note because an RYA certification might be the best path if you are interested in chartering your boat or earning some money doing deliveries. Let’s carry on and look at some of the advantages and disadvantages.

Are you not sure what path is best for you to take to become a sailing cruiser? Spend a week with Simon and get all the necessary skills and confidence!

ASA versus RYA Sailing Courses – Advantages and Disadvantages

The choice between ASA and RYA certifications depends on various factors, including your location, future sailing plans, and personal preferences.

ASA Sailing Qualifications


  • Widespread Recognition in the U.S.: ASA certifications are well-recognized in the United States, making them suitable for those planning to sail in U.S. waters primarily.
  • Flexible Learning Approach: ASA courses often provide flexibility in learning styles, allowing for a mix of online and practical training.
  • Focus on Cruising: ASA certifications tend to be geared towards cruising and chartering, which aligns well with the goals of individuals who want to become sailing cruisers.
  • Structured Program: ASA has a structured curriculum that progresses from basic sailing skills to more advanced topics, providing a clear path for skill development.


  • Limited International Recognition: While ASA certifications are recognized in the U.S., they may not be as widely accepted internationally as RYA certifications.
  • Potential for Regional Differences: Depending on the specific sailing school, there might be variations in the quality and consistency of instruction.

RYA Sailing Qualifications


  • International Recognition: RYA certifications are highly regarded globally, making them a good choice for those planning to sail in various international waters.
  • Comprehensive Curriculum: RYA courses cover a wide range of topics, providing a comprehensive education in sailing and navigation.
  • High Standards: RYA is known for its rigorous training standards, ensuring that individuals with RYA certifications have a solid foundation in theory and practical skills.
  • RYA Day Skipper Certification: The RYA Day Skipper qualification is highly respected and recognized internationally, making it a valuable credential for cruising sailors.


  • Emphasis on Racing: Some individuals feel that RYA courses may have a slightly greater emphasis on racing skills, which may not be as relevant for those focused on cruising.
  • Potentially Higher Cost: RYA courses can be more expensive, and the cost may vary depending on the location and the specific school. Regarding the location, there are RYA courses worldwide, so if you plan to sail the Med or the Caribbean, it would be easy to find a course in those popular cruising grounds.

Click the picture to get details on our Sailing Lifestyle Experiences. Find adventure and freedom living the sailing life!

ASA versus RYA Sailing Courses Considerations

  • Location: ASA certifications may be more practical if you plan to sail primarily in the U.S.. For international sailing ambitions, RYA certifications could be advantageous.
  • Cost: Consider your budget for training, including course fees, travel expenses, and accommodation.
  • Future Plans: Assess your long-term sailing goals. If you aspire to charter boats internationally, an RYA certification might be more beneficial.
  • School Reputation: Research the reputation of specific schools offering ASA or RYA courses, as the quality of instruction can vary.

ASA and RYA certifications can be valuable for becoming a proficient sailing cruiser. Choose the one that aligns best with your goals and offers the flexibility and recognition you need for your sailing adventures.

Join Simon on a Sailing Lifestyle Experience

Joining Simon on a Sailing Lifestyle Experience offers a unique and immersive approach to sailing education that goes beyond traditional RYA or ASA courses. Simon’s extensive knowledge and experience as a liveaboard cruiser create a personalized and hands-on learning environment.

Unlike formal certifications, the Sailing Lifestyle Experience focuses on practical skills, real-world scenarios, and the day-to-day challenges of sailing and living aboard. Participants not only gain sailing expertise but also receive insights into the lifestyle of long-term cruising.

This holistic approach, combined with the camaraderie of a small group setting, fosters a supportive learning community. Simon’s Sailing Lifestyle Experience is an ideal choice for those seeking a more personalized, adventure-filled introduction to sailing that extends beyond the confines of formal certifications.

Furthermore, he can teach couples, families, and parties with up to six guests. Get more details here: Sailing Lifestyle Experience

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