Following a problematic marriage breakup in 2007, the previous years had left me without a home and financially broke, trying to make sense of what had happened and the challenge to create a new life on my own. At the core of my life was sailing, which was my happy place, so I decided to look to becoming an accredited RYA Offshore Yacht-Master.
With some 30 years of international dinghy racing behind me, all I needed was to gain offshore sailing miles and learn to navigate? Little did I know that the RYA system over the years that would pass would be strengthened to include the learning and understanding use of Radar and the in depth knowledge of International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea – the COLREGS – is essential for anyone skippering a vessel of any size regardless of how close to shore they might be.
I set off by completing a VHF course and signed up for the Fastnet offshore race which turned out to be one of the most challenging years with a 24 hr delay, due to the high wind conditions, with our boat only making it to Lands End, retiring to Plymouth. Over the winter months of 2014, an Offshore evening theory course was completed, whilst I continued crewing for friends on J109’s and J133 gaining offshore experience crossing the English channel several times. However, a proper offshore crossing remained outstanding when an opportunity to join leg three of the 2019/20 Clipper Round the world race came along a 5000 Nm crossing of the Southern Ocean transiting from Cape Town to Fremantle.
image © www.imagemundi.com 2019
In spring of 2020, with some +8000 Nm miles logged I signed up for the Yacht-Master practical exam, due to COVID19 this would be delayed until July, never before would my sailing abilities be under the microscope.
I aced the man overboard and moring manoeuvres, I even could navigate to a hidden location, just the COLREGS oral theory test to pass? And then bang I hit the buffers with the examiner advising that the RYA requirements for an Offshore Yacht-Master are to have immediate recall of the regulations! He was right; you need to know and apply the safety regulations in any situation at sea at a moments notice.
During the exam debrief the examiner recognising my exam practical performance, with a four-week revision lifeline being given for me to return for an oral retest. Well, the next few weeks were tough as I had two offshore deliveries to crew whilst finding ways around my dyslexia. Four weeks later, I passed the oral retest via a Zoom call with the examiner.
Thirteen years on I am now proud to announce I am an RYA Offshore Yacht-Master. If it was not for my family and friends for their support in achieving my dream this would have not been possible, thank you.