Have you wanted to get an international sailing certification so you can sail around the world? Do you want to learn from the best and get the most hands-on sailing education possible?
Whether you’re just starting to learn how to sail or you’re a seasoned sailing veteran that wants to become officially certified, you’ll have to choose between one of several organizations to consider for getting your sailing certificate. The most prominent sailing organizations worldwide that provide similar certifications proving your sailing competence include:
- International Yacht Training (IYT)
- Royal Yachting Association (RYA)
- American Sailing Association (ASA)
- United States Sailing Association (US Sailing)
Before you choose one sailing association over the other, you need to ask yourself what your goals are. Do you want to sail in the Mediterranean as well as off the coast of Southern France or the UK? Or do you have a strong desire to explore the coasts of North America?
Between the sailing certifications offered by IYT, RYA, ASA, and US Sailing, you’ll be able to explore the world on your terms and you’ll certainly have the know-how to do it. Whether you have your own sailboat or are chartering one, these certifications will keep you covered.
International Yacht Training
International Yacht Training (IYT) is one of the most prominent, well-known independent sailing and boating training organizations in the world. They are one of the few organizations that provide not only marine education on the recreational level but also on the professional level. IYT was originally founded in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA but is now headquartered in British Colombia, Canada.
I received my formal training in sailing through IYT, which is how I acquired the International Certificate of Competence (ICC). As a standard for sailing, the ICC is often required before chartering a boat in European waters; both coastal and internal. I personally learned off the coasts of Spain as well as around the many islands around Croatia.
As I mentioned, IYT is a well-known marine education organization that’s reputation proceeds itself all over the globe. Before they started providing recreational sailing courses (like the ICC), they worked solely with maritime professionals to ensure they could safely operate vessels of all sizes. They have schools over 250 schools in over 56 countries and are growing by the day.
The main advantage of getting your sailing training through IYT is that they’ve become the global standard in sailing, powerboat, and maine safety education. Since most of those who charter vessels are aware of the strong standard IYT sets for its students, they’re more likely to provide you with a sailboat.
When it comes to the renewal time of your ICC, you’ll need to renew it every 5 years. Along with that, there are 24 countries that officially recognize it as an official certificate of sailing competence.
Countries Officially Recognizing the ICC:
Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Ireland, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, South Africa, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and Ukraine.
While there are many countries around the world that aren’t on this list (including the US), the fact of the matter is that presenting an ICC to someone you wish to charter a boat from will increase the likeliness of you taking a sailboat out on the water. There may be a request to review your logbook and other documents confirming your competence, but there’s no doubt an ICC adds a lot of weight in your favor.
Anyway, there are numerous schools located in specific countries where the ICC is technically not officially recognized, like the US, Thailand, and countries in the Caribbean, which have been known to informally recognize the ICC.
It’s also important to remember that there are many different types of courses you can take through IYT, including weather, navigation, VHF, superyacht, powerboat, dive boat, dinghy sailing, Yachtmaster, and commercial/professional courses. The possibilities are endless if you consider IYT, especially when you consider they have schools all over the world.
Royal Yachting Association
The Royal Yachting Association (RYA) is the oldest and most well-known governing body of dinghy, yacht, and motor cruising in the world. Before there was any other association providing standardized education in the maritime industry, RYA was the only contributor to the expansion of maritime-based education.
Originally founded in 1875 as Yacht Racing Association in the United Kingdom, its main objective from the outset was to lay out the standards of measurement for different yachts competing in sailing races. The reason this is important is that some sailboats may have either an advantage or disadvantage over other sailboats in a race, so they must be assigned a positive or negative handicap before the race can commence.
Since then the RYA has become a symbol of competence when it comes to sailing education and therefore has a strong reputation worldwide. While they don’t focus as heavily on professional training as much as IYT, they have the advantage of developing a strong curriculum for recreational sailors all around the world.
Before I earned my ICC through IYT, I did my research on whether I should get my ICC through IYT or RYA. From what I remember it wasn’t then possible to earn an ICC through RYA but instead use the evidence that you learned from RYA the necessary skillsets through their UK-based certifications. However, they now provide a pathway for those interested in earning their ICC through RYA, which is fantastic for those wishing to sail throughout Europe and beyond.
Just like the ICC by IYT, the ICC by RYA provides the same luxuries and permissions when it comes to sailing around the world. While not every country in the world has accepted the ICC as an official certificate for sailing competency, more and more schools are offering it as a standard for officially licensing sailing skills, including the RYA.
American Sailing Association
The American Sailing Association (ASA) is one of the most prominent sailing associations in the United States as well as the Americas in general. Their sole focus is on teaching recreational sailing to beginners and experts alike.
Established in 1983, the ASA is the youngest of the best places to get a sailing certification. Since their main focus is on recreational sailing, they pride themselves on providing the best quality educational content on the market. This definitely shows when perusing their website and reading about all the fun activities they sponsor throughout the year.
If you’re looking to attain a certain level of certification from the ASA, then you’ll definitely be interested in the International Proficiency Certificate (IPC). Similar to the ICC, the IPC is also an internationally recognized certificate of sailing competence that has a strong reputation.
Unlike the ICC, the IPC allows sailors to explore the many regions of the Americas as well as the beautiful waters of Europe. This is in stark contrast to the ICC since it doesn’t officially allow for chartering sailboats in the US and the Americas in general. The IPC is a fantastic certification that, if I were living in the US at the time of getting my sailing certification, I would have worked toward.
When it comes to the renewal time of your IPC, you’ll need to renew it every 5 years. Also, there are 27 countries that officially recognize it as an official certificate of sailing competence (as opposed to the 24 for the ICC).
Countries Officially Recognizing the IPC:
Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
Countries Where It’s a “Maybe”:
Moldova, Russian Federation, Serbia, Sweden, and Ukraine.
That’s definitely more countries than the ICC and even includes several “maybe” countries. These “maybe” countries are known to generally accept the IPC when it’s presented while sometimes requiring some extra convincing through other documents, be them local certificates or log book evidence. If you include the “maybe” countries, that brings the total number of countries from 27 to 32.
Again, similar to the ICC, the IPC is an internationally recognized certificate of sailing competence with certified sailing schools all over the world. In all likeliness, presenting your IPC as evidence of sailing competence will be sufficient enough to be able to charter a sailboat in the most popular destinations around the world.
United States Sailing Association
The United States Sailing Association (US Sailing) is the oldest and primary governing body of sailing in the United States. US Sailing performs a number of functions for the US sailing community, including recreational sailing and powerboat education, racing education, US Olympic team training, instructor and racing official training, and much more. Clearly, US Sailing plays a very important role in the US sailing community.
The North American Yacht Racing Union (NAYRU) was officially established back in 1897 in Bristol, Rhode Island, USA, and became US Sailing in 1991 as a non-profit aimed at building and supporting a strong and vibrant US sailing community. They even are responsible for selecting and training the US sailing teams racing in various events during the Olympics.
Just like the ASA, US Sailing provides a means for sailors to earn their IPC so they can have the freedom to charter sailboats all across the globe. The certification provides the same exact luxuries and permissions as if it was earned from the ASA.
One of the main differences between the ASA and US Sailing in terms of the schools is that they are solely located in the United States. This should remind you of how RYA is solely located in the UK, which is also a primary governing body of sailing. With that in mind, US Sailing has schools all up and down the coasts as well as the interior states. On top of that, they’re even located in Mexico and the Caribbean (even Bermuda!).
Another great perk about going with US Sailing is that they offer a large variety of different courses for recreational purposes. While you’ll undoubtedly want to investigate their IPC course, there are plenty of other interesting courses that any water-loving crew member would love to dive into.
The Best Sailing Certificate for You
As the saying goes, “knowing is half the battle”. After going through the most well-known, established sailing organizations in the world, you should have a good idea of what your options are at this point. However, there are certain advantages and disadvantages when picking one sailing organization over the other as well as which certificate you’re more interested in earning.
Let’s walk through the most important factors you should consider before choosing one organization over the other.
Many people get into sailing as a recreational activity so they can simply enjoy themselves be it by cruising or racing. However, there is most definitely a percentage of people who are marine professionals seeking education.
If you’re searching for a sailing organization that provides the highest quality education at a global level, you’ll most likely want to go with IYT. They have the most established international reputation for training maritime professionals all around the world.
Arguably the most important factor in choosing a place to learn how to sail is where the closest sailing school is located. While the sailing organizations we covered have schools all over the world, others are solely present in certain countries and regions.
The two sailing organizations that have sailing schools all over the world are IYT and ASA, with IYT covering far more countries. Either way, one of these organizations will likely have some schools relatively close to where you are compared to RYA and US Sailing.
If you’re located in the UK, consider RYA. If you’re in the US or North America, consider US Sailing. Both organizations have a very strong network in their respective countries and provide a lot of value to their local communities.
Primary Sailing Region
Depending on where you might end up sailing the majority of the time, you’ll want to consider whether it makes sense to get one certificate over the other. The differences between the geographical regions that recognize the ICC and the IPC aren’t huge but they certainly exist.
If you know that you won’t be leaving waters European for the gorgeous waters of the US and Caribbean, then the ICC should be sufficient for your sailing adventures. However, if you do ever plan on crossing the pond, consider the IPC as you’ll be able to sail in both US and European waters.
I mentioned this before, but the ICC is the most well-known sailing certification in the world so it’s likely that most countries, even if they don’t officially recognize it, will recognize it informally. If there’s any further evidence required beyond your ICC, a copy of your logbook should be more than sufficient to prove your mettle.
Shocking as it may be, some people are more interested in other activities apart from sailing. While these sailing organizations obviously specialize in providing top-quality sailing education, they do bring other educational opportunities to the table.
Most of the sailing organizations we took a look at provide further education in other water-based activities, but the ones that really stand out are IYT, RYA, and US Sailing. If you’re interested in learning the ins and outs of sailing as well as one day becoming a Yachtmaster (which is my goal), consider these sailing organizations.