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Bareboating in the Mediterranean: do you have an International Sailing Certificate?

Posted In: Charter Sailing Holiday Tips , Charter Sailing and Sailboat Industry News

For so many weekend sailors a Mediterranean sailing holiday is the ultimate yachting adventure. A self-skippered experience that’s very accessible for those with the necessary experience and a willing crew of family or friends. Just keep in mind that in Europe there’s also a formal requirement for chartering bareboat without paid skipper.

Amongst a variety of sailing qualifications on offer, The Royal Yacht Association’s International Certificate of Competency (ICC) and its American Sailing Association (ASA) equivalent are the entry level tickets we need to see for skippering in that part of the world.

What follows is written from a New Zealand perspective, where in general our bareboat clients are experienced sailors with boat-handling skills developed in conditions more rugged than they'll most likely face on a Mediterranean charter. For other nationalities, the requirement is the same and the process is available in your own country. The vast majority of the prospective bareboat skippers we assist find completing the ICC course quite routine. There is just some preparation required.  

What New Zealand charterers need to know

Approval for bareboat chartering starts with a self-prepared sailing resume that sets out the skipper’s experience. We request that document at the time of booking, and it is usually enough to satisfy the local operator’s requirements.

Then there is the formal certification that must stand scrutiny from the port authorities in the destinations that legally require it. Charterers must carry an original of this in the boat’s Papers Folder. Simply put, the ICC and its ASA equivalent indicate that experienced sailors who had done time on the water have been examined for their skills and knowledge and assessed as capable skippers.

In New Zealand, the sailing skills and knowledge required to safely skipper a bareboat on charter are commonly backed up by an NZ Boatmaster Certificate, a readily-available classroom or online course that tests and extends existing knowledge, but has no practical component. 

A completed skipper’s sailing resume satisfactory to us as your broker and supported by a Boatmaster Certificate is still accepted in many jurisdictions. But that’s no longer the case in Europe, where an ICC is also required.  This certificate is a totally hands-on evaluation conducted by authorised ICC examiners. In New Zealand there are currently a small number of such practitioners, all located in the upper North Island. 

For experienced Kiwi sailors seeking the ICC to facilitate a charter in the Mediterranean and increasingly elsewhere, we recommend you talk to Suzanne Bourke at Sailing Away School of Sailing.

Suzanne is a highly qualified and experienced sailing instructor providing the RYA ICC course - a practical three-hour assessment. This includes boat helming under sail and motor, sail handling, man overboard, safety procedures, mooring and coming alongside. The course takes place by arrangement on Suzanne’s boat The French Connection out of Westhaven Marina, Auckland (use of your own boat can be discussed). 

Even the most experienced recreational sailor comes away having learned something valuable from the Sailing Away ICC course. Gordon, a recent participant, had this to say; “I’m pretty experienced but I still learned a lot on the course, for instance how to improve my mooring techniques.  The one-on-one course was enjoyable with lots of talking through the finer points, and the opportunity to put what I was taught into practice.”

On successfully completing the course, qualified persons need to apply for their ICC via NZ Coastguard. From there it can take two months or longer for RYA in the UK to issue the certificate. So it’s very important to take the course early in the planning stage of an intended bareboat charter holiday.  

There are many other recreational sailing courses on offer

In addition to the ICC that’s a requirement in Europe, sailing schools offer a wide range of training courses that will help make your charter more enjoyable. There are courses for beginners to sailing, some tailored towards partners of experienced sailors going on a charter together, whole-family courses that incorporate the ICC for the skipper in the group, and more advanced courses if a coastal charter is but a stepping stone to blue water sailing. 

This article is not an outline of sailing courses available – they are numerous - or a comprehensive description of the ICC. It is a guide for those wishing to skipper bareboat on charter in the Mediterranean and elsewhere, intended to point you in the right direction.  

Full details of available courses and the various levels of sailing qualification available can be found at the links included in the text, those listed below, and those of practitioners in your own country. 

Sail Connections fully supports policies that improve every aspect of safety at sea and thus the sailing holiday experience. If you have any questions on the qualifying process for bareboat charter in your preferred destination, and the sailing holiday alternatives available to less-experienced crews, please don't hesitate to contact us. 

Further reading:

Boating Education New Zealand

Royal Yachting Association

American Sailing Association

International Yacht Training Worldwide


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