Inexperienced guests who want to play cowboy with the yacht’s stable of Jet Skis have long been a major concern to deck crew. In 2007, the RYA (Royal Yachting Association) introduced the PWC Instructor Course for superyachts. The course certifies yacht crew to give owners and guests the RYA Introduction to PWC Safety Course and to issue them personal watercraft licenses, as required by an increasing number of coastal authorities.
Typically, the RYA requires its courses be taught at its approved training centers, but because most superyachts don’t have the time to send its crewmembers ashore for training, the association has qualified a number of private instructors to bring the course directly to the boats. Among the firms offering the RYA course onboard are Blueprint Watersports (www.blueprintwatersports.com), Powerboat Training UK (www.powerboat-training-uk.co.uk), Bluewater (www.bluewatertraining.com) and Oceanpro (www.oceanpro.co.uk).
“Over the last twelve months, the [training] has really taken off and a lot more enquiries have started to come through.” said Chris Eades of Blueprint Watersports. “We offer a full bespoke service on board the yacht…this way, they are working within the environment they know. Whilst on board, we can then create all the necessary systems and operational procedures, etc., for the yacht to become an RYA center.”
A yacht must have at least one certified RYA PWC Instructor amongst its crew in order to become an official RYA PWC training center for owners and guests.
The course typically takes four days to complete. “[It’s] mainly on-water, but with some theory and presentation skills run in a classroom environment (usually the crew mess or unused decks),” Eades said. “The first part is the one-day RYA PWC Competency Certificate…. The next three days are the RYA Instructor Training Course.”
The time commitment comes as a surprise to many crewmembers. “This is usually overcome when they realize that the course is less about testing their own knowledge and PWC skills [and] more about developing teaching skills and the techniques of group control and safety,” said Oceanpro’s Phil Godwin.
“Students tend to find that the course is quite hard world but informative and enjoyable,” agreed Bluewater’s Lizzie Irving. “Once the crewmember is qualified and able to issue certificates, it enables the yacht to let their guests use the Jet Skis in total freedom.”
Paul Glatzel of Powerboat Training UK commented, “[The training has been] well received. Initially there is often some skepticism but once the crewmembers realize the yacht has invested in a really valuable qualification for them, they really [get] into it.”
The one-hour safety briefing and competency training that the RYA requires its PWC Instructors give to yacht owners and guests before letting them hop onto the yacht’s Jet Skis, Sea-Doos and WaveRunners is not always met with a warm reception, however.
“Some guests, who may have been using PWCs for many years, on charters have been initially frustrated when told that they now have to complete the course,” Godwin said. “If the instructor approaches it in the right way, however, and uses the time to test their knowledge, it usually overcomes this. More typically though, the guests accept the need to be ‘licensed’ as they realize the potential dangers of PWCs.”
“It can be done in a fun environment, and it is imperative,” Irving said. “The guests need to remember that the crew do not make the rules and regulations.”
“The key is that the captain and management company must leave no room for doubt that undertaking the course is essential and PWCs cannot be used on board unless the course is taken,” said Glatzel. “The requirement should be referred to in the charter contract and should be a part of the captain’s initial brief to guests.”
“Most boats like the fact they now have a reason that the guests must listen to a safety briefing [as well as] the fact that they are trained instructors on equipment which in the past has been taught through experience rather than a scheme,” Eades said.
These training firms agree that when it comes to PWC operations, the RYA course has enhanced owner and guest safety aboard RYA-certified superyachts.
“Many yachts already provided some of the safety framework that the RYA requires of a Superyacht Recognised Training Centre…. [But] recognition as an RYA training centre ensures that these procedures are documented and formalized …,” said Godwin. “What the scheme has also done is defined a syllabus with specific teaching points [for] what a PWC user must know before taking to the water.”
“The yacht is required to have a regime of supervision with defined areas of operation and safety boats with a trained crew member supervising at all times,” said Irving. “This can only be beneficial to guest safety.”
“The [most important part of] all of this is that for the first time, education and thought are going into the small crafts of yachts,” Eades said. “We believe that in the future, training on board superyachts in all small craft (powered and sail) will become the norm.”
RYA PWC Instructor Training also can benefit crewmembers professionally. “The scheme helps to show that the crew have fulfilled their duty of care to their guests in training them to a standard that is recognized by an independent body. In that way, it should help to protect any crew member should an incident occur,” Godwin said. “It’s a wise choice for any yacht that operates PWCs.”