FAQ - Sail Training

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FAQ - Sail Training



What’s the RYA

The Royal Yachting Association (RYA) manages a training certification system in the many areas of nautical recreation (dinghies and sail cruising, motor, windsurf) most respectful and recognized internationally for its quality and standard requirements.

There are recognized schools all over the world that respect the demanding operation requirements (safety, training, equipments) and therefore are authorized to offer a training program and certification of competences on continuous improvement and great quality. West Coast is one of those schools with certification to train sailing and power.

The advantages:
list Get a competence certificate recognized internationally;
list Apply to a certificate for which you already have experience and competence (enter the program at any level according to your experience level, avoiding having to do an inferior level when you have already previous experience);
list Get the certification in less than 1 week spending 5 days sailing (sleeping o board) or 2 days on a RIB;
list Explore the amazing waters of the Lisbon shore, including Cascais, Sesimbra, Tróia and Sines, while you enjoy a few days of holidays;
list Cruise in a comfortable, funny way on a great learning environment on board our new vessels and with great equipment, where you’ll experience the most modern equipments.

Visit the Royal Yachting Association website to get more information about the RYA.

In which language are the courses taught?

Every RYA courses are taught in English. This is a condition to the issuance of a RYA certificate.

It is only necessary to have the basic knowledge to communicate in english. You can even study the nomenclature before your course with the help of a book. Our instructors speak several languages and will always help so that everything is clear. In case you don’t understood a word or a concept in english your instructor can explain to you in Portuguese. But we have to take the class in English so you get globally comfortable with the terms and, if you decide one day to do the next level on one of the many RYA schools spread across the world, you’re able to proceed smoothly on your way. You’ll see that is quite fun and very easy!

The Keelboats Level 1,2 or 3 can be taught in Portuguese or English. However they don’t lead to a RYA certification.

Who is able to take a Sailing Course?

Anyone who doesn’t have problems with physical coordination and know’s how to swim. If you’re able to run across the street to catch a bus then probably you won’t have any problems to move and balance on board!

There are however some general prerequisites for example:

list Must know how to swim or at least be “comfortable” in case of falling into the water;

list Activity prohibited to pregnant women;

list Must be older than 14 years old and underaged must always be accompanied by an adult.

On your application form you’ll have to tell us if you suffer from any medical condition (asthma, heart, back, dietary restrictions). This doesn’t mean you can not participate in the courses - your instructor simply just needs to take some precautions and know how to act in case of need.

From 14 years old it’s possible to participate in our courses and activities since accompanied by the parents. However the entrance in the cruising sailing must not be “forced” too early. Till the 14 years old there are the so called “sailing subs” specialized in dinghies, that are the ideal boats for children (Optimist, Lazer...).

You’re free to contact us so we can recommend you an option on this case.

In which boats do the courses take place?

g725 8It depends on the chosen course.

The G7.25 is the vessel with 7,25m that we advise for a simple and practical entrance into sailing. It’s features of agility, speed, maneuverability and stability make it the ideal solution for anyone beginning in cruise sailing.

Our courses in small vessels (Keelboats / day boats / sports boats) are a great to start cruising, work on 2 Levels that can be done sequentially: Level 1  or Level 2  and are taught in this vessels.

This vessels are totally equipped for the purpose: include symmetrical and asymmetrical SPI, stay, genoa, tourmentin (we also learn to fold sails). All of them have safety equipments that are necessary for touristic activities, including an inflatable life raft for 6 people. This vessels have a rigorous maintenance plan that includes a dry storage every year.

On the other hand the RYA courses are taught on larger vessels, longer than 10m.

We have a Bavaria 32 cruiser, Dufour 382 and a Jeanneau 36i that support the “RYA Sail Cuising” scheme. It’s also possible to start sailing ("RYA Start Yachting") on this vessels. Since 2015 are also available 2 RYA initiation levels ("RYA Start Sailing" e "RYA Basic Skills" which are beginners levels on sail cruising but distinguish from the other for not being residential (does not imply overnight aboard and work from 0930 to 1800).

These are vessels with accommodation and cabines that allow to travel, real yachts!

How many students are on board?

alunos6In our “Keelboats” Courses you’ll never find more than 4 students plus the instructor on board (and usually we place just 3 students lus instructor).

This is a topic that distinguishes our Sailing School because we give preference to a personalized training and focused learning. You’ll find in many schools with slightly lower prices but with 7 students on board outings are just "cruises" and not a real training.

With less students on board you have more space to maneuver, more time at the wheel and more attention from your instructor. This way every crew member participates actively and achieve a higher level at the end of the course.

With 6 or more students on board a 4 hour class, probably your engagement in the handling of the boat will be residual, most of the time and the instructor can not keep up your evolution and adapt the learning rhythm to your needs.

On the “RYA Sail Cruising” courses scheme on cruising vessels, the maximum ration student-instructor allowed by the RYA is 5 : 1 (and frequently we just place 4 : 1).

We understand that at least on the beginning, during the first contact with the boating world it is essencial to enjoy personalized training.

West Coast is the only school working with this reduced ratio in order to assure a customized and more efective learning .

Do boats capsize?

No. Cruising vessels, instead of dinghies, don’t capsize because they have a keel that is responsible for the vessel balance.

For example, the G7.25 weights 1250Kg of which 600Kg are concentrated on the lead keel! Vessels are equipped with a ballast system rather high (keel) that lowers the centre of gravity and balances the vessel.

To capsize a vessel of this type would be necessary to be on a great storm with huge waves, that never occurs on the river.

Every time weather conditions don’t allow for sailing your skipper may cancel and re-schedule your outing for safety reasons.

How long is a class?

Equipa4 FernandoVitorOnce more it depends on the course you chose. Best practices recommend that classes must have a full-day duration in order to have a better performance

For the “non residential” courses we recommend full-day classes (from 0930 to 1800). However it’s possible to split your classes in 4 half-day periods (instead of 2 full-day periods). In this case classes work from 0930 to 1330 or from 1400 to 1800.

For the RYA Start Sailing and RYA Basic Skills courses full-day classes are mandatory.

The remaining courses certificated by te RYA, which are “residential” courses where you spend the night on board, you’ll find crews up to 5 students plus the instructor with courses during from 2 days to 5. Levels up to Day Skipper can be divided for example in 3 + 2 days on two consecutive weekends, in which one is longer.

According to the course level it may include night navigation and arrivals at harbors may depend on the conditions. On a typical 5 days course you’ll start on a Sunday by the end of the day and disembark on the next Friday in the afternoon till 1700. Classes on board are always practical, even when there are some exercises more “theoretical”, those are done while cruising, at anchor or in the marina.

Learning methodology is based on the practical experience whereby students go out to sea whenever the conditions allow it, including the first class. So, bring your sea clothes from the first day!

What’s the difference between a Boating License and a Sailing Course?

Courses that lead to a Boating License (Basic Skipper, Local Skipper, Coastal Skipper) are essentially theoretical and taught in classroom. Despite providing a legal certification in Portugal to command a vessel don’t provide practical cruising experience, especially sailing. This courses have a similar program to a jet sky, a motor boat or a sailing boat.

This legal certification however is necessary if you’re going to buy a boat or if you wish to charter and if are the responsible one for the boat. We recommend that you take one of this courses after gaining some practical cruising experience whether sailing or motor.

Courses leading to a boating license are always taught in Portuguese and finish with a final exam with an external examiner from the DGRM. On this case the first level you can take is the Local Skipper. You can only do the Coastal Skipper if have already the Local Skipper for at least one year.

Yet if you’re looking for a boating license but desires to get already some theoretical concepts with chart navigation for example, the solution is to start with a boating license, probably Local Skipper.

Contact us always to get our advise and to find you a solution.

Courses are only on weekends?

It depends on the course you choose and there are many options that you can choose depending on your availability.

The “Keelboats” courses are available on weekends or workdays. The 5 day RYA courses are usually made from Monday to Friday. But levels up to Day Skipper, including it, can be divided on a 3 + 2 days format (split weekend). This means that you are able to do your course on a weekend plus a 3 days weekend.

Contact us so we can help you on the many options and formats.

Is there a theoretical part?

The courses are essentially practical. Obviously, many theoretical notions are also learned whether on the first class that includes an initial briefing a little longer, whether using days with bad weather or without wind.

Some of our courses have an e-learning system as a support to the “theoretical” learning. For example on the “Keelboats Level 1,2 or 3” courses you can get your sailing book especially written and adapted to the vessel in which you’ll sail. It has also available some additional resources to reinforce the learning on the IRPCS, meteorology, amongst others.

We advise that during the week you review and consolidate the practical concepts that you’ve learned on class, making use of these resources. Consult always your instructor by email or telephone in case you have some questions relative to the theoretical concepts.

The “theoretical” courses are mostly the courses leading to a Boating License (in the Portuguese system) and the RYS Shorebased Courses (in the RYA system taught in english),

What is the E-Learning for?

If your course includes online learning resources we recommend that you do your subscription on the E-Learning platform.

Usually you’ll get an access password when you subscribe however if you don’t get it request it by email (not all courses have e-learning resources)..

Classes are mostly practical and take place at sea so these resources are usually an important learning complement.

The Keelboats Courses Level 1-2 or 3 include an e-book “Sailing Manual” that can be obtained accessing to the platform. The manual is an important theoretical complement to the practical concepts that you learn on board. Here you’ll find for example resources to learn and practice the fundamental knots on board.

Whenever you have any question check with your instructor to get support and additional explanations.

Do I have to buy special clothing?

Not at all. Surprisingly sailing requires very little equipment besides sports and comfortable clothing.

Obviously there are many interesting and comfortable equipment, but we recommend to do first some sailing classes and get some advise from your instructor so you can decide to buy later with more information.

On our confirmation mail of the sailing course there is a list of recommended clothing. To know:

list Soft soled shoes that doesn’t drip, with white sole (like “sailing shoes” for example. High heels are totally forbidden)

list Sports and comfortable clothing (avoid necklaces and earrings);

list Cap, suncream and sun glasses (in summer);

list Windbreaker, wool sweater and change of clothing (for fresher days or wet on winter, specially for the Sailing School students);

list Bring always a sweat-shirt or windbreaker, fundamental if you’e sailing during later afternoon, even in the Summer;

Some students consider important gloves with fingers cut to protect hands from the lines.

You have available full Helly Hansen equipments to rent for periods of 1 or 5 days in case you need and for a symbolic price. Contact us for more information and to book.

And after the first course? How Can I Continue Sailing?

On West Coast you find many options to continue practicing without the need of buying a boat immediately with all that requires.

If you have done the Keelboats - Level 1 you may attend an advanced course (Level 2 and Level 3) accumulate mor hours at sea, or you may opt to do one of our amazing RYA courses and experience of living on board for 1 week and sail from harbor to harbor.

West Coast has also a set of options to continue sailing:
. Flexible Sailing
. Member's Club
. Boat Charters with and without Skipper
. Boating Licences
. Coastal Trips

Consult always our instructors so they can advise you on the best way to proceed

With a beginners course can I buy a vessel and go out alone?

The answer is it depends.

We have many students with the beginners course in sailing boats that feel comfortable to cruise and learn by themselves and with their own mistakes. Others feel that they need more hours with accompaniment.

Yet after the beginners course you will have experienced for sure a variety of situations (very windy, less windy...) to take your own decisions.

One thing is right: after the beginners course you must be ready to be a crew member on board knowing all the fundamental maneuvers (tacking, gybing, heading up, bearing away, nautical nomenclature, safety onboard) and this is where you should begin.

Anyway our advise is that you get additional experience for example a RYA course that consists one week on board and 5 days cruising where you can truly experience the reality of sailing.

However in Portugal to take command of a vessel you must have a boating license.

Is it normal students to get seasick during classes?

It is rare, because the normal conditions of the river don’t cause seasickness.

However eventually it can happen, sometimes even in days without wind and where exists some waves. If you are suspicious because of previous experiences that that could happen or if you are more sensible to seasickness, it is recommendable to take one pill before the class, with the recommended antecedence, or use a bracelet anti-seasickness that you can buy at our store in the Oeiras Marina.

Many times the simple fact of taking the pill helps facing the first outings and the, after you get used to it for sure you’ll be able to feel comfortable on board! It is part of the learning process of living on board.

Do I have to take food?

Please confirm if your course includes meals on board or not. Some full-day courses we stop for a lunch break. However sometimes we also lunch at anchor on a bay or even while moving. On this cases you may have to take your own light lunch.

Keelboat Courses Level 1-2-3 don’t include meals. Our RYA courses includes meals on board (breakfast, lunch and some dinners). Meals outside the vessel in restaurants are never included.

In a 4 hours class usually is not required to take food yet you may do it because there is enough space on board to store your backpack.

The ideal solution are always sandwiches, energetic bars and drinks. Water on board is always very important. All light meals, pre-prepared and simple to eat on board even when the boat is moving.

What happens if I can’t attend?

Please read our terms and conditions that are in the back of your application form. Different courses have also different cancelation policies so you must check your case in particular.

We advise all our students making an insurance that covers withdrawal or cancellation of your reservations.


And in case of bad weather? Class still takes place?

There are many kinds of “bad weather”.

The decision if a class takes place or not in a weekend is taken by the group instructor based only in the comfort and safety of students.

The decision is usually taken on the previous days of the class. Based on our knowledge and the level of the group we decide to maintain or re-schedule the class.

We always try to warn previously by telephone and email, however it has happened sometimes to re-schedule the class right before leaving. This is a decision and a reality that is part of day-to-day sailors and which we must learn to deal with: decide to leave or not the harbor whenever the weather is unstable and promises storm.

We note that “raining is not bad weather”! Unless it’s particularly intense and comes without wind. Therefore we advise following carefully our recommendations for clothing because sailing with some rain is quite fun! Bad weather means strong winds and big waves, generally together, that may endanger the vessel and crew.

All classes that doesn’t happen due to bad weather are re-scheduled whereby no one misses a class because of the weather.

Should I learn on a Large or Small Vessel?

DSCF8506Smaller vessels are generally more sensible and a great solution for learning. This is due to the sensibility and balance that is required to the crew, wether on the wheel wether on sail trimming.

Learning on a smaller vessel, where balance depends on the crew positions, is faster and more solid. All the concepts that we learn on smaller vessels are then easily applied on any other vessel.

The coastal vessel that we use for the Keelboats Courses - Level 1,2 or 3 (G7.25) is fast, sensible at the wheel and spacious for maneuvers. It has all the necessary pedagogical features for a good learning. At the same time is a vessel with fixed keel (lead with 640Kg and 1,60m of draught) which assures a great cruising quality.

West Coast has also larger vessels (10m and over), the “cruising vessels”. This vessels have accommodation, bathroom and bedrooms and allow to “residential” courses passing the night on board. Those are the solution for everyone who seeks the cruise sailing and nowadays many sailors learn right on this boats. However we always advise, if you have the chance, to do some outings on smaller vessels to get some additional sensibility, even after doing a course on a larger vessel there is a lot to learn on smaller boats,

Do I have the right to a Boating License?

The term “Carta de Marinheiro” (Basic Skipper Boating License) generally refers to the Portuguese certification system (Basic Skipper, Local Skipper, Coastal Skipper, Ocean Skipper). This courses are essentially class based and after the exam you get a legal certification to command a vessel.

Practical sailing courses, don’t have as goal obtaining a Boating License and can not provide the legal certification to command a vessel in Portugal. You’ll have to subscribe in one of the above courses to get that certification.

On a sailing course you really learn how to cruise acquiring practical experience, unlike a course that leads to a Boating License which is mostly theoretical (essentially taught in classroom).

To get a Boating License you’ll have to subscribe in one of the Boating Licenses Courses which leads to a Boating License (Basic Skipper, Local Skipper, Coastal Skipper or Ocean Skipper).

We always recommend to take first a practical course where you can have a first contact with sailing experiment and see if you like. Then you can take a Boating License which the main objective is to allow you to cruise independently and be legal to the authorities.

On the West Coast you can still get the certifications issued by the English authorities (the RYA). Contact us to get more information about this system and how it works and to know the main differences to the Portuguese system,

Contact us for additional information.

Sailing is a safe sport?

Sailing is a very safe sport but as in any other sport there are some risks that we must beware.

Sailors are known by the nautical community for being particularly careful with safety issues.

On our Sailing School we take special attention to all the safety issues, that’s why we have on board all the recommended equipment and practice many safety procedures such as the use of inflatable lifejackets, man overboard maneuvers, the use of VHF, amongst others.

We must necessarily know all the risks involved to avoid them but sailing is a very safe sport.

In case I’m pregnant can I take a course?

No, to avoid any risk for the life of the fetus, West Coast doesn’t allow pregnant passengers or practitioners.

Passengers must communicate an eventual pregnancy when they pretend to book an experience or subscribe to a course.

Even in case of a very recent pregnancy, must not embark onboard of a vessel.

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Marina de Oeiras - Loja C9
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