Ocean Sailing with Rubicon 3
Ocean sailing with Rubicon 3
Rubicon 3 is Europe’s leading ocean sailing school – so you’ve come to the right place! Spending time out at sea is exhilarating, life affirming and unlike just about anything else you will have ever done. Hundreds of miles offshore, life becomes a far simpler affair. The vast ocean surrounds us, and the sky, unblemished by buildings, is just as vast. Our tasks are simple: we tend to the sails, we keep a watch on the weather, we keep the boat on course, and we rustle up some (pretty amazing!) meals. It’s a time to think, to reflect and just, joyously, to be. Time largely disappears as we settle into the watch routine and as the majestic sun dips below the horizon, another day rolls into night and the cosmos of stars reveals itself again. We navigate using a sextant, so not only can you marvel at them – you can use them to keep track of where we are. Come and experience the magic.
New to ocean sailing? Here’s an introduction
Setting off to sea is always an exciting time. The familiar comforts of life on shore are left behind and ahead lies the majesty of the open ocean. Over the days ahead you may be sailing under bright blue skies with white flecked seas and a blazing sun or hunkered down with minimal sail and dark, angry seas as a gale sweeps through. Whatever the weather throws at us (& it can often be a bit of everything!) you are sailing in some of the finest ocean going yachts ever built, with expert crew and a spectacular time lies ahead
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What is ocean sailing like?
The dream of being out on the open ocean, far from land, is one so many people have had, but never turned into reality. The crew is totally engaged with the wind, with the waves and with the life of the ocean. It is a time when all the usual worries and stresses of land disappear and one becomes almost another person. You will find you are resourceful in ways you could never imagine and that you have all the inner strength you need if ever things get tougher. There are glorious champagne days, when the sun is shining, the wind is a perfect Force 6 on the beam and the boat is charging along with the crew whooping and smiling. Other days, the clouds will be thick and dark and the winds much stronger and colder. Now is the time to put on one of our super warm immersion suits, clip on to the safety lines, and marvel at the power of the wind and sea. It can be un-nerving at first as one hears the shriek of the wind in the rigging and the crashing waves all around, but one quickly adjusts and it is a scene that quickly reveals its own magic and beauty. It becomes obvious the yacht can more than cope, that the crew have more than enough in them not just to keep going but to crack jokes, make some lovely warm meals from down in the galley, and sitting up on deck drinking hot cocoa and seeing out the gale. Night time brings it own challenges, and as the on watch give you a shake in your warm sleeping bag and a 20 minute warning, it can be hard to force oneself awake and struggle out of the warm bag and into all your clothing, foul weather gear and life jacket. Soon enough though everyone’s awake and it can be awe inspiring to head upon deck and see one of the greatest starscapes one can ever see. Millions of stars providing a timeless canopy that so many ocean sailors have seen before. Night sailing is special, and one takes the helm and feels the power of the yacht surging through the waves, it is an exhilarating feel and memories will be being made for life. No matter how special the night sky, dawn at sea is always welcome. One can see the deck again and all the lines. and the majestic glowing orb of the Sun as it peers over the horizon is so welcome. Soon the air is warming, there’s the smell of breakfast being cooked in the galley and another day on the ocean begins – but not before the night watch head down for another good sleep!
Which yachts do we use?
Unlike almost all other sailing companies, we only use thoroughbred ocean going yachts. Our Clipper 60s and Bowman 57 were designed to sail the oceans of the world and all have done many full circumnavigations. They are incredibly well designed and built and are fast, powerful and comfortable inside. They will soak up bad sea states, deal with strong wind and provide you with a safe and comforting environment in even the worst conditions (much as we try to avoid them!)
Have a look inside one of the yachts you’ll be sailing on here.
How do Rubicon 3 yachts differ from other yachts I might sail on?
The really big difference is that our yachts were custom made to sail ocean passages, whereas most other sailing companies use standard production yachts, such as those made by Beneteau, Jeanneau, or Bavaria. These are lovely yachts for playing around in coastal waters or for making short passages, but they are not really designed for dealing with heavy weather offshore. The shape of the hull is different, Such yachts can certainly be capable of crossing oceans, but it is not what they were primarily designed for and if the weather take a turn for the worse, you will certainly know about it. Trust us when we say, ours are the yachts
What skills or training do I need?
Although we always think it is wise to have sailed at least once before heading offshore, the vast majority of our trips are open to everyone. However, every ocean and offshore trips starts with at least one and usually two to three days of intensive training and coastal sailing. This gives you time to learn the necessary skills, get acclimatised to life on board and generally prepare for a more extended period of sailing, away from land.
Will we find ourselves sailing in heavy weather?
The chances of this happening are very slim indeed, but it can happen. We have very accurate and up to date weather information. Combined with a schedule that allows us plenty of room to manoeuvre, we can avoid most heavy weather. Make no mistake, out on the open ocean there is always the possibility of heavy weather. It is not something to be sought out and we pick our routes based on the best season for sailing in that area. Most of our ocean sailing courses and holidays have us at sea for around five days at a time, and with modern weather forecasts, it is very rare indeed that we cannot pick a weather window which gives us instead some glorious open ocean sailing.
Will I be safe out at sea?
We are rigorous about safety on our yachts. They are coded to Cat 0 rating, which is the highest safety rating possible. All crew have state of the art ocean going life jackets (not common on many yachts) and are provided with Fladen immersion suits. These are not only lovely and warm to sail in when it gets cold, but will also hugely increase your chances of survival should we ever have to abandon ship. Again the provision of such kit is not common on other sailing yachts. The skipper and mate are both hugely experienced ocean sailors and the yacht is equipped with a large offshore medical kit, sat comms and trackers. Bearing in mind that you are heading far offshore, this is as safe as one can be.
Incredibly safe and seaworthy vessels
The Rubicon 3 vessels all meet the MCA’s most stringent safety requirements. Not only are these boats kitted out with the essential safety equipment of their Category 0 status, but we have also carefully researched and invested in a whole host of additional items which make them supremely well prepared for long distance voyaging. Add to that the fact that these boats were specifically designed for ocean sailing and you have resilient, comfortable vessels which can keep you safe in the most challenging conditions.
Experienced, calm tuition from kind, patient instructors
Our skippers and mates are specifically chosen because they have the skills, confidence and ability to support a crew through long, remote passages. All too often we hear that someone has been put off ocean sailing because they did a passage with an inexperienced skipper who failed to fully involve them, or communicate why key decisions were taken. Our instructors will ensure that you are fully involved in the experience from day one and will actively encourage you to learn as much as possible.
Am I suitable for ocean sailing?
You do need to be aware that once out on the open ocean there is no getting off at the end of each day, and so you need to be either comfortable with what life is like on a sailing yacht or happy just to throw yourself into an unfamiliar environment and a different way of life for a few days! Ocean sailing can be blissful with steady winds and hot sun and it can also be wet and windy and quite a test of your energy levels and stamina for a while. Sailing 24 hours a day, you will be in a watch system that gives you 4-6 hours off at a time and until you are used to this you may feel quite tired on days 1-2. We may also be heeled over for considerable periods of time and that can make daily life much slower and a bit more of a challenge. Obviously, once we’re out on the open ocean, that’s it and you’re committed. This is all what makes the highs of ocean sailing what they are.
The Ocean Crossing Masterclass: what you’ll learn on board
Out on the ocean, everyone gets fully involved in the sailing of the boat. We’ll teach you everything you need to know, but we’ll also teach you how to prosper out on the ocean. That means how to keep safe, how to route around heavy weather, how to deal with gales and big seas, use of radar and more. This we have grouped into one top quality course, which we have called the Ocean Crossing Masterclass. For those of you who just want to come and sail, that is great. For those who really want to get into it, this course is there for you. Delivered by experts in the field, we firmly believe this is the best practical course on ocean sailing that you will get.
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Passage Planning and Weather Routing
A successful ocean passage has often been planned months or even years in advance. We teach you about the different considerations for ocean passage planning, and look at the many resources available to the ocean sailor. Integral to ocean passage planning is weather routing, choosing the best time of year to maximise sailing time and minimise the risk of heavy weather. We’ll introduce to NAVTEX, and help you get to grips with NAVAREAS and the various GMDSS broadcasts that relate to them. You’ll learn about routing charts so can make informed decisions whilst you’re out there. You’ll also b e working with the various Admiralty Lights and Radio Signals (ALRS) publications to ensure you have the information you need to plan well.
Watch systems and life on board
Keeping the crew fed, watered, rested and happy is the key to a successful ocean passage. Could you make a menu plan which could cope with the fridge packing up or running out of gas? How can you minimise water usage and ensure that you’d still have enough even if one part of the water system failed? What would you do if you had major electrical failure? These are all topics that have to have been thought about before they happen. A well run boat could not be more different than one with a haphazard approach to life on board and poor preparation. Tap into the wealth of knowledge of your skipper and mate to think through your options if it ever happens to you.
Heavy weather tactics
However much we may try to avoid it, there are going to be times out on the ocean when Neptune decides to give us a big challenge and we need to be ready. When the wind gets to 40 knots you are in a full gale and beyond that you are starting to get into survival conditions as wave height increases dramatically after 38 knots. Once conditions have deteriorated this far, should you drop your sails and run under bare poles or heave to and try to hold on until the storm passes? What are the pros and cons of sea anchors vs drogues and series drogues? When it’s gnarly out there, it only takes a freak wave and hatches or port-lights can be damaged and start letting in water. On the masterclass, you’ll actually practise mounting emergency storm board, as well as raise tri-sails, launch drogues and more. We try things out and demonstrate the kit which most people, (if they even have it which can be rare) leave in the locker.
It’s all too easy for something to happen to the compass on a yacht and for it to start giving you a false reading. It could be you are in an area of magnetic anomaly, you may have some electrical equipment interfering with it or the adjusting magnets may have become dislodged. This is why a regular compass check is critical. We’ll show you how to check it’s still giving you an accurate reading.
Satellite Navigation Systems
Especially in this day and age where GPS is ubiquitous, it’s all too easy to switch on the navigation system at the start of the passage and follow it blindly until you arrive at your final port. While you’re with us though, we’ll show you a bit more about what’s going on, how it all works and what to watch out for. This is especially key to know should you ever need to activate your Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) as there are certain characteristics that will determine how long it will take for the signal to be picked up and how easily they will find you.
Great circle sailing
A great circle is defined as a circle on the earth’s surface the centre of which passes through the centre of the earth. In essence , the great circle track is the shortest distance between two places on the earth’s surface and something which is therefore critical to ocean navigation. There are various issues that this can lead to, however, not least of which is the curve may take the vessel into a higher latitude than is prudent. We will discuss these issues and talk through the techniques uses to keep the vessel safe
RYA Yachtmaster Ocean: What you need to know
Ocean Yachtmaster is the highest RYA yachting qualification. There are all sorts of requirements to achieve it and here we will guide you through everything you need to know. If you are signed up as a watch leader, then you will be on a qualifying passage and well on your way to achieving this prestigious certificate. We put many candidates through this exam every season with a superb success rate and very high quality feedback from the examiners.
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The first thing to realise is that on the Ocean Crossing Masterclasses, we teach you far beyond the level required to pass your exam. We focus on on getting you the right skills and experience, not simply in getting you through an exam. To this end we have published our own Ocean Watch Leader manual, packed full of all the knowledge you need to know and more. Those signed up as a watch leader rceeive one of these with their booking. Once on board you will be taught a detailed syllabus that is very hands on (and much better than a purely classroom based approach) We believe this is the pre-eminent ocean sailing course available and could not be more different from the glorified deliveries on charter boats that many other operators offer.
The RYA Yachtmaster Ocean Qualifying Passage
You must have completed a qualifying passage within the past 10 years as skipper or mate in sole charge of a watch on a suitable vessel. You must have been fully involved in the planning of the passage, including selection of the route, the navigational plan, checking the material condition of the vessel and her equipment, storing with spare gear, water and victuals and organising the watch-keeping routine. Your time onboard as a watch leader achieves all of these requirements.
Are Rubicon 3 Ocean Passages suitable for Ocean qualifying passages?
Yes, except for the rare exception, they all are. We very carefully check the routes against the RYA criteria so you can rest assured that it will qualify. Not only are these ocean qualifiers, but they are some of the most exciting routes around. If you’re ever in any doubt whether a passage is an ocean qualifier just email us or call us on +44 (0)20 3086 7245
Can I sign up as a watch leader?
To be a watch leader, you need to have at least RYA Coastal Skipper (or equivalent). We can only take 3 watch leaders on any passage, so you need to book a place as early as possible and ensure you select ‘watch leader’. As a watch leader you will need to join the boat 24 hours early at 1000hrs, for a day of training and passage planning. You will also receive our Ocean Watch Leader book which is a treasure trove of information and learning. There is a surcharge for watch leaders of £150. On joining the boat, you will be asked to pass a short theory test to ensure that you are up to standard. So long as you do your revision before hand, this should hold no fears for you. if we do not believe you are up to standard, we will ask you to fulfil a crew role.
A Watch Leader’s Role & Responsibilities
You have a contradictory position as a watch leader in that you are both student and being asked to lead your watch. As a student, you are there to polish your existing skills and to learn many new ones. As watch leader, you are there to use your past experience and existing skills to ensure the yacht is sailed safely. This entails but is not limited to:
- Monitoring the wind and weather and informing the skipper if there is a change beyond that allowed in the SOPs.
- Ensure the course and speed are appropriate to the plan
- Ensuring the watch is keeping a good lookout, including on the AIS and radar where applicable
- Monitoring of the VHF
- Monitoring the well being of the other crew on deck and ensuring they are kept warm, fed and rested.
- Making sure that the log is kept accurately and the yacht’s position plotted.
- Keeping the cockpit safe and orderly
- Getting sextant sights were appropriate
- Having the new watch woken in time and your watch always timely.
You should be aware that we expect a watch leader to lead, not tell people what to do: that means you need to work harder than the rest of the watch, be outside when it is raining and cold, not hiding down by the chart table! You need to be getting brews made, doing the tough jobs and generally setting a superb example that ensures others are willing to follow and contribute. If we do not feel you have adequately fulfilled the role, we will not sign you off as having completed the task.
What tasks do I need to complete onboard for the exam?
You need to be (& will be) fully involved in the preparation of the voyage, including route planning, yacht preparation, victualling and all the other 101 tasks that need to happen before we can set to see. You may well not have done this before and that is fine. We will guide you. You are here to learn. Once at sea, other than fulfilling your role as watch leader you need to do a compass check. You must print off and come with the following form. We do not store these on board and we have to sign them! Ocean Passage Form.
What about my sun sights?
To pass your exam, you need to have done a Sun-Run-Sun-Run-Sun, where one of the sights is a Merpass. These sights do not have to have been taken during your qualifying passage.
Can I do the sights on my qualifying passage?
Yes, if the weather allows. We always use the sextant when navigating offshore, so not only will you get to take sun, star and moon sights, but you will actually be navigating by your results. This is a much better way to learn than simply taking a sight for the sake of it. Your Rubicon 3 training crew will give you lots of assistance – however, you have to have got to a reasonable standard before you join. We cannot and will not teach celestial navigation from scratch onboard as it is too time consuming.
Am I guaranteed to complete a qualifying passage?
No. It is our firm intention that you will complete the passage but if weather or yacht issues develop that mean we cannot make the intended destination, then the safety of the crew and vessel will always be our over arching concern.
Do I have to attend a Yachtmaster Ocean course?
Absolutely not. Many of these five days courses spend the first four days teaching celestial navigation and that is not something you have to do on your qualifying passage. If you already have some skill in celestial navigation or attend our two day theory course, then allied to the wealth of information in your Ocean Watch Leader book and what you will learn on board, you will have more than enough knowledge to pass the exam. If you have not taken a 5 day course you will simply have to answer some written questions in addition to the aural exam. This is a very small price to pay for saving a week and around £500!
How do I book a Yachtmaster Ocean Exam?
We can usually arrange to have an examiner run your exam, and this is often best done straight after your passage or shortly after when everything is still fresh in your mind. Do just ask us and we can help you arrange the exam.