Advanced Powerboat Exam Preparation

Its that time of year again where you may be either booking or looking at doing your RYA MCA Advanced Powerboat CoC Exam..

The RYA/MCA Advanced Powerboat exam is a practical test of skippering ability by day and night in the type of craft applicable to the National Powerboat Scheme.


Initially, its important to point out that some people can find the exam quite stressful due to a lack of adequate preparation and practice. If you have completed the RYA Advanced Powerboat course this is a good start but it is 'a start' i.e. the course introduces you to the various methods and concepts of advanced powerboat handling, passage and pilotage planning techniques and execution but it is down to you to put the time in to practice, practice, practice and study these techniques before your exam. After all the main reason people complete the exam is in order to gain the MCA / RYA Commercial certificate which gives you the ability to operate a powerboat up to 10m in daylight and darkness with up to 12 paying passengers onboard (that's a pretty big responsibility!). Here's some specifics on what's expected, the requirements and an example of how your exam may run.. (though every examiner is slightly different, the main content is the same)

MCA RYA Advanced Exam Duration:

  • 1 candidate: 4 - 5 hours
  • 2 candidates: 5 - 6 hours
  • 3 candidates: 6 - 7 hours

No more than 3 candidates can be examined in any one session.. 


Certificates required to attend the exam (additional certificates are required for the MCA Commercial Endorsement): 

Minimum Sea Time: 

OR if you don't hold the RYA Advanced Powerboat Certificate then: 

  • 2 years relevant experience including night pilotage; as a guide: 30 days, 2 days as skipper, 800 miles, 12 night hours. 

All qualifying sea time must be within 10 years prior to the exam. 



Knowledge to the level of RYA Yachtmaster Offshore Theory


Overview of what's involved in the MCA RYA Advanced exam?

  • Preparation for Sea
  • Boat Handling
  • Awareness of the effects of wind and tide when manouvering
  • Responsibilities of a Skipper
  • Passage making and pilotage
  • Meterology
  • Rules of the Road (IRPCS)
  • Safety

An Example Exam program:

  • Arrival at the location
  • Boat & Equipment familiarisation 
  • Safety Equipment & locations 
  • Boat preparation incl. gear stowage

Daylight sessions afloat: 

  • Holding station
  • Picking up a mooring
  • Man overboard recovery
  • Anchoring
  • Marina Work: Coming alongside, Turning in a confined space
  • Towing


Oral Exam: 

Either as part of the general running of the exam or as a specific session you will be asked to either answer a number of questions or show your knowledge via chart or other suitable piece of equipment. This can be incorporated into your Night Exercise preparation, examples of subject matters are below and adjacent. 


Night Exercise Preparation - you will be issued with all or part of a passage/pilotage plan to create including finding lit marks and unlit points. Your plan should include the following: 

  • Position fixing (shaping your course to allow for tide)
  • Tidal information
  • A range of pilotage techniques 
  • Use of leading and clearing lines, transits and sounds as an aid to your pilotage. 
  • Recognition of lee shore dangers, various navigation tactics. 

Night Exercise: 

  • Enter and depart from a charted port
  • Identify lit marks and unlit waypoints
  • Utilise a range of navigation tactics (both traditional & electronic)
  • Utilise Electronic navigation to enhance safety i.e. GPS, Radar. 

Umbrella Knowledge / Skill Expectations: 

  • Application of Road Rules & Local Byelaws and courtesy. 
  • Safety - Knowledge of the safety equipment onboard and how/ when to use it. Crew/Passenger care including safety briefings, crew communications and emergency procedures. 

Other background knowledge/skills: 

  • Routine engine checks 
  • Hull types, propellor configurations
  • Handling powerboats in challenging conditions
  • Meteorology i.e. beaufort scale, sources of weather & interpreations including their impact on passage planning