ICS was set up in 1980 by Bryan Willis, former International Judge and Chief Umpire of the America's Cup; Olympic Jury Chairman; international authority on the Racing Rules of sailing; author of several popular books on the rules; nautical adjudicator; and in 2020 Bryan was inducted into the America's Cup Hall of Fame. As a keen and competitive Enterprise sailor, Bryan began taking on young crew members, this developed in him an interest in teaching sailing. He became passionate about youth sailing and after setting up ICS his courses soon became well known for inspiring young people in the sport. The courses went on to gain international acclaim with many high profile attendees including Peter and Zara Phillips, and many who would go onto enjoy illustrious careers in the sport not least Olympic medalists Andrew Simpson and Sarah Webb. Bryan retired from running ICS in 2006 handing over to his son Jae who with many years experience working with young people continues to develop and improve the courses in the same vein.
Learn more about our courses on this page. If you have already booked onto a course, read our welcome info here.
Having an excellent team that understands the ICS ethos is an essential element in keeping up our renowned high standards. We require instructors to not only be great sailors but also patient teachers who know how to make learning to sail a fun and rewarding experience. And when it comes to advanced race training we utilise our best racing coaches, some of whom raced Optimists &/or Toppers at an international level. All our race coaches compete regularly at national and international events.
Every sailing group will have at least one fully qualified RYA Dinghy Instructor (DI) as a Group Leader, with Assistant Instructors sometimes also being qualified with DI. The minimum requirement for Assistants is Powerboat Level 2 (PB2) + Assistant Instructor (AI), with all the RYA Youth Scheme Syllabus up to level 4 or first Racing Grade having been achieved as a minimum as well.
Because of the uniqueness of ICS courses, it's very helpful to us if instructors have attended the courses themselves as skippers. When a skipper becomes too old to continue attending as a student, if they made an impression as exceptionally good communicators; seemed naturally positive and team-focused; and if their sailing level is of a high enough standard, they are encouraged to get qualified with the RYA and return to us as instructors. This means that a good portion of our staff are very familiar with the unique way in which we work, so the positive traditions of ICS are carried forward effortlessly. New staff will be teamed up with those who have worked for us before.
We generally achieve an overall staff to student ratio of 1:4. This depends on the distribution of ages and levels into the various groups as this can restrict the allocation of instructors. The RYA minimum ratio of 1:6 is our limit so all skippers will receive this ratio as an absolute minimum.
Syllabus & Awards
ICS is structured around the belief that if a person is enjoying the experience of learning to sail they will be more inclined to want to learn and they'll do so more effectively and effortlessly. So our primary concern is that all the skippers have a thoroughly fabulous time! In addition to all the fun, we work with the RYA youth syllabus and get excellent results.
Syllabus & Awards
We use the RYA Youth Training Scheme. New sailors will be provided with an RYA logbook on the course.
The days run from 0930 - 1800 and are very full. We also give out a small amount of ‘homefun’ each evening (except the last) to keep the skippers' minds in sailing mode even after the day has finished. Homefun also helps the instructors gauge how well the skippers in their group are grasping the elements being taught, and they may adjust their daily plan as a result. Although homefun should not take longer than 15 minutes, skippers tend to be exhausted at the end of the day, because of this we don't advise that additional evening activities be planned during the course.
Our courses are structured to run over 4 days. New sailors often achieve Level 1 on their first course, and as a general rule, if skippers have sailed regularly since their last grade was achieved, they will progress through their next grade on each subsequent course. However, we're well known for only awarding certificates when the level has genuinely been achieved, we do not give ‘attendance certificates’. Awarding certificates for the sake of it only gives a false impression of the skipper's level and actually does no good to their self esteem. It's much better to feel good about achieving a grade when you know it is well deserved. And grade-achievement can also be weather dependant.
The courses are highly structured and we cram in as much as we can during each week but we are honest about giving awards. If you simply want your child to get an RYA certificate there are lots of sailing schools that have a ‘relaxed’ policy on awards but we are not one of them. A certificate awarded by ICS is well earned and highly regarded. That being said, a high level of achievement is attained through our practices and it is not uncommon for skippers to achieve their desired grade.
The RYA syllabus includes a capsize exercise. In addition to any certificates earned, skippers in the top (racing) group who pass the ICS comprehensive ‘rig, launch and sail efficiently applying all 5 essentials’ test, will be awarded the coveted ICS ‘Copper Oppy’ or 'Copper Topper' award.
If you have already booked onto a course and are looking for more practical information - read our welcome info here →
All instruction at an average overall instructor/student ratio of 1:4 (the RYA standard is 1:6).
Top Quality Food
Fully catered fresh, locally sourced (where possible). Healthy breakfast, elevenses, Pre-chosen packed lunches, tea (with biscuits and cakes), two course cooked evening meal.
Each skipper will receive their own branded ICS T-Shirt, fair-trade and organic.
Course Photo Album
Access to a password protected online album of images taken during the week (usually no less than three photos of each child plus group shots).
All Relevant Awards
ICS provides an RYA log book plus all awards where relevant.
No Spending Money Required
We provide everything each skipper needs for the course so there is no need for spending money during an ICS course.
A deposit of 50% of the course fee is required on registration. The remaining course fee should be paid when requested approximately eight weeks before the commencement of the course. An email will be sent as confirmation of registration, containing payment details.
Because of the very limited availability of places on the new residential courses, there are unfortunately no discounts available. However, there are a number of bursary opportunities.
For those who would love to send a skipper on one of our courses but just can’t afford it, there are a limited number of bursaries available each year that can reduce the cost of each place by as much as 25%. Simply let the principal, Jae Willis, know in an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) that you would like to be considered for a bursary and he will send you the relevant form.
Cancellations / Refunds
Cancellation policy for the new residential courses is TBC
If your child is eligible to attend but needs to hire a boat, we will do our best to find you one through our list of contacts. It would be a private agreement between you and the owner of the boat, so once putting you in touch we leave the rest to you. However, we strongly recommend that every skipper attending an ICS residential has their own boat!
There is no minimum swimming experience required to attend an ICS course, however if a skipper can’t swim we must be made aware and they should wear a full life-jacket (rather than a buoyancy aid) at all times when on or near the water.
There is no requirement to belong to a sailing club.
There are two types of ICS residential:
Adventure (Min requirement RYA Stage 3)
We focus on RYA Stage 4 and enjoy a range of exciting sailing adventures in and around the north east coast of the Isle of Wight. Additional skills to the RYA stage 4 syllabus will be incorporated such as anchoring and navigation. The course will culminate in all the skippers sailing home single-handed across the Solent where parents meet us at Stokes Bay in Southampton.
Advanced Racing (Min requirement RYA Intermediate Racing)
We focus on completing the RYA Advanced Racing stage, but also work on racing skills with a competitive race series, team racing, advanced tactics, wind and tide awareness and more. Skippers sail to and from the course venue across the solent from Stokes Bay in Southampton.
Weight restrictions for Optimists and Toppers:
For Optimist skippers
Maximum weight: 55 kgs.
For Topper skippers
Maximum weight: 65 kgs.
These are guidelines and there are always exceptions, please email Jae if you have any questions.
An Optimist/Topper dinghy must be provided for each child, with a trolley.
Wherever possible we will use recycled products – from paper to bin bags.
Wherever possible and in relation to availability we will use fresh and locally sourced food products.
We will only use environmentally friendly cleaning products.
We recycle our waste where possible.
For the company T Shirts and Hoodies we use the environmentally friendly screen printers 'T-shirt and Sons' who provide us with organic and fairly traded garments and use earth friendly ink.
"Thanks so much Jae. Such a happy and healthy lot of children - a great tribute to you and the whole ICS team."
_Dr. Cecilia Bottomley.
"Fab photos Jae. Thanks! And another great course. All 3 Hardwicks loved it!"
"Millie has enjoyed your course so much this week that Hamish is filling in the application for Papercourt Membership as I type this! Thank you so much."
"Thank you for the role ICS played in helping our children build a love of sailing. Jess is now SE optimist zone squad coach with level 2 racing and dinghy instructor as well as being a keen 29er sailor. James after a 5th at the Feva worlds is now in 29ers also and Annie made Zone squads in the Oppy!"
"I wanted to thank you for the course this week for Poppy and Elise, which has been a huge success. They absolutely loved the sailing and couldn't be more enthusiastic about Teresa and Hannah and everything they learned, so a huge thank you to them. The great food also featured in their delight, so thank you for that!"
"Thank you for a superb course. Both of my 2 thoroughly enjoyed themselves and Felix was stoked to win the copper Oppy! A lovely touch."
"Belated thanks for a spectacular week at papercourt for Thomas and Arabella green. Thank you very much for organising a great experience for the kids."
_Benedicta green .
"Just a big thanks from me for all you did for Gemma last week."
"Thanks for the fantastic Oppy course that Sebastian did last week. He loved it, and we loved watching them all on Thurs."
"My daughter was pretty nervous the night before and after the first day but then felt very relaxed and thought her group instructor was brilliant. The atmosphere was great and the food was spot on, so thank you for organising such a successful week. We’ll definitely be back next year."
_Mrs Le Butt.
"Jae, thanks for everything last week. Simply the best and most well organised sailing course for young people in the country."
"Phoebe, Daisy and Polly really really loved their sailing course. Even better Phoebe got over her sailing angst and is now relaxed and enthusiastic and longing to do it again. It really was the high spot of Easter. We would definitely like to do it again next year if possible – adding Violet as well (Heintz no 4) They wrote you some letters which you can find attached. Thank you for such a great course – beautifully organised and wonderfully designed for that age group."
"Hi Jae, I just wanted to say a belated thank you for the excellent first sailing experience that Daniel and Millie had last week. They both thoroughly enjoyed themselves and clearly learnt alot in a really fun environment. I thought that the atmosphere was lovely, and particularly enjoyed seeing the kids all helping each other out getting their boats ready. They were both really keen to complete their homefun every evening and get ready for weather forecasting. I am busy recommending the experience to all their friends."
Stephan Groves is a professional Yacht Skipper currently working in the Caribbean. Paul, Stephan's father, has kindly put together this short account of his son's sailing journey (so far) that started with ICS in 1992