General Info

Sailing and Swimming ability requirements

For Optimist Courses:
No minimum sailing or swimming experience is required (buoyancy aids are worn at all times), and there is no requirement to belong to a sailing club. Age minimum 7, maximum 14. Maximum weight: 55 kgs. There are up to seven ability groups on each course accommodating skippers with little or no sailing experience all the way up to those with extensive racing experience. These are guidelines and there are always exceptions, please email the principal if you have any questions.

For Topper Courses:
No minimum swimming experience is required (buoyancy aids are worn at all times), though we do not take total beginners in the Topper class so a minimum requirement of RYA level 1 plus some further sailing experience is required for all Topper sailors. There is no requirement to belong to a sailing club. Age minimum 13, maximum 17. Maximum weight: 65 kgs. Max height 170cm. There are up to five ability groups on each course accommodating skippers from intermediate level to advanced race training.
These are guidelines and there are always exceptions, please email the principal if you have any questions.

NB: If a skipper can’t swim they must wear a full life-jacket (rather than a buoyancy aid) at all times when on or near the water.

Syllabus and awards
The standard course duration is five days, however, we do not have use of the club facilities for Easter Monday or Good Friday, so the courses either side of Easter are squeezed into four days. The syllabuses are moderately intensive and include ‘homefun’ each evening. It is therefore not inadvisable for parents to schedule other evening activities during the week of their child’s course.

Two award schemes are run concurrently on the Optimist course: the Royal Yachting Association (RYA) Junior Award Scheme and the International Optimist Class Association (IOCA) Award Scheme. For the Topper course we just use the RYA scheme. The syllabuses include a capsize exercise. In addition to any RYA or IOCA certificates and badges earned, skippers in the top (racing) group who pass the ICS comprehensive ‘rig, launch and sail efficiently single-handed’ proficiency test, will be awarded the ICS ‘Copper Oppy’ award. All awards are given only when required levels of skill or competence are reached. We do not give ‘attendance certificates’. The courses are highly structured and we cram in as much as we can during each week but we are strict about giving awards. If you simply want your child to get an RYA or IOCA certificate please do not send him/her on an ICS course. There are lots of sailing schools that have a ‘relaxed’ policy on awards. 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.

A skipper who has reached IOCA level 2 or 3 who has no experience between courses will struggle to regain their level from one year to the next. This is not a problem, but it should should be considered if there is an expectation that the skipper will complete the next grade each consecutive year.

Instructors and Staff
We draw on a corps of experienced instructors who are conversant with our teaching methods. New staff are briefed before hand and will be teamed up with staff who have worked for us before. For the typical number of fifty six children on a course there is a staff of around twenty including fourteen instructors, giving us a ratio of 1:4. Two instructors are allocated to each group, at least one of whom (usually both) holds the qualification ‘RYA Dinghy Instructor’. There are, on average, eight children in each group. There are at least two RYA Senior instructors on site and almost everyone holds a valid first aid certificate.

An Optimist/Topper dinghy must be provided for each child, with a trolley if possible. To help parents of beginners who cannot provide a boat, ICS arranges the hire of Royal Yachting Association regional ‘Oppies’. These abrasion resistant boats are a bit slower than real Optimists but are eminently suitable for beginners and intermediates. If your son or daughter is entering a racing group however, they would struggle to keep up, even if they are doing everything right! So in this case please let me know if you require a better hire boat and I will try and find you a privately owned boat.

Hire Boats
There is a charge of £65 for Optimists and £95 for Toppers per boat per course.

Last Day
Parents, family, and friends are invited to attend on the last day of the course at 3.45 pm to watch the sailing and attend the presentation of awards, after which tea is served.

Skippers should come with warm clothes and soft-soled shoes (e.g. trainers or sailing boots). They should also bring a complete change of clothes and shoes. Buoyancy aids if they have one, if not we will provide one, wind-proof anorak or splash suit, wet-suit or dry suit if they have one, however, they aren’t essential. See kit list (or you can link to it under the ‘Course Info page from the homepage).

Elevenses, cooked lunch with desert and afternoon tea are provided each day. Fresh fruit, yoghurts and water or natural squash are always available throughout the day.

Environmental Policy:

  • 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 will recycle our waste where possible.

Images from the course
We take at least 4 pictures of each skipper (alone or in a group) and a group photo. All the pictures from the course are uploaded to a secure site called Dphoto. You will be emailed a code which will allow you to access photos from the week. You can share to social media straight from the Dphoto site or download them direct to your device. Most images are fairly high definition – Size 2mb or more.

Residential Facility
Accommodation can be arranged for children who live far away, or whose parents cannot arrange the daily transportation, with parents who have a child on the same course. Simply indicate on the registration application form if accommodation is required. The address and telephone number of the host family will be advised shortly before the course. The recommended charge is £10 per night (usually 4 nights for a five-day course or 3 nights for a four-day course) to include evening meals, breakfasts, and transport to and from the sailing club. However, payment must be made directly to hosts, not via ICS. Unless some other arrangement is made with the host family, children staying with a host family should be delivered to the club on the first day of the course, and collected from the club after the awards ceremony on the last day of the course.

Accidents on ICS courses are rare. We emphasise to the skippers and staff the importance of safe practices, and caring for boats and equipment. However, collisions do happen (especially in the beginner groups) and this sometimes results in damage. Insurance to cover the cost of repairs is therefore important so we recommend that every boat be insured by its owner with adequate third party indemnity. Although there is normally no further premium due*, owners of boats being lent should inform their insurance broker. [*No further premium is due if insured through the Royal Yachting Association recommended insurance broker: Bishop Skinner & Co., telephone number 0207-566-5800 email:, or through the International Optimist Class Association recommended insurance broker: Noble Marine Insurance Brokers Ltd,  telephone number  01636 707606 email:] The RYA Thames Valley Region’s ‘Oppies’ are insured by the TVR. ‘Personal accident’ insurance is not arranged by ICS.