ICS was set up in 1980 by Bryan Willis, former International Judge and Chief Umpire of the America's Cup, Olympic Jury Chairman and international authority on the Racing Rules of sailing and author of several popular books on the rules. Bryan was passionate about youth sailing and after setting up ICS his courses soon became well known for their ability to inspire young people in the sport. Bryan retired from running ICS in 2006 handing over to his son Jae who 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 outstanding, 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 a syllabus and get excellent results.
Syllabus & Awards
We use the RYA Youth Training Scheme, and for Optimist sailors we also use the International Optimist Class Association UK (IOCA) scheme.
The days run from 0930 - 1800 and are very full. We also give out ‘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 3 and 4 days long. 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 the 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 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.
For Optimist skippers we use the RYA Scheme and the IOCA Scheme. For Topper skippers we just use the RYA scheme. The syllabuses include a capsize exercise. In addition to any RYA or IOCA certificates 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 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
We provide elevenses snacks; a two course lunch (cooked fresh on site every day); light tea (freshly made sandwiches and cakes); and a constant supply of fruit and yoghurts on demand.
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 any required log books as well as all awards and badges where relevant.
No Spending Money Required
We provide everything each skipper needs for the day so there is no need for spending money during an ICS course.
A deposit of £80 is required on registration. The remaining course fee should be paid when requested approximately six to eight weeks before the commencement of the course. An email will be sent as confirmation of registration, containing payment details.
For families with more than one child there is a 10% discount for the second child, a 15% discount for the third child, and a 20% discount for the fourth child.
There is a 15% discount for anyone attending a second course in the same year.
For more than one sibling attending a second course in the same year, no sibling discounts are used, instead the above 15% discount will be discounted from the full fee and applied to each skipper.
For those who would love to send their child or children 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 75%. Simply let Jae 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
If a cancellation is made earlier than three weeks (21 days) before the start of the course, a full refund will be given (no cancellation fee).
If a cancellation is made less than three weeks before the start of the course then an 85% refund will be given (15% cancellation fee).
If a cancellation is made less than 3 days before the start of the course, a 50% refund is given (50% cancellation fee).
However, there will be no cancellation fee if, in any of these cases, the skipper is re-registered on another course either in the same year or the following year. If a cancellation is made a second time, no matter the timescale, a 50% refund is given (50% cancellation fee).
Missing a day
If a skipper is unable to attend a day of the course, a partial refund can be offered, unless the course is oversubscribed with people on the waiting list, in which case no refund is available. The large majority of the cost of running the course reflects the maximum number of skippers at any one time, e.g. the number of instructors required, the number safety boats, hire boats, pre-course admin etc. For this reason, 25% of the day's value is deducted from the reimbursement. So the amount that can be reimbursed, or deducted form the invoice if we are notified in advance of payment is: for a four day course costing £365, the daily rate is £91.25 minus 25% (£23) = £68
We organise hire boats from various sources. If a hire boat is required it should be requested on the registration form.
Optimist: £65 (up to around 55kg)
Topper: £95 (over 55kg)
Insurance for hire boats
All the hire boats are insured through ICS or the affiliate hirers i.e. ICS / The RYA / Papercourt SC / IOCA UK.
However, on some of our more heavily subscribed weeks these official sources are not enough to cater for the high demand for hire boats on our courses. In these cases we advertise that fact to private owners of Optimisits & / or Toppers in the hopes that they will be willing to hire out their boats to those in need. Usually the people who answer this call are members of Papercourt Sailing Club. In the case of these ‘Private Hire’ boats, insurance is the responsibility of the owner, but an agreement should be made clear between the owner and the hirer, ICS acts only to introduce the two parties in these cases and takes no responsibility for insuring these ‘private hire’ boats.
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 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.
For Oppy skippers
Age minimum 7, maximum 14. Maximum weight: 55 kgs.
For Topper skippers
Age minimum 13, maximum 16. Maximum weight: 65 kgs.
These are guidelines and there are always exceptions, please email Jae if you have any questions.
Unless hiring a boat, an Optimist/Topper dinghy must be provided for each child, with a trolley if possible.
If you live far away or are unable to manage daily transportation we can help you arrange accommodation for your child. Simply indicate on the registration form if accommodation is required and we will put you in touch with another family who are offering accommodation.
The recommended donation is £10 per night (usually 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.
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