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Do you need a Licence to sail in France?

ecole de voile pour passer le permis bateau

  • A question frequently comes up on the lips of all those who want to learn how to navigate sailing:

    Is it necessary in France to have a sailing license?

    The answer is no !

    No license or certificate is required to fly a pleasure boat in France. But this question seems legitimate and deserves a little attention.

    To begin, some definitions need to be developed:

    - A pleasure boat does not exceed 25m, beyond this length, it is therefore necessary to have professional diplomas such as "Captain 200" or "Captain 500", the boat being de facto considered as a commercial ship  (passenger transport).
    - A sailboat is a boat whose propulsion to the engine is secondary in relation to its ability to propel sail. Thus, according to a formula to be applied, a boat with sails and equipped with a very large engine will be considered a motor boat and will require obtaining a boat license to sail. The formula takes into account the mass of the boat and the surface of the sails. So it will not be necessary to have a license if:

    As ≥ 0.07 (m LDC) 2/3
    m LDC being the mass of the vessel under load, expressed in kilograms.

    As expressed in square meters, being the sail area of all sails that can be established when the ship is sailing upwind.

    Note: the power of the engin does not count in the formula!


    But is it wise to leave boats of this size in "free use", without any guarantee that the skipper has all the skills to ensure the driving, navigation and safety of the boat?

Historically, sailing has really taken off until the end of the 20th century, and in the 1960s, the number of pleasure boats was not enough to justify the need to regulate the activity. The learning of sailing has been organized around associations, sailing clubs and empirically, learning by word of mouth, the art of navigation is transmitted in a more or less traditional way, between friends , family etc ...

Sailors have remained attached to this freedom and this has helped to build a true philosophy of sailing in France, great sailors people.

Nowadays, sailing has developed considerably to the point that most marinas are saturated. The near-shore traffic has multiplied and the boats being more technically and financially accessible, this practice has become so widespread that it is now accessible to a large part of the middle classes and to people who have no particular connection with the sea ​​at the base.

The increase in the number of practitioners inevitably leads to an increase in the number of potential accidents.

So, should we regulate or not?

The opinions are obviously shared, and they differ according to the point of view of each person or organization concerned: the boaters themselves, the non-practitioners, the boating professionals, the police, the government ...

But beyond the subjective opinions and intuitions more or less relevant, is it possible to objectively evaluate the need for the establishment of a sailing license?

Some European countries have decided to set up a license as in Switzerland, Belgium, Italy, Spain, Germany and Croatia. France is therefore an exception. The question is: did it help to reduce the number of accidents? The answer is clearly no ! In addition, it is clear that motorboat accidents are much more numerous than accidents in sailboat, while motorboat drivers have a license.

It may seem strange ...

What are the real accident factors?

We can establish the following list:

- Lack of knowledge of the marine environment
- The lack of technical skills
- Undervaluation of the risks associated with the practice of sailing
- Dangerous behavior
In summary, accidents are mostly related to accountability issues.

Does holding an official paper attesting to your ability to be responsible a guarantee of accountability? Personally, I doubt it very much.
Is it necessary to train before taking the sea with a sailboat: the answer is YES without any doubt.
Sailing requires a wide range of knowledge, beginners are quickly discouraged to go to sea without training before the magnitude of the task and this notion of responsibility that appears clearly from the moment we board a sailboat .
The vast majority of sailors have therefore formed their own initiative before going to sea, aware of the weight of this responsibility and it is impossible to take pleasure in a risky activity without a minimum of control.
When to the few unconscious people who decide to go to sea without knowing anything about it, thinking that since they have allowed themselves to do so, I do not think that a sailing license would make them more responsible, they would have risk behavior because their attitude is at risk.
It seems to me, therefore, useless to interfere with the freedom to assume this responsibility voluntarily.
The sea is one of the last vestiges of free space, that's what we're looking for as passionate, if it could still be a little bit it would not be a bad thing.

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