Read about the Commodore Yachting Team

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Commodore Yachting Staff, RYA Instructors and Yachts.

Commodore Yachting is a RYA Sailing school based at Gosport Marina located in the historic Portsmouth Harbour. The company offers all RYA Sailing Courses and Solent Yacht Charter.

Commodore Yachting was started in 1999 by Stuart Cooper after leaving the Royal Navy. Drawing from a lifetime of experience on the water and a passion for sailing he built the company from one yacht to its present size with seven company owned Bavaria yachts and two yachts on management.

Stuart is meticulous about maintaining the highest possible standards both in the maintenance and preparation of the yachts and the experienced instructors employed to teach both theory courses and practical sailing courses.

“We cannot control the wind, tides and weather of course but our years on the water mean that we can take advantage of the conditions or at least minimize their effects ensuring that safety is always paramount whilst at the same time learning and fun are top of the agenda”

Commodore Yachting

All safety equipment and procedures are frequently updated, overhauled and inspected by the RYA.

Commodore Yachting has a team of full time staff as well as a small number of highly experienced freelance instructors. We are as committed to training our staff as well as RYA sailing school students. All employees have the opportunity to learn to sail or further their RYA training. Our freelance instructors are also experienced RYA Instructors, we tend to use a small number of instructors who have worked with us for several years.

What RYA Course Students have said about Commodore Yachting

Going from a complete beginner to very confident, would highly recommend Commodore to anyone! Stuart and Karen run the show very well, Simon the instructor shared his vast experience in a friendly, patient but thorough manner making sure we were confident when the tests came around! Gave me loads of great advice and ideas, I can now see sailing becoming a great passion of mine!

The Team

School Principal

Stuart Cooper YMI Instructor / Examiner (Sail and Power)

Stuart Cooper is Principal of Commodore Yachting and Senior instructor. As a YMI and RYA Examiner he is well placed to advise students and help them choose the right training. He teaches many of the more advanced RYA sailing courses but will often be seen out on the water on a Start Yachting course or teaching Day Skippers.

He has a wealth of knowledge about sailing and yachts. At the end of the season he applies this to his own yacht where he can often be found down in the bilges or at the top of the mast.

Stuart Cooper - Principal Commodore Yachting
Stuart Cooper - Principal Commodore Yachting

Karen Key – General Manager

Karen runs the office as well as everyone’s diaries and if you contact us the chances are that she will answer the phone or your e-mail. She loves sailing and describes herself as a enthusiastic and dedicated crew capable of knowing when things are not right!

Usually you will find her in the Commodore Yachting office but she has been know to escape to warmer climes in the winter with the company laptop.

Office in the sun
Office in the sun
Simon Layton - Chief Instructor
Simon Layton - Chief Instructor

Simon Layton YMI – Chief Instructor

Simon loves to be out on the water whether teaching students, relaxing with his family or inspecting the Commodore fleet from an underwater perspective. In fact I suspect he would prefer to be inspecting coral reefs but his diving skills have been useful in checking boats. He is also a very skilled and enthusiastic engineer in fact we are yet to find something Simon can’t do!

What students have said about Simon:

Simon was endlessly patient, full of fascinating tales and a very practical, down to earth instructor. I have learnt huge amounts over the 9 days, and can’t wait to put it into practise now. Many, many thanks

Helen – Day Skipper Theory and Practical course, April 2018

Our instructor, Simon, is one of the most competent, personable and knowledgeable mariners I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. He is an asset to your company and someone I would happily sail with again.

Stephen – Day Skipper Theory and Practical course, March 2018


Simon Layton
Simon Layton

Freelance Instructors

Mark Cam

Mark Cam – Yachtmaster Instructor

‘Mark started dinghy racing on the Hamble over 40 years ago. Now a freelance Yachtmaster Instructor, he also teaches Powerboat Courses and is a RYA Keelboat Race Coach.
When not teaching he tries to find time to sail and race his fleet of boats (last count 5) ranging from a Nicholson 30 to a Foxer dinghy.
Whether teaching in the Solent, skippering a Fastnet Campaign or dinghy race there are never two days the same on the water!’

What students have said about Mark:

Mark was a great instructor, crew, boat & Commodore team were all brilliant, will definitely be back!

Oliver – Competent Crew, August 2016

We all had a great week and ended a real crew. Mark was an excellent instructor. My granddaughter Elisa 17 said it was her best week ever!

George – Family Instructional Charter, July 2016

Peter Vogel - Cruising Instructor

Peter Vogel – Cruising Instructor

Peter began sailing Enterprise dinghies in Jersey in 1985 and has been involved in sailing ever since.
Since 2011 Peter has worked as a cruising instructor and shorebased instructor, he has sailed extensively in Greece as a flotilla skipper and a base manager; he’s also sailed in the UK, Baltic, New Zealand, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Croatia, Turkey and Biscay.
In a previous life he was in the Jersey police CID, and in a previous previous life toured the U.K. and Europe as a musician working with Shane Richie, Brian Connely, Stan Boardman, The Nolans, Ben E King, Bobby Davro…to name but a few!

What students have said about Peter:


Big thank you to Pete! He made the course what it was and we could not have asked for a better instructor. Ten out of ten for the super star skipper.

Annie – Competent Crew, November 2017

Everything was great!!!! It was one of the best experience in my life. All staff were very kind and helpful. Especially, our instructor Peter was so kind, responsible and dedicated teacher during the whole course. You are the best teacher, Peter. Hope to see you again soon.

DJ – Competent Crew, October 2016

John Hoplins - Cruising Instructor

John Hopkins – Cruising Instructor

John has over thirty years’ sailing experience. He owned and ran his own Yacht Charter Company and Sailing School for ten years, and has taught sailing with many Solent Sailing Schools as well as the Joint Services Sailing Centre. Prior to this he worked in IT, as a Project Manager for many years and has also owned and ran his own Hotel.  Since then, in conjunction with a disabled friend, he developed and built an innovative new mobility system for disabled people.  Alongside all of this, he served in the Territorial Army (Royal Signals) for nearly 30 Years.  He lives on the Isle of Wight, and comes over to us to pass on his sailing knowledge and experience, in his own calm and confident manner, and to spirit you away to the Island he loves.

What students have said about John:

I’m sure you hear this every time but John was great. He provided the right amount of support whilst letting us get on with sailing and passage planning etc. And he’s not too shabby at cooking either 🙂 Can’t recommend him enough… Thanks Nick

Nick – Milebuilding Cruise May 2018

Instructor very very very good, well pitched, excellent explanations, relaxed but safe, informative, great weather conditions (sure that was not anything to do with instructor though) Brilliant course

Christopher – Day Skipper May 2016

John was superb. Very calm, made us think for ourselves,…an excellent preparation for taking the responsibility of skipper on our own. Thank you very much.

Jonathan – Day Skipper May 2016

Chris Ryan

Christopher Ryan – Yachtmaster instructor, RYA Yachtmaster Examiner.

Chris teaches the complete RYA sail cruising syllabus from total novice to exam preparation He has many years experience sailing and instructing along the South Coast / English Channel.

As a one-time manager in the construction industry involved with large scale prestigious projects, Chris believes that sailing provides real opportunities to apply management skills, such as Risk Assessment, Team building and Problem solving  in the real world where nature and the elements rule!

Chris aims to apply instructing techniques to suit the individuals within the group in a relaxed fun way to suit different learning styles. There is a relaxed but important emphasis on the RYA syllabus and the principles leading to the prestigious RYA Yachtmaster qualification.

Peter Vandenberg

Peter Vandenberg – Yachtmaster instructor .

Peter is currently working as a Yacht Master Instructor in Cornwall and the Solent.  His sailing background has been a broad spectrum of life-long sport and leisure in both UK and Europe and New Zealand.  From a work perspective, his sailing career started in 2011, having spent most his career as a business partner and earlier as a policeman.

Peter has, in the last few years sailed and worked in the UK, cruising, racing, skippering and teaching in Cornwall and the Solent, with cruises/mile builders and yacht deliveries to the Isles of Scilly, Channel Islands, North and South Brittany, Ireland as well as England and Wales.  He recently completed two transatlantic passages to the Caribbean as a crew member on a 47ft catamaran and on a 30 metre sailing Ketch from St Maarten to Palma, Majorca.  The summer of 2016 was spent in the western isles of Scotland and he has now returned to the Solent to offer all RYA practical courses from start yachting up to Yachtmaster prep weeks.

Peter takes great pleasure in providing a professional, ethical and safe service, whether instructing or working as skipper on cruises and milebuilding

Ian Redsell

Ian Redsell – Yachtmaster Instructor

40 years and thousands of diverse miles of sailing and racing experience in dinghies and yachts, combined with a wealth of practical experience of keeping them operating, have provided Ian the background to demonstrate credibility, enthusiasm and to quickly develop rapport with his students.

Ian has involved himself in various sailing clubs in all sorts of voluntary roles from top to bottom and is used to informal and formal presentation and team building. He has been recognised for the creativity of his theory lessons, often leaving students with memories of enjoyable and participative lessons for all learning styles.

Ian has recently opted to retire from industry where he worked in many roles and industries at management and board level. His love of boats and boating are now able to flourish and hopefully engage a new and enthusiastic group of water lovers.

When not on the water training Ian will often be found on the water sailing his own boat and enjoys exploring the Channel, the French coasts and wherever there is a chance of sociable company, fine food and a decent bottle of wine.

Richard Tarr

Richard Tarr – Yacht Master Instructor and Examiner

What students have said about Richard:

Jen –Day Skipper,  May 2017

“I was really impressed with our instructor and how he dealt with teaching people of different levels and integrated everyone in the process. The course was extremely enjoyable and we’re looking forward to planning the next once we gain more experience. Please pass on our heartfelt thanks to Rich for making it such an enjoyable week!”

Barrie Hampson First Aid Instructor

Barrie Hampson – First Aid Instructor

Barrie went to sea as a Junior Seaman 2nd Class in the Royal Navy in 1965. He served in the Royal Navy and Royal Naval Reserve until 1992 leaving as a Chief Petty Officer Mine Warfare Specialist, his time was spent mainly on Mine Sweepers and Patrol Boats with a short period on Submarines .

On leaving the military, Stena Ferries, Southampton to Cherbourg was his next job where he eventually became a Bosun. He then moved to the cruise industry in 1997 and was for a short time a Security Officer until he qualified as a Sea Survival Trainer at RGIT Aberdeen whilst working for Airtours-My Travel.

Barrie is qualified as a trainer in both Maritime and Civilian subjects and has considerable experience with international crews.  In 2004 he joined Saga Cruises as their onboard Safety Training Officer conducting both STCW and In-House subjects.

Barrie’s hobbies are as a volunteer Trainer for the British Red Cross where he teaches First Aid to vulnerable groups and is a member of the British Red Cross Emergency Response team. Barrie also attends Rally’s and Charity Drives with his Series 1 Land Rover.

James Vineer - RYA Cruising Instructor

James Vineer – Cruising Instructor 

What students have said about James:

Dave – Day Skipper –  May 2018

“James was excellent, very knowledgeable, calm and always reinforcing our learning. I work as a trainer / coach and his approach was exemplary”.

Paul Molyneaux

What students have said about Paul Molyneaux

Paul our instructor was fantastic and went the extra mile time and time again to help learn, bring sailing to life and encourage everyone on the boat. I would say Paul was a great asset to any sailing organisation, business and student learning the ropes.

Pete – May 2018

RYA Training Centre

The Yachts

Commodore Yachting own a fleet of 7 Bavaria yachts with 2 further yachts on management. All are available for charter and most are used for teaching RYA sailing courses. You can find out all about the yachts on our Solent Yacht Charter pages.