To my annoyance, I can't find an up to date copy of the Advanced syllabus (the RYA web site doesn't have anything this useful!). I'll try to get hold of one, but if anyone would like to post it here that would be great.
From what I remember the syllabus is very light on subjects like rough weather handling and serious navigation, but does involve identifying various lights in a familiar area at night.
Passage planning is pretty theoretical too. There is no requirement to plan and execute a demanding passage of any sort. Neither is there any requirement to have any substantial previous experience.
In any case, an advanced
certificate shouldn't be required for reasonable cruising (say a 50 miles trip in daylight in reasonable conditions) -- the level 2 syllabus should be enough for that, but it's not because it only includes an elementary introduction to navigation.
The RYA do not teach navigation in fast open boats, and their shore-based navigation courses still concentrate on conventional chart and pencil navigation on a chart table at 4 knots. Even the Yachtmaster theory syllabus only has a passing nod at electronic navigation.
Conventional navigation is good to know, but who can honestly claim to be able to plot a running fix aboard a RIB?
Many powerboat schools recognise the shortcomings in the syllabus, and although their courses will qualify trainees for an RYA certificate they go far beond the syllabus. Training establishments who teach to the powerboating syllabus and go no further will provide the same qualification, but not the same knowledge and skill.
This is why I recommend an extended level 2 course, which covers a decent amount of passage planning and sensible navigation.
Hmm. Ranting again . . .