Founders of Classic Sailing – Adam and Debbie

Debbie and Adam started Classic Sailing in 1996 whilst Eve of St Mawes was being built. We were only able to do this with the financial assistance of friends and relatives and a large bank mortgage on the boat. All loans were paid off after a few years and Eve was a mainstay of our business for 20 years – taking over 3000 customers sailing until 2016, when we stopped skippering Eve to concentrate on marketing a growing fleet of larger sailing vessels.

Debbie Purser – Career Path

I dropped out of university with depression and paid to sail on the schooner Sir Winston Churchill with a crew of very wild young ladies from Glasgow and Liverpool. My enthusiasm for clambering around in the rigging and concern that everyone should have a fair chance in life led to me being recommended as a watch leader. Warned not to become a ‘sailing bum’, I went back to get my university degree.

I started to sail regularly on tall ships and Royal Navy patrol boats in my university vacations.I also started to sail 72ft yachts with Ocean Youth Club. Initially recommended as voluntary bosun, I worked my way up from trainee mate to second mate with OYC and other sail training charities. Notched up over 35 000 miles in my holidays whilst a student and later working for local government.

At 30 I has a second mid life crisis and gave up being a Landscape Architect to work in the outdoor pursuits and sailing industry. I did a private Outdoor Leisure Management and watersports instructor course for 13 weeks (zero to hero courses can work).  Worked for two private outdoor centers as instructor for peanuts but learnt about running adventure holiday companies and customer care.

Gained a 10 month apprenticeship (Trainee Skipper Scheme) with Ocean Youth Club as worked as 1st mate and trainee skipper on 72ft yachts – again for minimal wages but great experience and gained Yachtmaster Offshore.  Had a successful laser eye operation so my eyesight would be good enough for commercial skipper endorsement.

Schemed and planned with Adam to create our own adventure sailing business and raised enough investment to buy pilot cutter Eve of St Mawes and created Classic Sailing in Cornwall.  I was skipper and operational manager for Eve for 20 seasons, and RYA Principal of Classic Sailing School. I studied at Warsash Nautical College to gain my Officer of Watch Certificate of Competency for sail training ships up to 3000 ton, but that has now lapsed as it is difficult to develop a growing business and spend enough time at sea. Regrets – turning down a 14 month round the world job on Picton Castle for wages less than my mortgage…..and not keeping my tall ship OOW ticket current.  I still have a STCW95 commercial Certificate of Competency to skipper vessels up to 200 ton.

Debbie Purser - Director and Skipper of Classic Sailing
Debbie Purser – Director and Skipper of Classic Sailing

Adam Purser – Career Path

Yacht sailor who sailed with Debbie on a tall ship in Scotland and life was never the same. Sold a successful Dolls House Business and set up a Tall Ships Information Service (before the internet existed).  Had an ambition to become a tall ship captain and sailed on Sorlandet, Khersones, and worked on the schooner Malcolm Miller as bosun before taking a job on the ill fated Maria Asumpta which was shipwrecked off Padstow. A changed man but not defeated, Adam chose to gain proper Merchant Navy qualifications.  Sidetracked by Debbie and we started to make plans for our own sailing business, to fill a gap in the market for traditional sailing on tall ships for adults.  Bought a ‘ship with bowsprit and blocks and tackles’ but a bit smaller than original grand ambitions.  A RYA Yachtmaster Instructor, Adam was Classic Sailing’s first RYA  Principal, now succeeded by Debbie. Adam has been the driving force of the business and instrumental in growing the Classic Sailing fleet to about 25 vessels working all over the world. No regrets yet….apart from that tall ship captain dream.

Adam helming Eve some time ago
Adam helming Eve some time ago

More Stories

28/02 Educational

2024 – Classic Sailing’s Year of Skills: Confident Crew

Throughout 2024, we’re shining the spotlight on the various ways our customers get more with a Classic Sailing booking. Sailing on a traditional vessel

Read More
Wild Boy and Leafy

01/02 Boat building

2024: Classic Sailing’s Year of Skills! It’s not just sailing, you know!

Throughout 2024, we’re shining the spotlight on the various ways our customers get more with a Classic Sailing booking. There are many physical and

Read More

14/01 Inspiration

Turning the Tide on Blue Monday

Turning the Tide on Blue Monday Blue Monday, marked on 15th January 2024, is here again. Many of us find ourselves caught in the

Read More
Polar explorer Jim McNeill leads an Ocean warrior planning meeting. A group poring over maps. Join the adventure through Classic Sailing

11/10 Climate Change

Science & Sailing: Ocean Warrior #Resolute Expeditions

I couldn’t praise the Linden crew highly enough, extremely professional, friendly and encouraged us to be part of the team. I’d sail on that

Read More

18/04 Shipmates' Stories

Tall Ship Memories – A Teenage View of Sailing TS Royalist in the 70’s

Huge thanks to Richard Evans for sending in this glorious account of his first Tall Ship Voyage. If you have a story to share,

Read More

13/04 Book Reviews

Every Boat Should Have a Copy!

How Boat Things Work An Illustrated Guide by Charlie Wing Today I’m pleased to review ‘How Boat Things Work’ by Charlie Wing. It’s a

Read More
Pilot Cutter Review Spectacle in Fowey

06/04 Educational

Sponsoring the Pilot Cutter Review

Why Sponsorship Matters for the 2024 Pilot Cutter Review The 2024 Pilot Cutter Review requests sponsorship to help cover its costs and ensure a

Read More