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

05/07 Festivals

Logbook: Falmouth Classics & Shanty Festival 2024

My partner Jack and I were thrilled to join Pilot Cutter Tallulah for this year’s Falmouth Classics & Sea Shanty Festival! The Festival has

Read More

14/06 Featured Ship

Tecla Webinars

Read More

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

28/06 History

What’s that smell?

A smelly Story This is a true story that happened when I was skippering Eve of St Mawes. Luckily I am unable to remember

Read More

21/06 Darwin200 Around the World

Oosterschelde – Unexpected Voyage Availability

Oosterschelde – Unexpected Voyage Availability

Read More