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About 1st Watersport

A small business owned and operated by Eric McDowall - we began in 2005 by offering various sailing experiences. In 2008, Eric took over as Principal of a much older established Leicestershire RYA training centre: 1st Watersport.

In August 2010, we amalgamated the two small businesses into one. They had done different sorts of things but were always complementary to each other. The following lists the many things I do, and that's followed by a bit of background stuff about me!
Picture of Eric at the helm.
  • RYA Shorebased Courses including the specialised SRC (VHF Marine Radio) course.
  • Arranging all types of yacht sailing experiences, mainly at Sea.
  • Working as a freelance RYA Yachtmaster Instructor.
  • Working as a freelance commercial yacht skipper.
  • Arranging other specialised courses, such as Sea Survival and Radar, for previous clients and contacts with other instructors or centres.
Quality and Safety are at the top of my Agenda. I'll do my best to give you a first class training and sail cruising experience, providing tuition geared to your level of experience, where appropriate Chartering good quality yachts, not cheap ones. If we also arrange food / victualling, then providing meals on board of a high standard in terms of taste.

Occasionally I may use other skippers or Instructors (for instance if more than one yacht was needed at the same time). If I do, I'll do my best to ensure he or she works to my own high standard.

You'll be welcome if you are a beginner or you already have experience.

Picture of Grand Union narrow boat 'Buxton', towing.

Originally I trained as an Electrical /Electronic engineer. In the late 1960's, I moved into Inland Waterway work, getting involved in both transport and passenger boats.

I worked a range of craft - haulage on narrow boats and "wide boats" on canal and river, passenger boats on the Worcester-Birmingham canal, the Shroppie, The River Trent and at Rutland Water. For the latter, I maintained a Boatmaster's licence, allowing this to lapse in 2010.

Whilst at Rutland, I learned to sail in a Miracle class dinghy back in 1991 and completed my first RYA course. About this time I was working back in electronics and specialising in controlling battery chargers for power stations.

Picture of a Miracle dinghy.

I acquired a half-share in a small fishing boat (though with no interest in fishing!) which we kept at Boston. Wanting to venture into "The Wash" led to completing the RYA Day Skipper Shorebased course at New Parks in Leicester. Subsequently not only did I cross The Wash to Kings Lynn, but I also started sailing at Sea.

Picture of a 'Cornish Crabber Pilot Cutter 30'.

I became regular crew on a Cornish Crabber's Pilot 30. The sail plan is traditional, with Gaff Main and two headsails. A topsail can be carried. This yacht was by no means as fast as many modern yachts but resulted in vast experience for me. I found that I had a preference for the old fashioned style of sailing. This picture on the left is not the Yacht in question, but is a picture of one of exactly the same class.

After completing in excess of 2,500nM, mostly on weekend Sailing trips, I took my Offshore Yachtmaster examination in Falmouth on the 18 tonne gaffer "Irene Jack" in October 2000.

So having been a professional boatman on Inland Waters, it seemed natural to take up a commercial role in Sailing.

Picture of the Irene Jack with top sail.

I became a commercial skipper and subsequently an Instructor. I have been teaching the Shorebased "Day Skipper" and "Coastal / Yachtmaster" both privately and in the classroom since 2002, in the early days for Leicestershire County Council.

1st Watersport started off doing power boat courses at Naseby reservoir in Leicestershire and dinghy sailing. The Marine VHF radio licence course, now known as the "Short Range Certificate" (SRC) was taught from those early days and when I acquired this business and the training radio equipment, it became necessary to learn how to be an SRC instructor. 1st Watersport no longer has connections at Naseby or with powerboat courses.

Picture of Yacht Selina off of Portsmouth.

On the water, I could instruct your "hands-on" sailing course through a number of RYA practical course centres with which I have a satisfactory and proven track record. These include Firstaway at Southampton, Alba Sailing at Dunstaffnage, Britsail in The Clyde, and Isle of Skye Yachts. I have also taught for a RYA school in the IJsselmeer at Leylestad and for another school in Gibraltar. This picture on the left shows "Selina", a Beneteau 35 from Firstaway, sailing off of Portsmouth.

I also have a good working relationship with a number of yacht charter companies based in France, Southern England, Southwest Wales and the West Coast of Scotland.

I continue to do some voluntary work for New Parks Cruising Association and Adventures Offshore.

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