Seek adventure with Cumbrae

01 Sep

Sailors know the thrill of exploring somewhere different from their usual home cruising ground. The cruising adventure programme at the National Watersports Centre Cumbrae is about just that – giving crew members new experiences and adventures.

With 3500 miles sailed and 25 islands visited by Cumbrae’s yachts during the summer of 2018, the 2019 cruising adventure programme was eagerly awaited by crew members and skippers.

The first crew to embark on Santa Vey, guided by skipper Peter Braidwood, contained a good mix of experience all with the desire to visit and explore new places. Seeking adventure quickly became the theme of the week.

The group’s appetite for adventure and the weather forecast helped shape their journey with the acronym TWIP considered daily: Tides, Weather & Wind, Information and Pilotage.

The adventure

Blue skies above and a fair westerly wind meant summer had well and truly arrived. The week of adventure would see the crew sail from Largs, to Campbeltown, to Rathlin Island in North Ireland, to Jura, Colonsay, down the Sound of Mull to Oban and Dunstaffnage, with many stops in between!

Exploring the wilderness

Day three of the trip was spent exploring the wonderful inner lochs of West Loch Tarbert on Jura. The opportunity to explore the impressive Cumhann Beag channel was too good to miss and with slack water, Santa Vey cautiously crept through. However, as the tide range was on springs, there was a high probability of getting stuck in the upper pools.  Taking on adventures sometimes requires a back track!  Loch Tarbert is a true wilderness with many geographical features to explore, something all crew members hope to do again one day.

Gaining skills

All crew members took the opportunity to learn new and develop their existing skills. One crew member, experiencing strong downwind sailing for the first time, superbly helmed Santa Vey recording a maximum speed of 12.2 knots whilst surfing down a wave. A real achievement and adventure! Others took the opportunity to navigate from down below using traditional dead reckoning techniques, aided by the depth sounder.

Wildlife spotting

From puffins on Rathlin Island, to otters at Ulva Ferry, the wildlife was out in force to greet the crew on their voyage. While passing through the Sound of Iona, the crew was accompanied by bottlenose dolphins. Luckily a nearby yacht managed to capture Santa Vey alongside one of their new travel companions.

Seek adventure too

The crew explored seven islands and logged 280 miles while onboard Santa Vey. That afternoon a different crew started their own adventure to Saint Kilda, signalling the adventure season at Cumbrae was well and truly underway.

Start planning your next adventure today by visiting the Cumbrae website,

By Kirsty

Sea Kayak Festival a fantastic celebration of the sport

30 Aug

The sportscotland Sea Kayak Festival took place in August at the National Watersports Centre on the Isle of Cumbrae. The festival, formerly known as the Sea Kayak Symposium, took on a different feel this year and looked to welcome new paddlers to the wonderful sport.  Over the weekend, there were a variety of workshops and clinics on offer in topics including kayak manoeuvring and handling, practical navigation, turning in wind and waves and race techniques. Taking place as part of the festival was the Great Cumbrae Sea Kayak race. Over 40 paddlers from beginners to elite took to the waters surrounding Cumbrae across the weekend.

The wind and weather forecast for the weekend kept the organisers on their toes with strong south winds for Saturday and Sunday. This turned out to be the case and although at times the sea state and wind make for challenging paddling, the island location meant it wasn’t too difficult to find relative shelter.

Cumbrae Senior Instructor and Festival organiser Calum McNicol said, “It was great to be able to introduce people to the sport and offer them a variety of options at the festival including the race, which goes from strength to strength.

“50% of the race participants were first time racers who saw the course as a challenge and embraced the distance and the conditions with the necessary enthusiasm. It was great to see competitors come from all over the country and beyond, placing the Great Cumbrae kayak race on the map.” 

The Saturday evening saw participants relax and socialise with a BBQ and prizegiving. The evening entertainment was led by expedition paddler, adventurer and Olympian, Patrick Winterton.

Patrick entertained the group with tales of his ultra-long-distance paddling expeditions, including Scotland to the Faroe Isles and Scotland to Norway. What came across throughout was his genuine enthusiasm for paddling, in particular the opportunities and accessibility of the sport in the UK.

Calum reflected, “It was a real privilege to welcome Patrick back to Cumbrae, who won the race back in 2017. He really pushes the boundaries of what’s possible in a sea kayak, and is a passionate ambassador of the sport and what it offers right on our doorstep."

Following the weekend, paddler and race participant Andy Morton said, “I would encourage anyone who has a quest for adventure to try sea kayak racing. It’s a great adventure and we have more than a few great venues on the racing circuit. Hopefully events like this continue to grow as we encourage more first-time entrants and younger racers to take part.” 

Details of winners and times from the Great Cumbrae Sea Kayak Race can be found on the blog section of our website.

By Kirsty

Great Cumbrae Sea Kayak Race 2019

19 Aug

A big thank you and well done to all those who took part in 2019's Great Cumbrae Sea Kayak Race. Details of the results can be found below!

James MayersElite1st01:22:18
Michael SumonElite2nd01:27:34
Lizelle KempElite3rd (1st Woman)01:31:09
Calum UrquartElite4th01:32:08
Michale WildElite5th01:33:28
Kenny FraserElite6th01:33:54
Patrick WintertonElite7th01:34:02
Steven MarnellElite8th01:36:32
Les KilpatrickElite9th01:36:47
Gilbert SpiersElite10th01:36:55
Andrew MortonElite11th01:37:38
David McCormackElite12th01:38:00
Allan HunterElite13th01:40:00
Luke FurzeElite14th01:44:45
Collin CampbellTouring15th (1st Tourer)01:45:18
Dave SimpsonTouring16th (2nd Tourer)01:48:00
Andrew MullholandTouring17th (3rd Tourer)02:29:56
Tina MisselbrookTouring18th (2nd Woman)02:30:48
Robin DavisTouring19th02:31:00
Annie StobartTouring19th (3rd Woman)02:31:00
Sam AlbrowJunior1st02:30:39
Harris McNicolJunior short course1st09:23
Mark WilliamsRetired  
Mike GodwinRetired  
Fiona ClarkeRetired  
Stuart NicolsonRetired  
Suzanne ConnollyRetired  
Inness McNicolDNS  
Paul CareyDNS  
Garry RathboneDNS  
Steven WhippDNS  
Douglas WilbyDNS  

By Kirsty

Professional Yachtmaster Training

05 Jul

Gain your professional yachting qualification at Cumbrae.

sportscotland National Watersports Training Centre has over 40 years of experience and expertise in delivering world class sailing courses. Our Professional Yachtmaster Training (PYT) is no different.

Our aim is to produce well rounded and competent skippers, not just people who feel confident enough to pass their exam. We have previous customers who now work in the industry on superyachts, in sail training and in instructional positions and we pride ourselves in the level of training we can provide.

Our 16 week ‘fast track’ course allows participants to build most of the required 2,500 nautical miles, five passages of 60nm or more, whilst building confidence, expertise and skills vital to achieving Professional Yachtmaster status. PYT participants are supported throughout the course by our expert team to ensure they’re ready for the final exam to officially achieve their professional qualification.

Benefits of doing this professional course;

Why choose the National Centre?

What previous PYT students are saying

“The programme includes self-sails without an instructor to gain required skippered passages and this was a particular highlight for me. A voyage from dinghy sailor to yachtmaster. Visited stunning places with amazing people.”
Malcolm Lord

“I was unable to find a similar comprehensive sailing programme in the US and that’s why I chose to go to Cumbrae for my training. The entire RYA Training Scheme is the best I was able to find anywhere”
Rob Geisler

“It was an intense course, though wholly rewarding for many reasons. Would I recommend such an experience to others? For sure, indeed I might suggest…stop talking about it and stop reading about it…just go and do it.”
David Jack

Our PYT course runs twice a year, the first cohort has almost completed their training, the remaining opportunity of 2019 begins on 11 August. Start your journey to becoming a Professional Yachtmaster by visiting our website or by phoning 01475530757 to speak to our expert team at the centre.

By Nancy

Instructor top tip - Don’t be afraid to look up!

16 May

It's easy whilst on activity to get stuck in the moment. We’ve all been there, dealing with a riding turn on a yacht's winch, or a jammed skeg on your sea kayak, simple distractions have a tendency to spiral towards unfortunate outcomes and takes your judgement away from what's happening round about you.

Poor situational awareness is a contributing factor to poor decision making. Past experience, reflective conversations and increased knowledge all contribute to good decision making. Ultimately, we need to keep our heads up to kick start this process.

If we teach ourselves the importance of looking up we will (most of the time subconsciously) notice, judge and decide on a course of action. In addition to this our ability to anticipate conditions on the water is made ever so slightly easier. 

Keep an eye on the weather from the moment you wake up. Ask yourself questions about wind direction, wind speed, & tidal flow. These questions will allow you to build mental pictures of what you expect to experience on the water. Expectation and anticipation form the bases of good seamanship and will aid our ability to be aware of what’s going on around us and ultimately lead us to make better decisions. 

Calum McNicol

Senior Instructor

By Nancy

Watersports Taster Sessions

18 Mar

Watersports Taster Sessions – spring holidays programme

This spring holiday we are delighted to be offering watersports taster sessions at the National Watersports Training Centre on Cumbrae. These sessions are designed to whet the appetite for watersports, and are open to all. Come along and try your hand at one of the below watersports, you never know you may discover a hidden talent.

See you on the water!

The sessions

Thu 4 AprilWindsurfing1100 - 1300hrs£35
Fri 5 AprilWindsurfing1100 - 1300hrs£35
Mon 8 A prilSea kayaking1100 - 1300hrs£35

* Extra dates/activities to be announced, follow us on social media to keep up-to-date.

* In adverse weather conditions please call 01475 530757 to confirm session will be going ahead.

For all enquiries and bookings please phone 01475 530757 or e-mail  Alternatively you can book online  here 

By Nancy

Wildlife spotting in the Hebrides

30 Jan

If you have ever wondered what a Cumbrae cruising adventure course is like this extract logged by our Chief Instructor last summer on board our yacht, Somerled, may provide you with some inspiration for this year and a flavour of what can be expected. It’s not all hard sailing, intensive training and certificates!

  “After a couple of hours sailing we were closing the Northern tip of the island of Eigg, the wind and boat speed had dropped, and the seas were calm, but on this very relaxing first evening, as Instructor and crew all got to know each other, no one wanted to admit it may have been time to start the engine.

Ahead, but well clear of the steep headland, breaking waves and turbulent water could be seen in front of us. Odd, we thought to ourselves. A quick check showed no reefs or off lying dangers on the chart. Odder still that that those on deck confirmed that the breaking waves were moving…. and towards us. Suddenly it became clear what we were witnessing. It was hard to count but our first estimate of ten was quickly revised, at least twenty, fifty more like, more again! Dolphins everywhere. We watched in awe as these sleek and playful mammals put on displays of leaping, jumping, twisting and tail slapping. An entire school, in vast number and different sizes, swam around, across and under us. A few played with our bow wave but most just swam, leaping and playing on their course northward. After 20 minutes of sheer awe at the sight of what seemed like hundreds of dolphins they passed and it was all over. As a sheer spectacle and life experience for all on board it was both amazing and humbling.

The following day we slipped out of the southern anchorage on the Isle of Muck. After hoisting our sails to catch the gentle north-westerly breeze we set our course for Ardnamurchan. Everyone staring and straining in expectation of sighting more inquisitive dolphins. We had covered less than half a mile before the shout came from the crew. Less than two cables directly ahead the black rounded back and small dorsal fin of a pilot whale and traveling beside it that of a much smaller calf could be seen. As these first two submerged, just further to the left another two broke the surface showing their long black rounded backs then off to the right another three. Not the playful jumping and showing off we had seen the day before, but a far more elegant and stately procession of gentle giants. We estimated at least ten whales each gently breaking the surface, exhaling with an audible cloud of fine spray before catching a breath, arching their backs and slipping gently back below the surface. Judging their direction of travel, we gently sailed around them providing them a clear onward passage we watched them into the distance as we continued south on what was turning out to be a great sailing adventure.”

National Centre Cumbrae provides yacht cruises for those wanting an experience of a lifetime, you might even be lucky enough to meet a few dolphins! We are running our 5 for 4 offer on our cruises so if you are able to get a group together then you can take advantage of this when you come onboard.

By Viki

Instructor Job Opportunities

22 Jan

Cumbrae is currently inviting interested watersports Instructors who wish to join our pool of Casual Instructors to submit a CV with covering letter to Applicants who are shortlisted will then be invited to attend the Instructor Staff Inductions as part of the selection process.

  Please note Induction dates below. We are recruiting for two separate posts, Centre Watersports Instructors and Cruising Instructors Candidates applying for both Cruising Instructor and Centre Watersports Instructor will need to attend both Inductions

  Post 1 - Centre Watersports Instructor As a centre watersports Instructor you will provide high quality instruction at the Cumbrae centre. You will be a skilled water sports Instructor, with appropriate NGB Instructor qualifications in one or more of the following disciplines: dinghy sailing, windsurfing, powerboating, and paddlesports. You should also have experience of working in a training centre, delivering water sports to a wide variety of client groups. Instructors must have excellent organisational and communication skills.

  Centre Watersports Instructors, A CV and cover letter should be emailed to by Friday 1st March 2019

  Inductions for Centre Watersports Instructors will take place on; Saturday 13th and Sunday 14th April 2019 You will need to attend both days.

  Post 2 – Cruising / Yachtmaster Instructors As a Casual Cruising Instructor you will provide high quality instruction on board our yachts. You will be a skilled Instructor, with either RYA Cruising or RYA Yachtmaster Instructor qualification. You should also have previous experience of working at a RYA training centre and delivering RYA syllabus’s to a wide variety of client groups. Instructors must have excellent organisational and communication skills.

  Cruising / Yachtmaster Instructors, A CV and cover letter should be emailed to by : Friday 1st March 2019

  Inductions for Cruising / Yachtmaster Instructors will take place on Sunday 24rd March 2019

By Viki

Developing the instructors of the future

17 Jan

Each year, National Watersports Training Centre Cumbrae employs a number of young people to our Instructor Development Scheme (IDS).  They will all have a variety of qualifications already, but it is our role to develop them even further in to the areas they want and are required by the sector so that they can go on and have successful careers in water and outdoor sport. One of our team this year, Katrina Seator, gives us her experience of being part of the scheme and developing her yachting prowess.

Big decisions

“Sea kayak guide in Alaska or IDS at the national centre in Cumbrae? With only 24 hours to decide! I was working in Lapland away from my family and friends at the time and so I posted my dilemma on social media. The answer was unanimous, everyone said I should go to Alaska, after all I’d always wanted to kayak amongst the glaciers!  However, when senior instructor Rod phoned me just as I was getting on a snowmobile and asked for my answer I replied “Yes I’d love to come and work at Cumbrae!”. Everyone thought I was crazy when I told them.  I hadn’t made a decision in advance, I just went with what felt right in the moment. Now, at the end of my contract here at the national centre, I know I made the right decision. I joined Cumbrae as a Level 2 Paddlesports Coach and kayaking is my passion. It was great having a choice of kayaks to take out whenever I wanted and it was amazing only having to carry them across the road to get to the sea. I was able to tag along on all the paddlesports courses and assist the leaders, helping build up my logbook. Being on the IDS team meant I also had access to courses at National Outdoor Training Centre Glenmore Lodge which allowed me to do paddlesports courses not run at Cumbrae. I am now a Sea Kayak Leader and Canoe Leader.

Venturing in to sailing

I was keen though to try yachting so after a few weeks getting settled in to the job, I went off on a weekend cruise. It was an amazing experience. On the first night I was up on deck on my own in the dark helming and I couldn’t believe that I was in charge of this big yacht. It was exhilarating! The following month I completed a Competent Crew course and learnt all the basics. After that I got out on the yacht as much as I could and completed my Day Skipper theory course. I got to spend a weekend on the Ocean Youth Trust’s 72 foot yacht which was an opportunity I will never forget. By November, I was a fully qualified Day Skipper so I wanted to keep the momentum going and moved on to yachtmaster theory and by March I had completed my Coastal Skipper Practical. I got out on the yacht as much as I could going round and round in circles picking up mooring buoys and MOBs. My hard work paid off as I finished off my contract by achieving my yachtmaster qualification. I was over the moon to have such a big qualification under my belt. I had done a little bit of dinghy sailing before I joined the IDS in Cumbrae and it was good having a variety of double and single handers on site to use whenever I wanted. The first time I went sailing at Cumbrae was on a catamaran and it was so much fun flying along whilst hiking out. I was having great fun until it pitch poled and I went flying round the mast then ended up under water, but that’s all part of the experience! In amongst all of my yachtmaster preparation I was encouraged to complete a dinghy instructor course. The instructors at the centre reassured me that a dinghy was just a small yacht so everything was pretty much just the same, except from being entirely reliant on wind power. I decided it was good for me to keep expanding my skills in all different types of sailing and I’m pleased to say I am now a dinghy instructor.

No stopping me

I had been jet skiing as a teenager on those rare occasions when the sun shone in Scotland and I had gone jet skiing on holiday abroad too so when the centre started offering Personal Watercraft (PWC) courses I jumped at the chance to learn these skills. It is a great addition to having a yachtmaster qualification as often larger ‘super’ yachts will have a jet ski included. I completed the course and went jet skiing a few more times practicing manoeuvres. Luckily a space came up on a PWC Instructor course last minute and I decided to give it a go. I figured I was already a snowmobile guide so it was just a different surface to get used to! The PWC Instructor course is the most fun Instructor course I have ever completed and I thankfully I passed! Windsurfing was next on my bucket list to try so I started practicing a lot, it was really exciting on a windy day when I managed to pick up lots of speed. I achieved my Intermediate Windsurfing certificate and I’m hopefully going to do my Windsurf Instructor in the near future.

Work hard, play hard

Being on the IDS at Cumbrae meant I lived in the perfect location to get out on the water every day. Who doesn’t want to wake up in their cosy little chalet and look out their window to see the gorgeous views across the Clyde? It also meant I had access to all the boats and equipment to do all the water sports the centre offered any time I wanted. The actual job itself was a great learning curve, seeing the other side of the running a national centre. I enjoyed working in the office, speaking to customers and giving advice on courses based on my experiences there. The job involved working mainly in the evenings and early mornings which was great as it meant my days were free to get out on the water as much as I needed to gain experience. I can’t thank the senior instructors enough as they were always encouraging me to progress and better myself. I probably wouldn’t have gone for as many different disciplines and courses if it hadn’t been for them. And to end this journey with a sought after professional yachtmaster qualification was the icing on the cake. I had an amazing 19 months on the IDS at sportscotland National Centre Cumbrae and I would jump at the chance to go back and do it all over again.

We offer a full range of sailing cruises and qualification and instructor courses, including our fast track Professional Yachtmaster qualification that Katrina took part in. Please have a look at our cruising courses section.

By Viki

2019 vacancies Instuctor Developments Scheme (IDS)

21 Dec

sportscotland are running an Instructor training scheme to help those suitably interested in gaining a career as a watersports instructor whilst gaining qualifications and experience at sportscotland’s National Centre Cumbrae.

  There are three positions available starting on April 2019. Trainees are encouraged to gain a variety of qualifications which can result in additional paid work at the centre and an eventual gateway to the world of watersports employment. The IDS programme combines a job aspect, about 19 hours per week, as well as a training aspect.

To read the blog of Katrina who has just completed their 19 months on the scheme click HERE .It is great opportunity for motivated and driven individuals to gain Instructor Qualifications in a variety of watersports.

Short listed applicants will be invited to Cumbrae for the opportunity to find out more and the programme Manager will explain in detail the IDS scheme, the role, and opportunities for individuals.

  Candidates must be over 18

  Application forms available to download from here

  IDS closing date applications is Friday 1st February 2019.

  Successful applicants will be informed by 6th February and invited to attend the two day selection process Tuesday 26th and Wednesday 27th February

  Anticipated start date will be Monday 1st April 2019

By Viki

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