Case studies

Heather Hitchcock

Meet Heather UKSA’s newest Cruising Instructor and Farr Mate. But if you’d told Heather that this would be her job five years ago, she’d never have believed you!

Meet Heather- 21 years old, from Bedfordshire and UKSA’s newest Cruising Instructor and Farr Mate. But if you’d told Heather that this would be her job five years ago, she’d never have believed you! All it took was a residential trip to UKSA in 2020 to set her career into motion.

Shuttleworth College are no strangers to UKSA, regularly bringing students down from their site in Biggleswade to the Isle of Wight to take part in residential trips full of adventures on the sea – Heather was 17 when she stayed with UKSA for 5 days in the March of 2020 on a trip with the college. She recalled a week made up of dinghy and catamaran sailing, windsurfing and a day trip on UKSA’s Farr racing yacht. Whilst Heather was raised in a family fond of the outdoors, spending much of her childhood on mountain bikes, it wasn’t until college that she encountered sailing “I remember being so in awe of the Farr. When we left UKSA, it always stayed in the back of my mind.”

Not long after this trip Heather began gaining watersports instructor qualifications, training as a dinghy and windsurf instructor before taking on a role at an Andrew Simpson Centre. Here she found herself thinking about life working on larger boats and reminiscing about the day and night she had spent on the Farr.

Determined to make the change to working on yachts Heather visited the Southampton Boat show where she was advised to gain her Day Skipper qualification. Once she had obtained this, Heather earned a role as Flotilla Hostess  at Sunsail where she also learned extra skills where she could.

“Many of the guys at Sunsail often talked about having done their Yachtmaster at UKSA, and how great they had found it. I began to research the course but I was unsure if I could afford it, then I found out about the funding options available. The Stephen Thomas fund was such a big help, and the story behind it really hit close to home for me.”

“As my Yachtmaster training was coming to an end, I was wondering what I wanted to do afterwards. I considered becoming a skipper, but remembered how much I had liked teaching when I was in watersports and I decided I wanted to bring what I had learnt from dinghy instructing to larger yachts. That was when a job opened up at UKSA to work on the famous Farr- and I got it!”

Having only just started the role Heather explained that she was nervous at first, but that the team at UKSA have been really encouraging and supportive. The next step for her is to shadow one of UKSA’s seasoned yachting instructors on upcoming sea phases over the next few weeks and Heather can’t wait!

Looking back at her journey from never having sailed before to where she is now, Heather told UKSA “When I think about the first time I encountered sailing it was so new and terrifying to me, but I grew to love it. I remember thinking that getting my Dinghy Instructor qualification in 2019 was reaching for the stars, and now I’m a Yachtmaster! I wouldn’t have done it any other way.”

We asked Heather if she had any advice for anyone considering earning their Yachtmaster Offshore qualification, “Enjoy the first few weeks, it’s full of fun courses that you’ll really enjoy, and be prepared for it to get intense towards the end. Oh! And learn weather early!”

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