Rescue boat driver, 15, is Volunteer of Year

Robyn Dougall patrols the Firth of Fort. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Robyn Dougall patrols the Firth of Fort. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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Forget learning to drive a car – one 15-year-old Edinburgh schoolgirl is making waves saving lives as a volunteer rescue boat driver on the Forth.

Robyn Dougall, of Blackhall, had her first experience of driving a ski bike belonging to her dad, Ken Dougall, 56, at just three years old.

Schoolgirl Robyn Dougall has helped to save two lives and five yachts while out on the waves. Picture: contributed

Schoolgirl Robyn Dougall has helped to save two lives and five yachts while out on the waves. Picture: contributed

Now the Edinburgh Academy pupil – who admits to being thrilled by high speed – regularly drives rescue rigid inflatable boats (Ribs) as part of the Royal Forth Yacht 
Club.

And in her role she has already helped to save two lives and five yachts in dramatic rescue missions.

The speedboat wizard is not just a lifesaver though – she also races boats for fun and has shown her skills by winning gold twice in the Honda Rib Challenge, and winning the Scottish Junior Power Boat Championships.

To cap an incredible year she was crowned the 2013 Royal Yachting Association Young Volunteer of the Year on Saturday.

She said: “I just grew up around it because my dad was keen but I love power boating – it’s just a thrill with the speed.

“I took my friends out in a boat and had to teach them how to do it – I won my first award when I was ten and now I’m a cadet with the club.”

Robyn made her first dramatic rescue after she spotted a man who had gone overboard as part of a yacht festival on the Forth last summer – and revealed he would have had only moments to live.

“We were helping out with the yacht races in force seven winds and we got a radio call to say a guy had got swept overboard,” she added.

“I found the boat, pointed it out, and we got him in – he probably only had a few minutes because he wasn’t wearing a life jacket.”

On another occasion she helped recover a man who had been swept overboard from a yacht in rough seas off Leith and also raced to the aid of a vessel that had struck rocks off Aberdour.

The teenager, who has no formal training and is planning to become a lawyer, said not many of her classmates knew she was involved in the sport but were “shocked” and “quite impressed”.

And it seems it has become a family tradition as Mr Dougall explained how he was taught by his late father Hamish Dougall and started teaching Robyn when she was around eight.

He said: “We do it together – I’m very proud of her but she’s very modest.”