Our charitable work

Giving young people the skills to succeed in life

Making a lasting difference

Who can sail with us
History and record of success
Voyages for young people aged 12-25
An award-winning charity
Sailing qualifications and why they matter
Measuring outcomes, providing evidence
Client comments and testimonials
How you can help
Leaflets about our work
#SailToWellbeing - how sail training contributes to mental wellbeing

See here for feedback from clients and young people over the last sixteen years.

Making a lasting difference

A voyage with OYT South really can transform a young person's life. This video tells JP's story:

Some voyages are built around a specific project: for example in May 2018 the Leadling Lights project put girls from Ormiston Academies on board Prolific for voyages alongside adult mentors, in order to inspire them and raise their aspirations. You can find more information here as well as in this video:

This message was received in 2016 from a man in his fifties about a voyage he did with us as a teenager in 1979::

"For me, not coming from any sort of nautical background, it provided a complete change from my normal environment, which was exactly what I needed following my mum’s death whilst I was only just 17. I found I had time to reflect especially when I was on the night watch and each of the adult crew was approachable. Not like teachers, more like much older siblings. I had a little tearful moment one morning, it was only a few weeks after she had gone so emotions were raw. One of the crew members noticed. Quietly went and made a couple of cups of tea. And didn't say anything directly but just stayed with me for a while drinking his tea. And I got through that moment and felt better. It was the year of the Fastnet disaster when a massive storm cost several lives and we were outside the harbour unable to enter until the waves died down a bit. And for a lad who was even a little uncomfortable on a cross channel ferry, I have to say I was one of the only crew that wasn't sick that night. Everything seemed safe - we had lines to secure us in the event of being swept overboard, and I seem to remember I was positioned as a lookout at the front of the boat being hit by the spray from the waves, and I found it exhilarating. I've never had a problem with nervousness since that experience. Now you're going to think I'm being a bit over dramatic, but I remember thinking I have survived the death of my parent which also meant losing my home and even my dog was given away, that I could deal with any troubles in life. The boat going up and down all over the place became a positive exciting experience, as I was able to rationalise that I'd taken all the safety precautions and our boat was if I remember 75' long and not some little dinghy. I went home feeling I’d grown up just that little bit more. Truthfully was the best experience at just the right time."

A voyage with Ocean Youth Trust South is not just about learning to sail, but about developing qualities which matter in everyday life.

A voyage can focus on:

  • Confidence John Laing
  • Working in a team
  • Coping with unfamiliar experiences
  • Communication
  • Taking responsibility
  • Learning new skills
  • Perseverance in the face of challenges
  • Getting on with people
  • Making lasting friendships

These are all skills and qualities which employers, families and communities need.

Here's what someone working in a school, who has been sending people to sail over the last ten years, thinks about the impact of our voyages:

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Who can sail with us
We work with other charities, mainstream and special schools, local authorities, social workers and youth workers, who refer young people to sail with us. Especially in school holidays, these may be mainstream groups from families who can afford a voyage (including young people doing the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Gold Residential); but we also work with young people who are disadvantaged or vulnerable in some way, particularly for term-time voyages. This includes young carers, siblings of life-limited children, young offenders, young people not in education, training or employment, children who have been bullied, abused or neglected, homeless teenagers, victims of crime, young people with physical and/or learning difficulties, children in care and many more.


Some young people and their families pay for their own places; other places are funded by the schools, clubs or charities which arrange the voyage. But OYT South also maintains a bursaries fund for disadvantaged or vulnerable young people who cannot afford even the basic subsidised voyage cost: in 2019, 143 young people received some funding from us to a total of £34,012 - ranging from people who had raised most of the money for themselves and just needed a little help, through to some exceptionally disadvantaged young people who received full funding.

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History and record of success

Ocean Youth Trust South is a registered charity (no. 1079959) which grew out of the Ocean Youth Club, founded in 1960. Ocean Youth Trust South has existed as an independent charity since 2000.

CrewWe work with around 450 young people each year, taking them to sea as active crew members in a purpose-built sail training vessel. We have come to be recognised as one of the leaders in the field of sail training, and in recent years our vessel has almost always been filled to capacity – and with a waiting list for sailing volunteers.

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Voyages for young people aged 11-25

Ocean Youth Trust South is a registered charity (no. 1079959) which offers residential sailing opportunities to young people aged 11-25 on board our 30-metre sailing vessel, Prolific.

CrewVoyages can last from two days to two weeks but in general will include four or five nights on board. This allows time for young people to develop familiarity and confidence in sailing the boat; make friends; work as a team; learn new skills; earn recognised qualifications; face new challenges; have a lot of fun; and go home with a real sense of achievement.

We sail with up to 15 young people at a time, as well as up to eight adult staff and volunteers. The young people may come as small groups or individuals prepared to mix with others, or they may come with a full group booking of 15, which can include adult leaders such as teachers or youth workers. This is not always necessary, but many groups bring two leaders and up to 13 young people; and some - particularly when the young people have complex special needs - bring six young people and six adults for one-to-one support.

CrewYoung people take part in all activities on board – sail handling, steering, navigation, cooking, keeping watch (including night watches) etc. We don’t even decide in advance where the boat will go: there will be a start and finish port, but what happens in between depends partly on the weather but also on what the young people want to do.

Wherever possible, we aim to explain, listen and offer choices. Some crews will consist of young people who are ready for a challenge, with long passages that will really push them to their limits. Other voyages may involve less confident young people who need a gentler introduction to sailing, or a break from problems at home or at school.

We don’t usually sail all day, every day - voyages include time ashore, a chance to explore a new place, have a shower, play games, have a beach BBQ or buy souvenirs.

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QAVS logo
An award-winning charity

OYT South is the first sail training charity to have won The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service.

Our Chief Executive, Mark Todd, was the inaugural winner of the Maritime & Coastguard Agency’s Award for Command Commitment to Sail Training, the highest professional recognition available in sail training.

In January 2016, our previous vessel John Laing was named Sail Training Vessel of the Year by the Maritime & Coastguard Agency and the Association of Sail Training Organisations.

In December 2018, Ocean Youth Trust South’s Staff Skipper, Peta Koczy, won the title of Young Sail Trainer of the Year 2018. This is a worldwide award for a young professional sail trainer under the age of 25, to encourage and recognise high-performing individuals who deliver sail training to young people at sea.

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Sailing qualifications and why they matter

Ocean Youth Trust South offers sailing qualifications through the Royal Yachting Association: the RYA Start Yachting certificate or, the RYA Competent Crew certificate. These qualifications are ideal for keen young sailors who wish to go on and develop their skills; but they can also be Crewvaluable for young people who struggle in school and may not get many academic qualifications. As well as showing that a young person has mastered some basic sailing skills, an RYA certificate also demonstrates that they listened, concentrated, worked with others, joined in with the routine activities as well as the exciting ones, took responsibility when asked, got out of bed on time, practised things they initially found difficult or challenging, without giving up, and much more.

All of this helps provide the evidence they need to move on in life.

Young people who do really well on a voyage may be invited back to train as volunteers (which can mean years of free sailing): those over 16 can sail as bosuns, responsible for basic maintenance and safety checks; those over 18 can train as watch leaders.

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Measuring outcomes, providing evidence

Those who arrange voyages for young people are given a report afterwards including comments from the skipper and watchleaders; details of certificates and qualifications earned; comments from young people themselves; and the results of a self-evaluation exercise which asks young people to give themselves marks in a range of areas at the start of the voyage and again at the end, so we can see how they feel they have changed. Results from 432 participants in 2019 included:Crew

  • Feeling confident:  +27%
  • Working in a team: +17%
  • Learning new skills: +17%
  • Coping with new experiences: +20%
  • Getting on with people: +12%
  • Dealing with setbacks: +22%
  • Learning from experience: +12%
  • Communication (speaking and listening): +15%
  • Compromise and negotiation when living with different people: +18%

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Client comments and testimonials

You can read many years of client comments here. The section below gives just a few examples.

At seaFor some years OYT South has been working with young people excluded from mainstream schools in Hampshire. DAVID HARVEY, AREA STRATEGIC MANAGER - ALTERNATIVE PROVISION, says: “The opportunities for sailing, being part of a team, taking responsibility, learning real life skills have been invaluable and instrumental in re-engaging some challenging young people with education, leading to pathways being established. There are seven Pupil Referral Units in Hampshire and if dedicated sailing time could be provided for each centre and thereby engaging more children this would be hugely beneficial. Additionally schools have benefitted from sending young people at risk of exclusion on voyages. Feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.” Everyone who took part in this programme in 2014 earned a Royal Yachting Association certificate – in many cases their first real qualification.

MACS, the charity for young people bornh without eyes or with under-developed eyes. This is Pearl and Ruth's story::


AmberTHE AMBER FOUNDATION offers accommodation and support to homeless young adults, often with drug or alcohol problems or mental health issues. As they prepare to move on from Amber, many of them start focussing on the need to have something positive on a CV to show to potential employers, and a week with OYT South can provide valuable evidence that someone can work in a team, follow safety instructions, take responsibility, learn new skills, use their initiative and more. All ten of those who completed this year’s Amber voyage worked hard to earn RYA Competent Crew certificates. One Amber resident said: “A very big thank you all OYT staff / volunteers for teaching us about sailing. I feel like I have come out my shell a lot more thanks to you all. A life experience I will never forget” and added that the week had been a real lesson in overcoming anxiety without using medication. Meanwhile, an 18-year old girl said: “My lasting memory is I’m a pirate now” and added My best bit was just getting out there and sticking to it: every day I was like ‘I’m gonna go home today’ but I didn’t.”

THE ORMISTON TRUST ran a voyage for girls and female mentors and another for boys and male mentors, to expand students’ ideas about possibilities for the future. On the boys’ voyage a 14-year old said: The best part of the week was probably like dinner time when we were all just were like one big family … I have loved every second of this journey and I have grown as a person. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity and I thank everyone for this experience. Another 14-year old said: Working on the boat has shown me how crucial teamwork is for some tasks. Communication with other individuals has been another thing that is important”. Teacher Dan who sailed with the boys’ group said: “It was absolutely fantastic and it’s a real credit to you guys as individuals and as a group because it’s your hard work, it’s you listening to all the information that we’ve been given and putting that into practice, that will stand you in really good stead, if you can take that into other situations in your lifetimes, that will really help support you. Probably one of the best things I’ve done in terms of being involved in school and education.

HILLINGDON VIRTUAL SCHOOL organised a voyage for young people in care – including a number of asylum seekers. One of the Hillingdon leaders told us: ”The support and encouragement from you all given to all the individuals has been in many cases life changing! Thank you for doing what you do.”

VyneTHE VYNE SCHOOL, Basingstoke has sent 67 students on voyages over the last eight years and has been able to watch the impact over the long term: staff member Penny says: “These experiences have given life changing skills such as confidence, self-belief, trust and an "I can" attitude. For some of these students getting through to Year 11 and final exams was looking bleak, but the experiences enabled them to complete it and achieve.” She tells the story of one boy, the last in a large family, none of whom had completed their education successfully until the youngest was chosen to sail at age 13. The experience helped to integrate him, making him feel recognised and valued in school, building positive friendships and breaking down barriers with school staff. Three years later he left school with a good attendance record and some GCSE passes, to train as a motor mechanic.

New BeaconNEW BEACON SCHOOL brought one of the youngest (and smallest!) crews we have ever had: one of them was only ten and the oldest boys were 13. They had a big voyage to the Scillies and then on the last day the sea staff were side-lined and the boys took over the roles of skipper, first mate, watchleaders, engineers and navigators to run the ship for themselves on the final passage to Falmouth. They took their responsibilities seriously, worked hard, and got the vessel safely into harbour with minimal staff input. Mark, their teacher, said: “They’ve learnt more in a week on this boat about themselves – I’ve learnt more in a week about them – than perhaps they’ll ever do in a year or two years at school. It’s incredible, well done boys.” Two 12-year olds said: “The trip was challenging but very very fun, the volunteers helped me sail and helped me learn my sail settings. My summer was made a hundred times better and I recommend it to almost everyone” and “An amazing trip that teaches you many valuable lessons that improve your sailing and about life in general. The food is delicious, and the sea staff are all funny and make you smile all the time”.

SkeltonSKELTON EXPLORER SCOUTS had an amazing last day with the mizzen staysail up, a white-beaked dolphin alongside, and later some fantastic stars. Group leader Paul said: “Just sailing in the stars last night and having everyone just in awe of what we were doing, it was amazing, absolutely amazing, seeing the Milky Way so strong last night, it was incredible. Many found real personal strength through genuine challenging experiences – the end of the voyage could now be a beginning … it was a wonderful experience that will live for many years to come.”

EMCTThe ELLEN MACARTHUR CANCER TRUST works in partnership with OYT South, where we can run a more challenging voyage in a larger vessel for young people who already had experience of sailing through EMCT. They proved to be a superb group and this was another great example of two charities working together, sharing skills and experience. A young man aged 20 said “I’ve really struggled with confidence post-chemo; this trip has been the first time I've started feeling confident again… It’s definitely the most active I’ve been since chemo so it’s kind of been nice to sort of have that confidence that you can sort of do stuff again, which was much needed and very nice … The amount of laughs and smiles we’ve had has been exactly what I needed, for the first time I started feeling like my pre-chemo self which was so lovely.” A 24-year old added: “I’ve been laughing all week … I think the only time when I stopped laughing was when I went to sleep.”

SHOOTING STAR CHASE HOSPICE arranges voyages for siblings of life-limited children. A 15-year old said: “I would definitely do this again in a heartbeat”; and a 13-year old added: “I really enjoyed sailing in the dark and I am really proud of completing some night navigation. I found pulling the ropes hard work but it is cool when the boat is sailing.” One of the group leaders said: “Such an amazing experience – LOVED every single moment! To see all the young people learning / experiencing / bonding has made me so proud – I’ve had a tear in my eye on many occasions due to laughter and pure and utter admiration! The sailing crew have listened and asked for opinions and have acted upon them, you are all an inspiration to us all.”

PARK HOUSE SCHOOL, Newbury has run voyages over many years for mainstream students whose families could pay for a voyage, but this year we worked together to fundraise for a special voyage for students who are disadvantaged or struggling. One parent wrote later: “I would just like to thank you all. My daughter joined your last voyage with Park House School. Her place was last minute and when I told her about the trip she was less than enthusiastic! (You could genuinely hear her eyes roll!) Well, within hours she admitted she was enjoying it and by the end of the week she was telling me that she didn't want to come home. Now home, she has not stopped talking. Normally if I ask what she has been doing I get the usual teenage grunts! I knew she would be way out of her comfort zone and that was kind of the point. But to have her come home and tell me she is proud of herself for stepping up and doing things she knows she would normally shy away from. That's priceless!”

PoolePOOLE HARBOUR BOAT SHOW sponsored a voyage for some exceptionally deserving young people from Dorset. We had some excited feedback from families: One said: “Wowww! Thank you sooo very much. We are SUPER PROUD PARENTS … It has been pure HAPPINESS AND BLESSINGS. That our daughter has been enjoying her voyage with Prolific and we were talking to the crew and it's all positive and we cannot THANK YOU ENOUGH” and another told us: “I'd like to say thanks so much for the opportunity she had to sail with you guys, we had quite a few concerns about what sort of experience she would have as she has never sailed and wasn't all that keen to try it, we were blown away by what a fantastic time she had and all the lovely feedback from your crew and captain, she gained so much from the trip and has come back with a new found confidence and established higher level of self-esteem which has come at a great time with her just about to start her GCSE's so as her parents we can’t thank you enough!”

LIMES COLLEGE is a pupil referral unit in Sutton for young people excluded from or unable to attend mainstream school. The young people have complex issues and behaviour problems and on this voyage a ratio of five students to three Limes staff and five OYT South staff was about right, and it certainly wasn’t a straightforward few days. One of the Limes staff said “Brilliant first experience and fantastic crew. Will be sure to recommend OYT to colleagues.”

Sail Training is one of the most powerful tools we have found for teaching people self-confidence, teamwork, trust and the ability to take responsibility – which are exactly the qualities employers look for.” Jonathan Cheshire, former Chief Executive, the Wheatsheaf Trust.

 “Sail Training voyages are an inspirational way of engaging disaffected or out of touch young people. They offer a structured environment enabling young people to remain focused on given activities which give positive outcomes. When young people, removed from their immediate environment, have a positive and enjoyable experience and are able to achieve tangible and real targets it allows confidence and self-esteem to grow and gives them a platform to build on and to raise their aspirations. Sail Training voyages are able to make a very positive and often life changing difference to young people disengaged and in danger of becoming NEET.” Zandra Ranger, former Coordinator for the Gosport Local Children's Partnership.

“A voyage with OYT South takes young people outside their normal environment and gives them the opportunity to change their perception of themselves. Having shared in the job of sailing the boat, cooking, cleaning and looking after one another they come away with a great sense of achievement and improved self-confidence and social skills. It can have a profound effect on those who have had negative experiences at school: most of the tasks are practical and physical and a history of failure can be transformed into an experience of 'I can' “. Lucinda Neall, author of About Our Boys and How to Talk to Teenagers. She runs workshops for parents, teachers and youth workers on bringing the best out in young people. Lucinda also leads a week-long self-realisation course, Building a Better Future, for ex-offenders and recovering addicts, and self-development workshops for troubled teenagers.

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How you can help
1) Finding groups of young people or individuals to sail with OYT South.
There are places suitable both for disadvantaged and mainstream young people, and there are also voyages for adults. Up-to-date availability here

Crew2) Making a donation. OYT South is always looking for funds in the following areas:

  • Bursary funding for young people who cannot afford to sail
  • Vessel maintenance and equipment
  • Salaries, office costs etc.

Details here for how to make a donation

3) Legacies. Please consider remembering Ocean Youth Trust South in your will.

4) Adult sailing. The skills acquired on our voyages are vital to the success of any business. Please contact us about corporate or teambuilding experiences for adults. We can offer your team a really effecvtive day on the water, and the money you pay for it will help us continue our work with young people. We also run occasional longer adult vioyages.

5) Volunteer for us: we need sailing volunteers to join our voyages, help with boat maintenance, local support groups, help with fundraising and more - please contact us for more information.

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“I have learnt and seen loads of new things and I will remember for the rest of my life! ” Jemima, aged 12