The Chris Ellis award
Win up to £500 off the price of your next voyage!
Chris Ellis was one of the founders of the Ocean Youth Club in 1960. He left a fund to help crew members aged under 25 who have enjoyed sailing with us and would like to be able to afford to sail again the following year.
By 2018 the original Chris Ellis fund had all been used up but thanks to the generosity of someone who was, many years ago, inspired by Chris, the Award continues.
The idea of the Ocean Youth Trust and Ocean Youth Club grew out of Chris’s experience as a teacher sailing with schoolboys, and though it was not until 1960 that the Ocean Youth Club began, he was in fact running voyages for his pupils as far back as 1951. On that very first voyage was a 14-year old Peter Tracey, who has written this account of The Very First Voyage. Peter has been a very interested, kind and generous supporter of OYT South for some years, and thanks to him, the Chris Ellis Award lives on, and in publicising the award and appealing for entries every year, Chris’s name will continue to be seen by a new generation of young people sailing with us thanks to the idea first tried out in 1951.
In order to enter, you need to produce a piece of work based on a voyage with the Ocean Youth Trust. This can be a logbook, a diary, a picture, a story, a poem, a collage, a piece of computer art – whatever you like. Entries should be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org, or posted to the office (mark the outside of the envelope “Chris Ellis Award entry”). Please also tell us your age and, if it isn’t already clear from your entry, which voyage you sailed on.
The closing date for entries is Christmas each year. Judging is done by Chris Ellis’s widow and daughter, who are always delighted to see how the project that Chris started continues to inspire young people down the years.
OYT South can award up to £500 (to one entrant, or split between two or three individuals) in the form of a discount off a future voyage.
The Chris Ellis Fund can reward effort as well as achievement, and crew members with a physical or learning difficulty which might make it more difficult for them to enter stand just as much chance of winning as anyone else. Generally, people should send in something which is all their own work; but if you needed some help, just tell us about it. A previous winner, who is blind, was supported by a sighted person to make a tactile scrapbook, for example.
We look forward each year to seeing what crew members can produce!
2022 Chris Ellis Award winner:
The top prize went to Ollie Smith, who was 15 when he came on a voyage with his school and made this video:
There were two runners-up.
Rose MacInnes (17) did some fantastic art on her voyage and entered this fabulous picture for the award:
Rose also kindly offered to let us use this image to help the charity. Would anyone like a hi-res copy of the image file in exchange for a donation, so that you can get a print made up? Or does anyone have other ideas for using such a lovely picture? Email email@example.com to discuss; and we’ll talk to Rose about what she’s happy with.
And Aaron Thomas-Epstein (15) wrote and performed a sea shanty:
Chris Ellis’s daughter Emma said:
“Congratulations to Ollie, Rose and Aaron for their wonderful submissions.
Ollie’s video is a most skilful and moving tribute to Prolific and OYT South and I love the title, ‘Be prolific’…! I am hugely impressed by what Ollie has achieved and the sensitivity with which he has captured the spirit of adventure under sail in this video.
Chris Ellis was a great lover of creativity, and when he himself was at sea in his youth, he did many drawings and paintings, sang sea shanties and played his flute. Afterwards his life was dedicated to assisting young people not only to have adventurous challenges at sea, but also to express themselves through creative mediums, knowing that for many young people, this can be more meaningful than words. He spent much of his time as a teacher fostering in each individual what they were best at. It is with this in mind that we wished to make these awards to Ollie, for his skilful use of a medium that barely existed in Chris’s day, and to Rose for her painting and Aaron for his song that Chris would have thoroughly appreciated. He would have recognized the thought, effort and hard work that went into all these submissions.”
There were no winners in 2020 or 2021 due to the pandemic.
2019 Chris Ellis Award winner: Keira Webster, who was 13 when she wrote this poem:
My sailing experience
I will never forget my sailing trip
All the laughs we shared
And how much people cared
At first, I was shy
I couldn’t even say Hi
But as the days went on
I actually felt like I belonged
I met amazing crew and friends
Who I will truly know till the end
No matter how tired I was
I still persevered
And I overcame some of the things I feared
I have made true memories I will never forget
For example, Andy’s amazing bet
On how we should add an extra sail
I laughed to myself when I think how that failed.
Or the time on the beach I fell down the sand hole
Or the one where I almost banged my head on the pole
I sailed into Southampton the wind was on my side
Never before had I felt so alive
Those were good times I keep them close to my heart
I’m counting the day’s till next summer starts
I dream of being on Prolific once more
As I cross the Ocean with the birds as they soar.
The ocean just teases me time from time
Reminding me of my trip of a lifetime
I can’t wait to go back on a boat and do it again
I never want my passion to end
The 2019 runner-up was Alyssia Denness aged 15, who sent in this picture and accompanying text:
2018 Chris Ellis Award winner: Rachel Parry, who was 12 when she sailed with us and produced this model:
The text above Rachel’s model reads:
“Everyone was really friendly. So I started to talk to everyone. My watchleaders were so funny. I could never have imagined myself being on a boat. Being the helm. Cooking. I felt bubbly, brave, confident and happy. At the end I was sad to leave but it left me feeling happy and proud of myself. The feeling has lasted.”
The runners-up were:
Nikita Melnyk (14), a keen photographer who put together a great video using the images she had taken during her voyage.
Thomas Rowe (14), for a very lively and well-written account of his voyage – including lines like: “That night it was my watch’s turn to cook and we were told that we were doing Spaghetti. I was on onion cutting duty for the bolognese and it’s safe to say that it was a mistake. I received one or two complaints about how big I left the onion, with one person saying they thought it was golf ball.”
Harry Lack (14), who put a lot of effort into an account of his school voyage: “I had loads of fun getting to know the people from my school who I don’t know better and working together raising the sails and laughing listening to Vince doing impressions. It was the best five days of my time at school so far.”
2017 Chris Ellis Award winner: Pearl Harris, who was aged 19 when she sailed on a voyage organised by MACS, the charity for children born without eyes or with underdeveloped eyes. Pearl made a tactile scrapbook about her voyage.