Sailing with OYT South
Comments from clients and young people each year since 2004
This is a look back at some of the feedback we have received over the years and the many and varied ways in which young lives have been changed by taking part in our voyages.
If you have feedback which you would like to send us, please email us. We are always interested to hear what people thought about our voyages – whether you sailed last week or you want to tell us that you still remember something about a voyage from fifty years ago!
The charity Ambition, Aspire, Achieve, from Canning Town in East London, sailed on our final youth voyage of the season and said: “My best bit was all of the rainbows and the Hallowe’en party. And most memorable is the relief after I was done with one of the ropes”; “The thing I’m going to remember is how nice all the sea staff was”; “The best thing I liked is learning new life skills of this boat. This experience make me think new things I haven’t learned (before). And the most memorable thing about this is all the sea staff that helped me notice what a boat looks like and how to like steer it”; “The most memorable part of it is probably the whole trip and like how I learnt how to do different knots and stuff”; “The most memorable thing would probably be learning how to tack”; “Everyone was kind and the staff gave us a perfect time. I would love to come back again”; and even from one girl who really didn’t take to sailing: “It was fun but not the right thing for me but enjoyable for others. The bit I’m gonna remember the most is probably going to all the different places”. And from the two group leaders: “My favourite bit, I think, was putting the sails up, and using the power of the wind to make us move forward, and well, make us sail. What I’ll remember, I think, is Prolific and this crew – the whole trip was enjoyable, so something I will never forget” and “My most favourite bit is being with the young people from AAA, I just like being around young people and seeing them all learn new skills. And my most memorable thing is walking through and seeing Josh [engineer] dressed like a mermaid and in full glitter at the Hallowe’en party.”
First Swindon Sea Scouts sailed during October half term and comments included: “I think my best bit was using the helm yesterday, when we were tacking. That was quite fun because we were going quite quickly. My least favourite bit was doing the washing up when we were doing like 10 knots, and the boat was over on her side.” The Scout Leader added: “When I go on a trip when I’m in close proximity to other leaders I’m always a bit apprehensive at first because I’m not sure what their views are and how they’re going to behave, and on this trip, I have to say, the very first night I was very relaxed and felt very comfortable about how the crew behaved and were so positive towards everyone and so welcoming. And no question was a daft question, if we asked a question it was met with a very sincere response. I think that’s one of the things that I’ve noticed over these few days, is that initially you changed the language to suit the group, so initially you were saying ‘this rope’, ‘that rope’, or ‘this sail’, but within a couple of days you were actually using the right names and it was coming through as a drip, drip effect so we learnt very quickly rather than overwhelming us, which I appreciate. That was really, really good.”
A group from Bruern Abbey school endured shocking weather and were stuck in harbour for two days, but one commented: “This trip was especially great, I loved navigating and driving at the helm. Two things I am proud of helping navigating and doing a gybe” and another said “My favourite bit was probably when we were all soaked by like rain and we were all like soaking because that was quite fun. We got to see the waves and stuff … And my most memorable bit was on the first night in the dark, being on watch in the dark.”
The Costello School in Basingstoke was a new client this year and with a skilled sailor on the teaching staff, they arrived well-prepared and highly motivated. Comments included: “I know how to sail and I can deal with my own battles more confidently … I have managed to learn a new side to the outside world … I’ve had friends to help comfort me and I’ve become more independent … I have got a new side to myself that I didn’t know before”; “Everyone will help you no matter what”; “Most memorable bit, honestly, like the 2-6-heave thing, I feel like I was in a pirate movie. I loved it”; “The most memorable bit was talking to that bloke on the radio. Whatever I said!”; “I loved the experience, I really liked going out on the bowsprit and doing new things that I normally wouldn’t have the chance to do”; “It was really nice living at sea for a week. The crew was really welcoming and homely”; “I had an amazing time and I managed to learn a whole host of new skills”; “The experience was amazing, unlike anything else I have done. It was very fun and I got even closer with the people who came with me”; “I did something I thought I’d never of done, I made amazing friendships and learned great things”; and “I hope this is running next year!”
And from the two school staff who sailed with them: “I’ve got two best bits: myself … learning how to sail and having just an absolutely amazing time … And also watching you guys just thrive really, you’ve had such a brilliant week … I have had the best week and have fallen in love with sailing. Thank you so much & thanks for an amazing 21st!”; and “As an individual the best bit has just been robbing the sea staff about ideas about how to get my sailing better. That’s been really, really good. But as a teacher, it’s been these little lightbulb moments where I can see these young people growing and developing a better sense of resilience or self-confidence or knowing that they can do more than they ever thought they could do, so that’s been fantastic … I’d have to be really scraping the barrel to find any worst bits … Most memorable bit was the day before yesterday, I remember standing up on the deck watching the crew at the front getting on with their thing and the ones behind me getting on with it and the ones at the stern just doing it and just operating as a team, and it was fantastic to watch these thirteen kids who’ve never really spent a great deal of time together, and the staff, all working together. Really fantastic, thank you.”
An email from a parent: “You really really did nail it for [my daughter] – and the support and help and general query answering from the office team to me was superb! She’d never set foot on a boat before walking on to Prolific and definitely learnt masses, along with the joy of life aboard, so a huge thanks to your very patient crew who helped her feel needed and capable rather than an in-the-way beginner. You and your team have definitely got this adventurous opportunities for all stuff sorted!”
Two schools in Gosport, Bay House and Brune Park, provided a crew of 14-year-olds for the ASTO Cowes Small Ships Race, competing against sixteen other sail training vessels crewed by young people – with a party at the end. Comments included: “Felt confident with tacking by the end”; “This trip helped me feel confident about my skills”; “Had to work in a team when hoisting the sails”; “I’ve befriended many people on this trip that I didn’t know before”; “I started to remember how to do things without being told”; “This trip helped me get out of my comfort zone”; “I think my best bit was the steering, that was really fun and I loved driving … it felt really cool”; “I think the best bit was probably sitting on the bowsprit because that was really fun”; “Probably my most favourite bit is going to the party and doing lots of dancing and having fun”; “My least favourite bit was definitely the winching because it was so much effort”; “I have had so much fun on the boat. I’ve made new friends and learnt lots of new skills. I will definitely come again if I get the opportunity”; “Had lots of fun, really want to do this again. Learnt so many new experiences and I’m very grateful”; “Tacking was a pain but still fun. I’m very glad I’ve met these people and would definitely go again. Learning to tie ropes and steering was fun”; “I had lots of fun, would recommend for others. The tacking was hard but was great for teamwork in the group!”; and “I’m so sad that we are leaving this boat, it feels like a family”. Finally from one of the teachers who came with the group: “I’m very lucky to say this is my third time on this boat and the best part for me is just being with such an amazing crew, and getting the yacht up to 8.9 knots yesterday in that race, and being at that angle, it was kind of the best and the most memorable thing all in one go. Absolutely amazing.”
The Vyne School in Basingstoke has worked with us for many years, selecting younger students who could benefit from a project designed to make sure they don’t miss the chance to make the most of their time at school,. Comments included: “I thought it was amazing and my favourite bit was going onto the net at the front of the boat … And my most memorable bit was sailing when it was dark yesterday and it was freezing cold and being on watch with all the lights going around”; “My most favourite bit was when I was steering the boat through the two forts … My most memorable bit is when we nearly died in a thunderstorm … And my least favourite bit was – um – I don’t know if I have a least favourite bit. No, I don’t have one”; “It was fun, I learnt a lot”; “I loved it all the people here was lovely to me and accepted me as me and I am thankful for that“; “It was fun most of the time, I enjoyed it a lot and had fun. I hope I can go next year“; and “It was really fun, I really want to do it again.” And from the teachers who sailed with them: “My favourite part of the trip was seeing the students have so much fun and learn new skills and make lots of memories … Fantastic experience again! Second time sailing on the Prolific. Lovely sea staff and very welcoming and supportive of everyone” and “My favourite bit was probably steering the boat, I really enjoyed that … And my most memorable bit I think was setting sail when we left Cowes, and it was a lovely sunny afternoon and it was just great to be on the water … A really enjoyable trip. I loved the sailing. We were really well looked after by the friendly, knowledgeable sea staff.”
A parent emailed: “[My daughter] absolutely loved her time on Prolific and I can truly say it was a life changing experience for her. She discovered so many things, such as that she can experience extreme fear and not let it stop her doing anything. She’s never really been scared before, she’s fine with heights/dark/adventurous activities and will try anything, so to discover that fear is actually nothing to be afraid of was a huge moment for her. She also, and even more importantly at this point in her life I feel, finally met people like her – people who want to do stuff, experience things, try new adventures. Her school seems to be full of teenagers who don’t want to do anything, who are happy to cruise along mostly playing on their phones … [My daughter] likes to make the most of experiences offered and volunteers for anything going, but had felt, until Prolific, that she was a bit odd and different as she’s had so many bad reactions from friends to her willingness to try stuff. They roll their eyes at her, mimic her enthusiasm in an unpleasant way and generally make fun, but the others on Prolific were all like her, they all wanted to get out there and get involved! She came back so energised and so delighted that she does have ‘her tribe’! … A big thanks for being there and making such experiences affordable – and giving my teenager the confidence boost she needed.”
An email received from a young person who has sailed with us twice: “I just wanted to say a massive Thank you to all the staff, the hard work, patience, skills, and determination for helping us kids, and doing the thing you love most. I’ve learnt a lot from sailing, but sailing has also taught me a lot about myself! Before my first voyage I was naughty in school and horrible to the people around me, but being on the voyage helped me to realise there’s more to life than being naughty and being horrible to the people around me. On my first voyage I got over my fear of boats, learning how to get along with people I didn’t know, helping people, working as a team, and becoming the best version of myself. I also learnt that I have a passion for sailing and there was nothing to be scared of and I love it. After the voyage I went back to school I was good and had respect for the people around me, and wanted to do well. This year I started year 11, keeping my head down and being the best version of myself. I was kindly offered to come back and go on another voyage, I accepted the offer in a heart beat because I love sailing. Being on this voyage taught me a lot more about sailing and the sea! However sailing also taught me a lot more about myself that I didn’t know and now I’ll keep on using the life skills I learnt in sailing. The staff taught me a lot and I’ll forever be thankful for that. So thank you for helping me be the best person I can be, you guys really did help me!”
Cowes Enterprise College students had a windy week in September and said: “Most memorable bit: when we were all doing the night watch thing and we were all having really deep conversations with each other, I loved that bit”; “Best bit probably all the fun we had, we had so much fun”; “Best bit easily the night watch, actually so fun despite not sleeping at all – it was actually nice”; and “Worst bit probably the weather and the fact that the voyage wasn’t longer, I wish it had been longer than 5 days.”
A voyage with the charity Outoor Lads ended on a high despite enduring some terrible weather. Crew members said: “Most memorable bit … I think it’s you guys actually, like honestly, the skill and compassion that you bring, and the patience that you have, it’s really impressive to see and it’s a joy to be around, so thank you for that … Totally top crew. Warm, welcoming, hugely skilled AND very able to share all that in such a supportive way. The crew created such a safe and affirming way. Thanks so much team. I’ll be back as a volunteer”; “The most memorable bit, I think it’s … the crew, the team, you know, it was a very good team altogether – and the patience of the crew as well … Overall, very good experience and something really, really memorable. So thank you all, thank you very much”; and “Everybody mucked in … there was no negativity, … it was just such a positive attitude from people, and people were considerate of others, and … fortunately on this trip the skipper set such a great example, so that it set the tone for everybody … you know he listened, he was understanding, and also authoritative when he needed to be, but without coming across as bossy and rude, so we had a really nice bonding”.
In September we received this email: “I wanted to write and say a huge thank you to you and the team for [my son’s] amazing trip with you at the end of August. He returned so enthusiastic about all aspects of sailing, loved the team work and the interaction with others from all walks of life. The energy of the group was clearly electric and he very much hopes to come again. Thank you to everyone for their hard work, patience, enthusiasm and encouragement – you all deserve medals and we are so grateful to you for providing such a wonderful experience. Many many heart felt thanks again.”
The final voyage of the school summer holidays went for a look at the Bournemouth Air Show – thanks to the Red Arrows for this photo! This was a very enthusiastic group with lots of people keen to step up and take responsibility: “My best bit was probably the night nav last night because I think it really showed how we all became a team and we could overcome that and plus it was really cool and exciting”; “My most favourite bit probably would have been just getting to know everyone on board and working so well as a team with sail hoists and us going sailing really well”; “Best bit was probably just sitting out on the bowsprit, especially yesterday when it was nice and warm, nice and sunny. Worst bit was probably space in the bunk … I’m 6 foot 5…”; “It’s so good I’m staying for another week!”; “Very thankful for this trip – loved it”; “Can’t wait for my next adventure with OYT”; and “Incredibly fun trip, made lots of friends”.
A parent wrote: “I just wanted to send this to you to thank you for the week my son had on Prolific last week. He was absolutely buzzing on his way back in the car on Sunday, telling us all that they had done, how to sail, how good the staff were, how well organised everything was and how nice everyone was! … It has been many years since we have seen him so excited!! We would like to thank you and your team and all the staff on Prolific for making it such a fantastic week for him. He said the crew created a great atmosphere within the team and treated them all as young adults which he really liked.”
Eleven young people sailed in August through our partnership with the Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust. As ever, it was such a positive experience for the sea staff to see the tenacity and courage of the young people who had all been through cancer treatment and in some cases still face further treatment, and to watch them grow as a team and as individuals. Feedback included: “My most lasting memory was just being able to sail on the Prolific and the enjoyment I have had”; “The funniest bit was when it was really choppy coming out of Weymouth and everyone was trying, trying to stand up but was nearly falling over or sliding off the deck boxes and just trying to stay upright”; “The best bit, there was actually a few, there’s being able to sail on the Prolific but also getting to shout at everyone while pulling a rope – no one told me it was going to be that fun”. One of the adult leaders added: “My best bit was being able to sail on a very different boat and getting to learn all about it: we had some great sailing passages. Funniest bit was washing up procedure last night when I was in goal for the cutlery that was getting thrown at greater and greater speed and cups and managing to catch them all – it was good fun. Great trip and a well-run boat, thanks for everything.”
A mixed individuals’ voyage got across to the Channel Islands in August. Comments included: “I think my favourite bit was the fact that we got to go across the channel and see Guernsey and Alderney … My most memorable bit is coming back round from Dartmouth and doing some navigation and seeing the dolphins”; “Really amazing, especially for someone who has never sailed before. I even got to see seven pods of dolphins! Hopefully I can volunteer in the future”; “I’ve met amazing staff and people. Everyone treated me fair and kindly. I would always come back again despite throwing up. Love everyone and I’ll see you next year!”; “It was an incredible week with great people. It’s so amazing how every time everyone gets along so well. I’ve learnt so much”; “I really, really loved it (despite being seasick at times). The food was absolutely lovely. The crew are BRILLIANT”; “It was an experience I will never forget. It was an amazing challenge. I would recommend for anyone looking to have fun, meet inspirational people, friends and great memories held close forever. Thank you endlessly to every person involved”; and finally “I am so tired“!
A parent added: “[My daughter] had an incredible time & loved the experience sailing alongside the marvellous skipper, volunteers, and fellow crew members. She said by the latter part of the voyage, ‘it felt like a real family,’ and I know that she has made some lasting friendships.”
Our annual voyage for the MACS charity, for young people born without eyes or with under-developed eyes, brings together young people who often sail year after year as a rare chance to have fun in the company of others with MACS conditions. This year, one girl said: “I think this might be one of my BEST trips ever – staff were, like, wonderful. They’ve given us the opportunity to learn amazing stuff really. I learnt how to do the dinghy, and then to do, like, all sorts, I’m almost in tears here because it’s amazing … On any other trip so I’ve always been in a bit of the background, not sure what that bit does or this one or what am I doing here but this trip I felt like I knew a bit more. I was getting to know a bit more and that was mostly because of your staff giving us the opportunity and standing there and helping us out.” Another said: “I think my best bit, although I hated it while I was there, was taking the jib down on the bowsprit ‘cos I originally told Sandy (watchleader) I’d go stand at the front, not on the net and it got to the point Sandy was like, ‘you need to go on the net’ and I was like ‘I don’t want to Sandy’ but I did in the end. So that was really good, that’s like cured my fear a little bit I think.” Others added: “In my bandana looking so piratey, rowing the boat, that was great. I felt like Mr Toad, you know! The worst bit was probably, yeah, feeling quite ill on the second day and thinking, oh god, have I made a mistake. But it was fine the next day so it was alright”; “It was the most amazing trip. It feels like a big family, the staff have been top notch. Don’t worry, I’ll be back later for some more amazing adventures!”; “I had the best time! I was able to learn new things and gained lots of confidence, thank you for all your help, the sea staff were very helpful and helped me understand everything”; and “My actual, actual worst bit is leaving the ship.”
An Air Cadet Unit from south London included several people who had seldom left London and had no experience of the countryside or the sea – and certainly not of seeing wildlife close up! One girl said: “My favourite part will probably have to be, like, seeing the dolphins, I was sooo excited ‘cos like I’ve never seen like a dolphin … And the view, oh the view was so incredible. I don’t see stuff like that unless, like they’re in pictures and stuff. That was incredible like, yeah, I loved that … The first day, I was actually so sick I got really seasick and like it was raining and stuff so I went and sat at the back by myself and I was just like looking out into the ocean and I was deep in life, like I thought I was having a mid-life crisis. It was crazy, and I was going through it, I was like ‘doh’. The way I was feeling, it was so bad, but yeah, I was seriously going through it but then, you know, I got over that … I really loved how every day was new and we really did not know what we were going to be doing tomorrow.” Other comments included: “My favourite bit was like leading a sail hoist. I find that very interesting and a chance to, like, develop my leadership a bit more … I guess that the bit that will stick with me the most was when that we all came together at this, like the dinner table like, just having vibes and fun”; “The best thing was I think was just the pure chaos that came with the group. So, like the banter that we all had, the stupid stuff we did like above deck, the singing, the dancing, that was probably the best experience”; and “Best bit probably, I really like sailing in the really bad fog and kinda really bad visibility. I don’t know why but it was really just fun and kinda, yeah, when it was bouncy and going up and down and really rough. I really like that”.
A voyage in July included what the skipper described as “the epic sail of the season” as they completed 10 hours of fast sailing surrounded by dolphins, and then had a “magical” night sail back again, this time with the dolphins leaping in phosphorescence. Comments included: “My most memorable bit was probably helming between half past midnight and one in the morning and staring up at the Milky Way and realising I’d gone 20 degrees off course to port”; “My most memorable bit is probably being on the bowsprit when the first batch of dolphins came, because it’s the first time I ever saw dolphins as well so it was pretty cool”; “My most memorable bit was the five dolphins we saw that were sort of dancing around at the front of the boat which was brilliant”; “My most memorable bit was probably staying up for like 20 hours without getting any sleep and seeing the sunrise and the sunset in the same space of time”.
Several members of this group showed real potential for the future and some over-16s have been invited to consider training as volunteers, while some younger ones have been encouraged to sail again with the hope that they might train to join the team when they are old enough. One 14-year-old told us: “Thank you so much for this offer, I am very excited by it! I absolutely loved my time on board and I am still buzzing from it, so to know that it might be possible to come again is the best thing. The sea staff made the atmosphere so welcoming and inclusive and I like that they managed to make the trip seem informal but professional; I came away with so much respect for them all. To have the chance to become a member of the team feels really special.”
Fourteen boys aged 10-13 from New Beacon School sailed from Brixham to Falmouth, with two days stuck in Dartmouth due to terrible weather – fortunately the Royal Navy was holding an open day which kept them occupied; and they went on to finish the voyage with sunshine, good sailing, dolphins and ice-cream. Comments included:
“Absolutely amazing experience that I will remember always. Thank you”; “I had a good time although it was a bit of a drag sometimes. Hoisting the sail was fun and doing various jobs on the boat could either be good or bad, like cleaning the heads and stuff like that. Some jobs were very fun like washing up sometimes. It was a great time overall”; “I really enjoyed it! The sea staff were very nice and the bedding was very comfortable. A great way to spend summer in my opinion”; “I was scared at first that we would sink but now I know we won’t”; “My most memorable bit was probably when the dolphin jumped out of the water going like six feet in the air”; “My favourite bit was probably going to the Navy college. My least favourite bit was the day when everybody was sick and it just felt horrible to not be sick which was kind of weird”; and “My favourite bit was steering down the windy river by myself for quite a long time. That was really fun. And my most memorable bit was probably seeing the dolphins and everyone shouting ‘dolphin, dolphin’ and it was so exciting.”
One of the teaching staff accompanying the boys said: “Thank you so much for taking such amazing care of our boys. It is always a pleasure to sail with the OYT family, as you help them to learn and develop, both their sailing skills and themselves, as they discover resilience and facets about their character they will never have the chance to find in any other way … Too many memorable bits to list but I’ll try: the dolphins obviously; but one that will stick in my head was as I was videoing the rough weather we had on the passage from Cawsand to Helford and I explained to the skipper “I’m recording video” – immediately followed by the sound of M chucking up into a bucket, followed by skipper saying ‘Oh, and that is the sound of a boy enjoying himself immensely”. That will stick in my head!” The other staff member said: “I really enjoyed going to the Naval college: I know we came on a sailing cruise, that was awesome as well, but as a historian it was great to go and see where some old students from the school went so that was great. Most memorable bit was being out on the rough day: I quite like the exhilaration of all that, but that was quite rough so I enjoyed that, it’s going to be memorable. Sorry that so many of you were sick on that day!”
A mixed crew of individual bookings took Prolific down to the west country for the summer, visiting Fowey and Salcombe before ending in Brixham. Comments included: “I think the most memorable thing for me was seeing each person smile, as corny as that sounds, but I’m glad we all had a good time and I’m really grateful for everybody I have met here. I hope I stay in contact with all of you. And I’d like to thank all the leaders for supporting us. Thank you so much”; “My favourite moment, probably on a night sail again was watching the moon rise. A beautiful blood moon over the ocean which I thought was really pretty and the stars coming out as well ‘cos there was no light pollution in the ocean. As well as Fowey which was beautiful … My least favourite moment would have to be the wake up for the early shift on the night sail which was quite rough … but then we got on with it. It was great to see the whole watch and whole crew persevering through that. It was really good”; “It was a truly brilliant five days with many memories made. Everyone was in top form and bonded very well and very quickly. This made the trip 100 times better. A big thank you to all the crew and staff, who were very nice and helpful. I would truly recommend again. Cheers!”; “I would like to thank the sea staff for giving up their time and allowing us to gain a valuable experience that I for one know will stay with me for life. There are so many memorable moments from this trip – from balancing, precariously on the bowsprit to seeing dolphins to diving off the boat”; and “Loved the exciting opportunity to use this voyage as D of E residential. I really enjoyed it all, hope to get more into sailing and maybe do something like this again.”
Dartmouth Academy sent young people aged 13-15 who did really well to rise above some challenging weather: the skipper’s conclusion was: “This group had a very hard set of weather conditions and did brilliantly. All worked very hard and should be very proud of themselves. Students were incredibly supportive of each other and pushed themselves to work outside of their pre-established social groups.” Comments from the young people included: “My favourite bit was probably learning how to tack and doing all the driving and all that stuff. My least favourite bit was turning our stomachs inside out being sick on the first day”; “My most memorable bit was when we were all sat up on deck and this massive wave splashed and we all got drowned”; “Had a good and exciting time and would definitely recommend. Opened up a whole new world for me”; and “I really enjoyed and appreciated this incredible opportunity. It was tons of fun and I learnt loads”. A parent wrote to us later: “[My son] had a fantastic time and it’s done his confidence a world of good, so thank you very much for everything.”
New Forest Academy sent a group of students with clear targets such as developing self-confidence or being more patient with others. Comments from the voyage included “I feel confident about the new skills I have learnt and that I could remember them again”; “I learnt how to have a team and working together”; “I’d say that my favourite bit was learning new skills with people I hadn’t really spoken to before … The most memorable bit … going up and down the Solent lots and lots of times and seeing places that you see from land but seeing them from sea – quite cool … I had never been sailing before but in the space of only a few days, I’ve learnt so much. It was really fun too”; “The most memorable bit has got to be sailing … it’s very lush watching the waves go by”; and “My favourite bit was the night shift ‘cos I got to see the sun rise”.
Harris Merton school in south London chose a group of students who they hoped would really benefit from being taken out of their comfort zone and asked to take responsibility, work within a team, expand their horizons, or to come out of their shells and participate more. At least one student ended the voyage with a goal of “less time on phones and screens”! The boys commented “Great journey, fun, adventurous, challenging, exciting and all that is positive!”, “Interesting and fun experience. Sailing is fun!” and noted that “Everyone helped each other” and “I’m always listening and asking questions, to be sure”. One of the two accompanying school staff said his favourite bit was: “seeing all the students coming together, working together, building new friendships, working out of their comfort zone, seeing different expression, interaction and that was a welcome sight from being at school” and the other said “My favourite bit was probably watching you all of you guys work as a team together, despite you being tired, despite not wanting to do, even offering to help like E last night even offering to take over some duties that weren’t even his duties so I loved all the camaraderie, that was excellent” and added “Fantastic journey, the boys learnt so much with confidence!”
In June, a couple of adult day sails allowed us to sail with sponsors and donors as well as to invite representatives of the Marine Accident Investigation Branch and Trinity House, as well as our local MP, plus some friends and family of the OYT South team. Comments included: “I feel I have some appreciation of what you and your team do but what I can see is lots of enthusiasm, knowledge, and consideration for others and teamwork, carry on the good work. Thank you for a great day’s sailing”; “Thank you for showing us around the Solent and explaining the amazing work you all do. Amazing day, great day learning new skills and meeting new people. Keep up the good work!”; “Super day out, thank you! Lovely to meet everyone and learn about what you do! Really inspiring and some fantastic stories to share. Looking forward to staying in touch in the future”; “An excellent day, good vibe and great fun. The real bonus was learning about OYT South and the good work you do. Keep it up!” and “What a crew! What a skipper! What a shining example of how to do life properly! Thank you all so much.”
We were glad this season to see another crew from the Amber Foundation, which houses and supports homeless young people facing complex challenges. Several of them were very focussed on using the voyage to develop skills that will help them move into employment and independent living and at the end of the voyage remarked on having practised “Trying different ways to deal with a situation”; “Teamwork to get jobs done”; “Keeping myself busy to take mind off things”; “Negotiating organisation of jobs”; “Communication when doing jobs”; “Doing jobs for people who did jobs for me”; “Doing a knot wrong and learning from it”; “Relaying instructions and how to do stuff”; and “Feeling confident around new people”. One said: “My favourite part was probably the going to Weymouth at the start it ‘cos it was all new and exciting” and another noted that “Most memorable part of the experience was I think was last night – the navigating at night – ‘cos we were bringing all of our skills together that we have learnt throughout the week condensed into one night. The teamwork was amazing … The worst bit, I think is this moment right now because I know that it is coming to an end … Thank you for the experience.” In the Comments Book on board, people wrote: “Thank you for this amazing experience I was nervous before coming on the boat but I eased my fear and done it all thank you for all being friendly and welcoming”; “A great time, better than I expected it to be and the staff definitely made it that, they really made me feel like this is something I should be grateful to have a chance to go on” and from the group leader: “A great experience for the group, lovely to see so many of them throw themselves into everything and get so involved. I’ve seen a lot of growth and new confidence in so many of the young people. I think they will all remember this voyage very fondly.” One of the young men was from Ukraine and had been homeless after arriving in the UK as a result of the war. He was glad of the opportunity to practise his English and talked about his experience of working in a team: “Last day. Navigation on the night sea. It’s how we worked together … Live all together (17 people) on a board it is the best way to work together. And I guessed you cannot avoid getting new friends”.
The Petersfield School was a new client sailing in glorious June weather. Two teachers sailed with the group and commented: “My favourite moment was probably watching all the students navigate us back yesterday evening with the sun setting. That was really nice” and “My favourite moment of this week was probably seeing how far all the young people have come and all the skills that they have developed and seeing what a brilliant team they’ve made, like how they navigated us back to Southampton”. A 14-year-old summed it up: “Had a great time learning new things everyone was great and fun.”
The second half of the May half-term was filled by Kent Virtual School for children in care. Comments included: “My memorable bit would be the waves and getting absolutely drenched, I thought that was really funny, having the feel of, like, a roller coaster as we were going up and down the waves” and “It went really well. The trip was unlike what I had had in mind. Completely something different and out of my comfort zone however, very grateful. I came along and made new friends!” At least one had some understanding of the way a voyage could affect him later in life, commenting “Great experience for yourself and something to put on your CV.” This group had at least one 5am start to catch the tide and one boy said “my worst bit of this trip was the sleep ‘cos I don’t look this good if I don’t have time to sleep!” The group organiser who joined them on the voyage wrote to us afterwards: “Just a quick note of appreciation for the crew of Prolific, who worked splendidly with our young people during the voyage. They were patient, supportive and informative, ensuring that everyone got the best out of their experience. It was an excellent experience for all on board.”
1st Finchampstead Scouts was a brand-new client this year – most of them aged 11 or 12 with a few slightly older ones. Comments included: “It made me feel special”; “Super fun and new. I want to do it again”; “My most memorable bit: probably, like, being on the net at the front of the boat because it felt like flying”; “I also loved it yesterday during the tacking ‘cos it was nice to get involved”; “My best bit was probably when I got to go on to the nets at the front of the boat as it was quite calming and beautiful” and (when it seemed at one point that they would be out at sea one day for longer than originally planned): “I thought we were going to have to start stocking up on food and I was contemplating on who we would eat first.”
The three scout leaders who came with the group said: “It was great to see the boat with the sails up rather than motor sailing; engine off, being on the helm, so personally that was my best bit for me. My other best bit is seeing all these scouts get stuck in and not sort of sit back in the main and actually get on with it – so well done to all the scouts”; “My best bit was probably being on the net at the front, bowsprit, pulling down the sail. That was good fun – and, yeah, seeing everybody just coming together and sailing the boat. It was fantastic … just seeing you guys all just taking part and getting involved and tacking and sailing the boat; and from a personal point of view, seeing my kids at the helm, you know, steering a 100ft yacht”; and “Just seeing the hustle and bustle watching everyone working together, seeing the sea, the boat moving on the sea … just in terms of seeing how the scouts did, I think you all did extremely well, very proud of you and how we all worked together with the crew – a lot of people on board and everyone got on great. I loved that part. Great voyage, thank you … Very many thanks to the skipper and crew who were excellent”. One of the leaders also wrote to us later: “You put lasting memories & a huge smile on all our faces 😊“
Park House School in Newbury brought fifteen young people for a very sunny week – it was a real pleasure to have this school back as theirs was the voyage which had to be abandoned half-way through last year due to Covid – some of the same young people were back this time for another chance. They said: “Best bit was probably exploring all the little towns and villages, when we got ashore and going around there, it was fun”; “The best bit was getting a high five from Jonathan” (one of the sea staff); “I enjoyed this trip because it brought people, who probably never spoke to anyone, together”; “So much fun, so much better than I expected, loved swimming, so many memories. I do not regret anything. So many people met, best bit was the music. Thank you!!”; and “Staff are good and clear to understand. I also like that you could go swimming.”
Greig City Academy’s third group of the year enjoyed glorious weather and sailing conditions. One remarked on “The staff making us confident”, and another mentioned “Being believed in” and “Doing challenging things” with “Positivity and support”. In the comments book people wrote: “Really nice people. Saw dolphins for the first time. Would come again”; “I had my first experience for cooking and sailing. That was nice :)”; “Very fun. Learnt many new things”; “I had lots of fun thank you for the experience it was very cool would like to come again!”; “Loved Prolific (love all staff). It’s a great experience – I’ll be back”; “Very fascinating and it was fun. Also the views were stunning.” The teacher who sailed with them wrote: “Thank you for looking after the girls and I so well! We loved it and would love to return!”
Alfreton Park Special School sent a group of eight students with physical and learning difficulties for a week alongside five adult carers. One person’s most lasting memory was “helming the ship with his captain’s hat on”, and another’s best bit was “being on the boat itself”, while a third said “I’m grateful for the adventure and fish and chips!” One of the carers said: “I think the most memorable has been the shared experience of when we go back to school we have that connection, a deeper connection with everyone because we have all had this shared experience. Thank you”, and another said “I liked waking up and seeing everybody’s smiling faces and during the week the confidence in all the students, I loved that”, while a third added: “I particularly enjoyed when everyone ate their meals together as a family, all the staff, obviously the teachers, and the children, I particularly enjoyed that and have the fondest memories of being a big happy family.”
A mum emailed to say: “Hello, I have been meaning to get in touch to thank you for the voyage my son joined you for during the Easter holidays. … It is clear that those five days were an unforgettable and life-changing experience for him. From what he describes, he felt recognised and valued as an individual whilst learning to work effectively as a team to overcome challenges. Your staff and volunteers sound wonderful at engaging the students and nurturing their skills, interests and self-esteem. Being in a new environment which offered the opportunity for escapism, fun and new friendships was also a welcome break especially from all that [my son] and other young people have faced over recent years. He returned exhausted, exhilarated, inspired, thankful and determined to return to the seas! I think he surprised himself with how he coped and it has been a huge boost to his confidence. Thank you so much for the invaluable positive impact you have had on him.”
Applemore College in Hampshire is one of our really longstanding clients, and in May they sent 14 students aged 11-13 who had been identified as having limited opportunities or being in need of additional support. One said: “I loved it, I met new people and learnt new things that might come in handy” and another said “I really enjoyed it many chaotic memories were made.”
Others reflected on a growth in confidence: “I had to climb over the port side to untie ropes. I was a bit unsure but I did it. Then I had to do it again and I jumped straight over!”, in teamwork: “Lots of things need teams to make it work and more fun”, and in communication: “I had to listen so that I could do the fun stuff.”
George Green’s School in Tower Hamlets has been sailing with OYT South for a number of years and this year it was a particular delight that one of their 2019 school group, Sara Abdur, was on board as a qualified second mate and our Youth Trustee – showing just how far it is possible for a young person to come if they are inspired by an initial voyage! This year’s feedback suggests that others may wish to follow in her footsteps. One said “The experience was fantastic, I was able to achieve the uttermost of my ability. I got the chance to work as a team in hoisting the sails and cooking the food. Overall it was a spectacular trip and made me appreciate the challenges of sailing at sea. I hope this isn’t my last trip”. Another added: “The trip was insane. The views was insane and the people I travelled with made it an incredible experience. It is hard work, but if you soldier through that you’ll find that the trip was a diamond”. Others said: “My least favourite would probably be Tuesday’s voyage, the weather and the voyage was really difficult I would say it was like the hardest test of endurance I have ever had to go through, trying not to get seasick. But my favourite part would probably be yesterday’s voyage, the weather was just amazing, the whole day was just amazing, I got to go on the bowsprit for a long time, I got to sail for a long time and like steer the ship for a long time as well.” Others said: “The most memorable bit for me was probably the views, cos, especially for someone like me, I don’t really leave the city much so you get to see things you don’t really see”; “I would like to mention the incredibly friendly, energised and cheery sea staff who were always just to fun to be around. Overall, the trip was a great experience I’d recommend everyone :)”; “Really awesome experience, Done lots of stuff. Sailed the high seas, meeting everyone was fun and doing jobs. I feel I could fulfil my wish, of becoming a PIRATE!”; and “It was an eventful experience. Even though I got seasick I had lots of fun with the people on board. I was able to learn lots of new things such as knots and now how to hoist a sail which was hard work. I liked experiencing and seeing the different places we docked at. The best was definitely Weymouth where the ice cream was amazing.”
Grieg City Academy in Haringey sent several groups this season. An older group (15-19) were notably mature and aware of the life skills that could be gained through sailing, talking about the importance of “being fair” when living together on board, or “giving and receiving clear instructions with my team.”. One said her most memorable bit was “when it was like raining and it was dark, and we were sailing, I loved it”. Others commented on the night sailing: “My best bit was sailing at night, I think it was beautiful, honestly”, and “My best bit was sailing at night and just working as a team to navigate and buoys, that was really fun.” Their final verdicts included “Such a positive experience and I gained a lot from sailing on Prolific”; “It was a nice experience and I developed my independence skills a bit more and I learnt how to do things I’ve never done before”; “It was an amazing experience discovering new things and building bonds with new people”; “It was such a loving and warm environment and it was great to take on different responsibilities.” And finally “It was a wonderful experience and I was able to gain more experience overall upon the technical terms of the boat in general I was also able to combine my independence and my past experiences to enjoy the trip itself.”
Testbourne School in Hampshire, taking a group voyage for the first time, had a windy week in which a young crew did very well to cope with extremely challenging weather and seasickness. Crew members said: “My most memorable bit was probably being in the storm because I don’t think that anyone normally could say that you’ve been in a force 8. My best bit was probably like on the last day when we all had the music on and we were all like pulling the sails down and everything”; “I liked going on the bowsprit. I didn’t like the storm and the rockiness” and “My best bit was a first bit of the rough weather. My least favourite bit was the second bit of the worst weather.” The teacher who sailed with the group said: “Oh my goodness – my best bit was steering through the Needles Channel and then going into the winds which turned out to be force 8 winds, that was an experience of a lifetime I will never forget. I think my most memorable bit was when we were all sat down here listening to [one of the boys] play the guitar, it was the beautiful calm between the storms and it was a really nice togetherness moment and it was really beautiful.”The day after the voyage, one mum emailed: “My son had an absolutely amazing time with you and I cannot thank you enough.” And the staff member who organised everything for the school told us: “What an amazing time they had, and I’ve been getting some lovely emails from parents to say how good it was for their child to be involved.”
One Easter voyage was for a mixed group who enjoyed making new friends. One girl said: “The best bit was being able to learn a lot more about how the boat works and take part a lot and just get stuck in with everything. The worst bit was probably being sea-sick. Most memorable bit will probably just be when it was choppy and we were coming back from Weymouth ‘cos the waves and the front of the boat was rocking a lot and it was just really fun.”
One voyage involved a mix of award winners selected by our major sponsor, MDL, plus young carers. One said ”My most memorable bit was probably last night when I was steering the boat and it was just stressful but then it all went well so I’m happy with that” and another said: “My favourite bit was probably when we got off in Weymouth and we were all on the beach and we went around Weymouth. And then my most memorable bit was after the night sail when we were all down here and it was just really fun and we were all laughing.”
A Young Carers manager who referred four young people said: “Thanks again for everything … you’ve been super responsive and supportive throughout. I have received so much positive feedback from the parents it’s been great.”
A parent wrote to us afterwards: “A huge thank you to the crew of the Prolific for such a fantastic opportunity. My son was very nervous about the prospect of a trip where he knew no-one, but he really enjoyed it and got a huge amount from it. I’m very grateful to you all for such a great experience for him.”
A young person from Greig City Academy in Haringey emailed the teacher who organised her voyage to say:“I’m very happy with the outcome of the trip – I enjoyed myself so much to the point where i didn’t actually want to come home and that says a lot. I would love to go sailing again preferably on the same boat (Prolific) – the crew was all awesome and overall I just had a fantastic time and I hope I can go again very soon. Thank you for organising this trip and i hope you’ll send me on Prolific again soon!” One of the teachers on board said:“I am blown away by what a transformative experience this has been for myself and my students. The resilience, honesty and confidence it has brought out in our girls brings tears to my eyes! Learning to sail was a lifetime’s dream of mine and I couldn’t have had better teachers. Finally the crew were the best, made us all feel so looked after, safe and happy. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!” and the other said “It was very enjoyable trip and I felt safe throughout. Learning to sail and have the helm was awesome. It was amazing to see how all the girls got on so well, cleaned without moaning, performed varied team roles without arguments, and generally had a fantastic time. Some didn’t want to go home! Thank you, crew!” One of the girls added:“Very good, the crew were really good at communicating and giving a good experience for us, learned how to sail.”
Early in the season we had a training weekend for new volunteers. One summed up the atmosphere: “It’s not very many situations where you would have so many people from diverse backgrounds and experience come together, work together … I can’t think of any other places where I have done that with such a diverse group of people and we made it work; and it’s been really nice talking to different people, getting to know people and having a bit of a laugh here and there. I really enjoyed that.”
After our annual voyage for exceptionally deserving young people chosen by our major sponsors MDL Marinas, skipper Holly wrote: “I’m quite proud of this voyage, in that I think it encapsulated why sail training exists: a group of very deserving young people from diverse backgrounds became a fun, supportive, and efficient team. We sailed decent distances, enjoyed downtime at anchor and whilst exploring new locations, and ultimately had fun with new friends. Everyone received a competent crew award, but the bigger achievement was ultimately the feeling we all got at the end of the trip: that of being a family. ‘You never would have known we were strangers at the start.’ It’s soppy but true! The sea staff created the most welcoming environment and tailored all activities to each individual’s needs, and because of this we saw the young people feel safe to talk to us and each other about their home lives, forging lovely friendships whilst doing so, whilst also pushing themselves in the challenge of sailing the boat. There was particular pride felt amongst the crew from having completed a circumnavigation of the Isle of Wight …. Overall, it was pretty magic.” One young carer said: “I feel like the best thing that has happened to me … I would definitely go on this experience again … I think the most memorable is probably everyone just getting along and just having fun because that’s really all that matters”. A 17-year-old who has faced a lot of challenges in her life said: “Loved the trip. It was a great way to disconnect from the outside. Hope to be back *soon*.”
Our Easter voyage included a lot of young people who had been awarded funding support for various reasons – there were lots of young carers needing a break from demanding home situations, and others with additional needs. They made exceptional progress during the week and on the last full day two of the young people led the sail hoists and they had a fantastic sail where it was really obvious how much they had learned – lots of tacking and gybing with young people carrying out their roles very effectively, understanding what they were doing. A 15-year-old said her best bit was when she and one of the younger boys were “cranking the winch because I would see him struggling and then I’d get my hands on there and we’d be going so fast. And the kind of euphoric feeling of how quickly we were able to hoist and tighten any ropes. And I’d say my best bit in terms of the most kind of challenging thing where I really felt like I pushed myself was with the mainsail hoist. That was a very kind of out of my comfort zone experience. And that helped me learn a lot.” A 13-year-old said: “My most memorable part is going on the bowsprit for the first time, and like seeing how good I am at heights and stuff like that”.
“I am really glad he went along, the recent loss of his mother has made him start to disengage so the fact he was able to get away and have some respite will have been really beneficial” – Young Carers support worker.
“Just to say a massive thank you so much for the recent trip that [my daughter] took last week. She had an amazing time and has not stopped talking about it. She enjoyed every single minute and thought the whole thing was fantastic…she has even taken “happy hour cleaning” to our home and also the washing up routine so, as a mum, I would like to thank you for that too!!! … She would definitely like to be considered as a volunteer for future trips. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.” Mum of girl who has used sailing to overcome bullying and lack of confidence
“Please pass on my sincere thanks to all who ran the voyage with M on board! Every now and again one encounters a young person who just has something about them that you know needs nurturing. He is an amazing creative person who needs to be able to channel his energy. I know he will have taken up a lot of time from staff, but I also know that this voyage will have meant a lot to him. The trip was paid for my fund raising from my friends. I’m sure, given the fabulous report, that they will be inclined to support a further trip. The report will be shared with the people who funded him, and be added to his Record of Achievements.” Headteacher from a Pupil Referral Unit for young people excluded from or unable to attend mainstream school.
On a voyage for children in care in Hampshire, a 14-year-old girl who lives in a children’s home said: “I loved every minute of it, it has changed my thoughts about going outside and getting stuck into things.”
Applemore College, near Southampton, had two voyages this year, funded by several charities and other donors. The first group consisted of 12- and 13-year-olds who were all in need of additional support for a variety of reasons. One said “I really enjoyed the trip as I needed to have a break because I look after my mum” (who has cancer) and another parent wrote: “Wanted to pass on a massive thank you to the team looking after Applemore college this week. My daughter was part of the group and absolutely loved it. She had a bit of a panic attack aboard but the way the staff dealt with her was perfect and we are both really grateful. Really impressed by how it is all run and the way the kids were looked after. She will definitely remember the trip for life.”
The Amber Foundation is a great charity which offers residential support for young adults who have been homeless, many with a wide range of other problems including a history of drug and alcohol use or domestic abuse. Many of this year’s crew declared mental health issues; but they turned out to be an absolutely fantastic crew, determined to get the very most out of the experience and fully earning all their achievements. They will be aiming to move on from Amber into employment and independent living, but many have relatively little to show potential employers, so the voyage report showing that they were able to learn new skills, work well in a team, follow safety instructions, turn up on time, and do their best even when finding things difficult, could be a real benefit. One said: “Best part’s the sailing mate, the sea’s beautiful, it’s relaxing, it’s really nice when we’re out there, I didn’t mind it when it was choppy mate, I was jumping up and down on the deck, wonderful” and another added “The experience was new, interesting and learning new skills and being in a supportive, up-beat environment is something I won’t forget.”
Also in 2022 we received the following email from a former crew member: “I went out on the Prolific in 2019 with some other care leavers from Worcestershire and I had a great time. After I finished I was awarded a certificate in sailing. As a result of this I’ve been hired as part of the sailing instruction team at a summer camp in Massachusetts. It’s really great how an opportunity like yours can open doors.”
A new client, Portsmouth Virtual School, sent an incredibly impressive group of young people in care, aged 14-17. Two had travelled unaccompanied from Syria and three from Afghanistan. Our staff said “they were an incredible crew, a real pleasure to have on board, and so thankful to have this experience and for all the opportunities they were offered.“ They came on board with two adult leaders, who said “My most favourite thing is watching you all laughing so much together and being kind, taking care of each other so much, it’s been amazing to see that in all of you” and “Excellent experience for our young people, they really enjoyed learning all the different sailing techniques! Thanks for all the patience with explaining to those with other languages! The washing up game was a hoot!” A girl aged 15 said: “This voyage has been much better than I ever thought it could be! The mates and crew have been spectacular there was nearly always a laugh and best of all when I first boarded I knew nothing of sailing now it’s all I talk about! I’m definitely considering applying for volunteering because I just had so much fun! Thank you.” A boy aged 15 said: “Everything was amazing and fantastic. I had a lot of fun chats with everyone had good time yeah.”
Alfreton Park Community Special School is a client which has worked with us for many years, sending students with some of the most complex needs of any voyage we ever undertake: over the years we have seen students with Downs syndrome, cerebral palsy, global development delay and more. Six students sail with one-to-one adult carers as the young people need help with washing and dressing, let along putting on lifejackets and moving safely around the boat. Feedback from the students themselves is necessarily limited by their communication skills – written feedback is not possible but many have difficulties with speech and understanding as well. But these were some of the comments from the carers: “Wow. What a week. Thoroughly enjoyed myself. Staff were amazing by explaining things and being great with the students. Food was fab. Will definitely come back, and recommend. Thank you”; “What a wonderful week and breadth of experiences for our young people, all of whom had such a brilliant time. The crew were so supportive and hard-working too”; “Another amazing week – the staff makes everyone feel welcome and settles us in well and the students. The staff were great with the students and their confidence just grew through the week”; and “Amazing week, all staff were fantastic, they included all pupils and adapted activities so they could be involved. Made us all feel welcome.”
Bruern Abbey, a Specialist School for Dyslexia, Dyspraxia and other learning difficulties, sent a group of boys aged 12-14 for a week of glorious sunshine. On the last day they did a fabulous job of taking charge of the passage from Cowes to Southampton with hardly any intervention from the staff. One of the boys said “My most memorable thing of this trip is probably working as a team to get back to Ocean Village. I really enjoyed it and it was the best thing of this trip” and another simply concluded “It was FFFFUUUUUUUUUNNNNNNNNNNNN”.
Next came a long-delayed voyage: back in 2019, Harris Merton school in south London booked a voyage for 2020 which was cancelled by Covid, and were unable to sail in our shortened 2021 season. So it was a huge pleasure to see them on board at last. This is a school with a high proportion of students from Afro-Caribbean backgrounds and many eligible for Pupil premium funding and free school meals. Their comments included: “I think the best part was going on the helm for a long time and being able to just go in a straight line fairly easily”; “The most exciting bit was the night watch, when we saw the dolphins”; “The crew and skipper are very nice and very fun and easy to work with !!”; and “I loved the trip and would love to go again. I also highly recommend for others”.
We also saw them noticing examples of how their confidence had improved over the voyage: “Spoke to more people, made friends”; “Being able to do things independently”; and “Feeling confident in steering”.
As we moved into the summer period, we started to have more voyages for individual bookings – and we managed our first Channel crossing since before the pandemic, sailing to Guernsey and Alderney with a crew of fourteen young people, six of whom were on the autistic spectrum or had experienced issues with mental health and anxiety. A 17-year-old who went into care after the death of her mother said: “Had such a wonderful week! Was very overwhelming because of all the happiness I got … thank you all, I have never felt happier … My most memorable bit I think is probably just the peace you got with yourself when you were like at sea and like everything just felt perfect. As cringey as it sounds … I just felt really at ease and just happy with myself, and yeah, it was just nice.” A boy who has been home-schooled due to anorexia and was using the voyage to rebuild his confidence around other young people while aiming for a return to mainstream school next year said: “My favourite bit was probably night sailing. Night sailing was amazing and just seeing the sunrise. … Most memorable, as I was on the helm and dolphins started jumping up right next to me as I was helming, yeah, that was amazing.”
Another voyage for individual bookings has a great trip to Alderney and back. Comments included: “I loved sailing, at first I was anxious but by the end of the trip I had made friends and don’t want to leave! Can’t wait to come back again.”
“Thank you so much everyone for the most amazing time even though half of the time I was vomiting, other than that I had the time of my life, this trip has made my 2022. Thank you all, I hope to come again.”
“It’s really hard to pick just one favourite bit, I really loved exploring Alderney, and I also really enjoyed feeling like I was improving at things, so helming on the first day, I was drastically swinging from side to side quite a lot but I think I got a bit better, and then in terms of understanding which ropes did what, that was also – I felt that I was learning things. And then most memorable would be crossing the Channel the second time, back and sitting on deck in these massive waves, just thinking, ‘we’re right in the middle of the Channel on a sailboat, how cool, this is just amazing.”
The Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust brought us ten young men with experience of cancer. Their comments included:
“My best bit is a close competition between the teamwork and just working with everybody who, we were all just strangers about seven days ago. And now we’re a good, solid team, that’s just amazing … the most memorable bit, that I’ll tell my great grandkids, is probably just the ability for a boat to make a team out of total strangers. That’s special.”
“I think my favourite bit was definitely seeing dolphins. I’ve never seen them that close before and it was amazing. My most memorable bit was standing on the bowsprit and pretending to be Jack Sparrow, that was awesome.”
“I have absolutely loved my time on Prolific! From going on the bowsprit, to having lessons on ‘rules of the sea’ I would take this in a heartbeat. My new friends have been brilliant and I have been opened up to another future job opportunity! Will 100% be back!”
The MACS charity sends us young people born without eyes or with under-developed eyes, as well as a number of sibling carers. Several have sailed with us a number of times over the years and this opportunity to bond with friends who share similar experiences is enormously valued by all of them. Their comments included:
“I think my most memorable bit is seeing the independence of everyone this year, obviously like from previous voyages, but also from the start of the week. Like seeing how much everyone’s grown not only in sailing knowledge but just like personally as well, and how independent everybody is, and it’s just really nice to compare it to the start of the week but also previous years as well.” Another said: “It’s just been really nice to not feel like different for once because of an eye condition and to be with other people who are similar, it’s been really nice to get involved and meet people like that.”
Each year there are some new members in the group and this time one said: “The best bit would probably be how much I’ve surprised myself by how much I’ve loved sailing and being on the boat. I really feel like I’ve taken to it and I’ve enjoyed the whole week … I have loved my experience on board and I am thrilled that this trip has sparked a passion that I never knew I had. I would love to come back and am keen to potentially sign up as sea staff to make more great memories on this boat.” Another added: “Are there any objections to me taking the crown of being the most blind here? I’ll take that crown and wear it proudly, but obviously that brought many challenges, especially with this being a completely new experience. And so I guess I just wanted to thank you guys, I mean collectively, for making the adaptations that you did, and like trying to explain things differently. Quite frankly, it’s just not something you see every day.” And a third new crew member said: “My favourite part of the voyage was probably going out on the bowsprit, that was amazing, but also I think steering the boat because that’s something I’ve never done before, and the fact I was doing it all by myself at one point was pretty impressive, and I didn’t manage to crash it!”
One of the crew wrote to us a couple of weeks later: “Thank you for letting me sail with you. I had a really wonderful time and really enjoyed it. I have some very special memories. It was fantastic seeing the dolphins. The staff looked after us very well and one of the staff helped me when I had a bad nosebleed. The boat is very beautiful and very spacious. I’ve done 3 trips with you now and they have all been amazing and wonderful. Thank you so much.”
The next voyage was for a mixed group including a number of very deserving individuals with bursary funding. They said: “The most memorable bit will probably be how well we can sing Bohemian Rhapsody, again and again, and again. And again”; “My favourite bit about this trip has been doing it with everyone here. Couldn’t have asked for a better crew, couldn’t have asked for a better staff team, any of them”; “It was amazing and I can’t wait to do it again. Thank you to all staff and crew for being so amazing and you’ve brought me and everyone out of their shell to an amazing world at sea” and “It was a fantastic week with fantastic people. I made lots of friends & memories. It was also great to do something completely different and have a break from normal life.”
And one mum wrote to us: “I just wanted to say a massive thank you for letting him have a place on the voyage. I can’t tell you how much this kind of experience means to a child who struggles at school, rarely gets praised by teachers, often feels a failure, not reaching the mark, needs to try harder, could do better etc…etc…. What an absolute boost to his self-esteem this week has been … When he came home yesterday he was on such a high … Many many thanks to everyone involved, it is appreciated in so many ways.”
A late August voyage was notable for the artistic talent on board. Crew comments included: “My favourite bit probably was just seeing how well people got on with each other, like during dinner, breakfast, the amount of conversations that were happening was really wholesome and very nice to see”; “My most memorable bit was probably the 4am set off from Fowey. It was nice to set off quietly at night with a full head of stars above us”; “I’m not that great at making friends but I have made friends with everyone here and I think the trip went really good”; “I was pretty nervous as I got on the Prolific but after a day I felt at home because of the people and welcoming and kind atmosphere. Thank you sooooo much”; and “My least favourite part was probably realising that it’s not gonna last forever, and the fact that everyone’s gonna go home and do their own thing and we’re not gonna be kind of doing another voyage all together again.”
A mum wrote to us after the voyage: “I just wanted to drop a line to say how much my daughter enjoyed her voyage which ended last Monday. I don’t think I’ve ever seen her so enthusiastic both throughout the time she was on the boat and all she’s talked about since she’s come home. She loved the teamwork, the way the leaders knew how to get the best out of them all and of course living life at sea was amazing to someone who’s lived in London all her life.”
The summer holidays ended with a voyage from Poole back to Southampton where crew members said: “My favourite bit, I think that was actually probably doing where we were steering ourselves and planning our own route because that felt like a really big achievement … And then my most memorable bit was being on the net at the front and watching dolphins underneath, that was really cool” and “I would say that that my favourite part was either swimming in the sea or probably the night sail, looking out at all the lights in Southampton … And my most memorable part was either trying to helm in the choppy waters, or it was all the people that I’ve met” and “Really enjoyed my time on the ship through both highs and lows, I appreciated the challenge and fell in love with the sea.” And a parent wrote: “A massive thanks to the Skipper and team for leading such an incredible voyage and experience. My daughter has had a blast and the chance to escape the land and get out on the ocean in an amazing boat with great people has given her the boost she needed!”
Another mum who sent three children on two different voyages this summer wrote: “I wanted to say what an incredible experience all three of my children had on Prolific, this summer. It really was ‘one of the most awesome’ things they had ever done! and they all missed being on the boat for some time afterwards – (‘I miss the boat’, ‘I want to be back on the boat’ was heard for some nights afterwards!). It had obviously taken a really special place in their hearts. They all made great friends – and will be staying in touch with them, and they had huge praise for all the staff and volunteers who made it such a super experience … These people will be ones that stay in their memories forever; real role models to keep hold of, as they tackle life’s many challenges … Most of the magic and memories will be theirs to keep inside – but all the touches we heard about made it well over and above what we expected: e.g. the fantastic and plentiful food and the bedtime story for all ages – inspired. Parents and grandparents loved following it all on social media and in your newsletter – so thank you for that, and we have now discovered that shipping tracker apps are very addictive!! We hope they will be back for another voyage!”
One young crew member wrote after her voyage: “Thank you for giving me this awesome opportunity. Not only did I overcome my fear of sailing, but I also met some friends along the way. I was really nervous because I thought nobody was going to talk to me but I was wrong about that. I now also know how to take care of myself better. Looking at the sea was really calming and gave me a lot of time to think. The crew were really nice to me and made sure I was safe. This was a once in a lifetime trip.”
An early September voyage involved young trainee watchleaders and bosuns aged 17-24, on board for some intensive training to help them make the transition from taking part in evolutions on board, to leading them, teaching and supervising others. One said: “My memorable bit was when I was told I had to take down the mizzen and I had to lead it and I stressed myself out and I knocked my confidence by doubting myself and I was going like, ‘I can’t do it, I can’t do it,’ and then I done it and then Andy [first mate] took me to the side and he said, ‘you just did it, you can do it,’ and I think that was just like a really nice, just a really nice little chat”. Another said: “My favourite bit has just been really watching everyone throw themselves into leading stuff, it’s been really really impressive. But also how everyone else supported them when they were doing leading, that was really really good.” And a third said: “My favourite bit this trip was probably how confident I became learning how all the sailing procedures work, and all the different ropes, whereas previous trips I’ve not been that familiar with how it all works, but I’m definitely a lot more confident with it all now.”
A second voyage for trainee watchleaders was open to adults of all ages. One of them was working alongside a more experienced volunteer who is visually impaired, and commented: “The best bit I’m going to remember is when I’d finished helming and she wanted to come and helm with me and I was just really inspired because we were trying to work out how she, because she couldn’t see much, how she could feel it on her cheek, and it made me wonder about feeling the wind on my cheek and feeling the whole helming thing, and, you know, little moments like that during the week which were really inspiring.” Another said: “The best bit is 100% the people, everybody’s just been so supportive, encouraging, patient and just really excellent people to get along with. And the second best bit is when things start to make sense and you kind of see what is doing what and why it’s doing it, and yeah, that’s a really cool feeling”, and a third added: “The hardest bit very quickly became the best bit actually: coming here not knowing anyone, feeling like strangers and not really feeling like you fit in necessarily yet, and then becoming the best bit where you all fit in and it kind of makes sense and it is an eclectic group of people and we’re all different and when that slots together I think it’s better than if we were all the same types of people.”
Southampton International Boat Show asked us to organise a day sail for a local group based around the Port of Southampton. Redbridge School chose students who were involved in projects to develop either their resilience or their leadership skills, and they threw themselves into the day with a fantastic attitude: the school had worked with them on trying new experiences and having a go at things even if you feel nervous, and then feeling proud of yourself when you have tried it. Two staff members said: “A wonderful trip – loved learning new skills, the glorious weather and your fantastic staff” and “Amazing day out on the water in the sun. The kids absolutely thrived and beamed with smiles and enthusiasm all day. They even enjoyed the experience of eating something new at lunch.” Students said: “I loved learning with the crew about how to sail and navigation. I really enjoyed the whole trip”; and “I loved participating in the activities and learning how to be a ‘crew mate’. 10 out of 10, would return”. They all tried going out on the bowsprit: one said “I really enjoyed going on the netting, I was right above the water”; and the one who was most nervous of trying it wrote proudly: “It was fun and I tried the net of the boat.”
Shooting Star Children’s Hospices organised a voyage for ten young people who either have a life-limited brother or sister being supported by the hospice, or are from a family being supported by the hospice following the death of a child. A girl aged 14 said: “The whole trip was a really nice break for my mental health” and another said her best bit was “all the new people and how, I dunno, the connections that I’ve made between everyone, like from the beginning to the end it’s just got stronger and stronger … and the most memorable bit … all the new skills I’ve learnt, all the things that I was really nervous to do and I’ve gone, ‘I’m not doing that,’ and then I end up doing it and it’s been my favourite bit.” A 16-year-old told us later: “the voyage meant a lot to me as I met a lot of young people like me who have siblings with life limiting conditions like Nathan. It made me feel like I wasn’t alone in this world. Being a part of the crew and being on the voyage allowed me to experience being out of my comfort zone and becoming comfortable with that. I made friends who know what it’s like to be like me, and that’s so important.”
The Vyne School has a great track record of identifying students who are not settling at school or achieving their full potential, and running projects to turn things round before their GCSE years, so they stand every chance of completing school with doors open to them and positive options available as they move forwards. One of this year’s Vyne crew said: “I enjoyed myself it’s been good, I liked when we worked together as a team, I really enjoyed it, thank you for everything” and another wrote: “The staff were really nice, kind and lovely. I wish we could have done it for a week but I will miss them.”
A 14-year-old from Cowes Enterprise College told us: “Before the trip I was very nervous and didn’t want to do it. But the staff were lovely and helped me to cope with new challenges, they made it feel like home. I am so grateful for my experience and all the encouragement pep talks.” Another said “Favourite bit was probably driving into Weymouth, that was quite fun, managed to do it quite easily, was very happy with myself. And my most memorable bit was probably everyone getting along, being really happy, singing – yeah, the people, really, it was great.” And a parent commented: “Thank you all so much, he has really enjoyed his time with you guys, an amazing experience for him and it’s lovely to see him come out of his shell and his comfort zone. He hasn’t stopped talking about his time away which really isn’t like him.”
In October we had a training weekend for adults who are interested in joining us as sailing volunteers. One said: “Above all I have this real sense of the culture on this boat which I think is one of professionalism, it’s one of learning, one of team spirit, and importantly too, one of humour. I’ve really enjoyed it, favourite moment no doubt was having a cup of tea on the bowsprit, for those of you who said you wished you had the superpower of flying, I would liken it to that.” Another said: “I’d echo the professionalism and I think the standard of training is really brilliant and particularly I wanted to mention that all the permanent crew and the watchleaders were so good at giving instruction: you were making it very clear, and you were being very courteous and being extremely patient with us, and I thought your communication was really good and inspiring to draw out the best in people.” A third added: “One of the best moments was coming in and feeling immediately welcome and not really like an idiot or anything, and it continued the whole weekend so I suppose that’s also the most memorable really, just I think a few people mentioned about the culture and the atmosphere and it’s sort of easy going and fun and I also got a sense of what it might be like actually on the boat for the kids which is why we all do this and I’m certainly feeling more confident about doing that in the future and keen to be involved so thank you to everyone.”
Bruern Abbey School then sent their second group of the year – boys aged 11-13 with dyslexia or other specific learning difficulties. One said: “My most memorable bit of this trip was probably like getting to know more people, and all the skills I’ve learned from this sailing trip that I’m going to use a lot at school and everything.”
Outdoorlads is a charity supporting outdoor activity for gay, bi and trans men. Comments included: “The best bit was the way that the crew and sea staff gave you as much information as you could absorb, at the rate that you could absorb it”; “The best bit for me was steering to the anchorage last night. And I didn’t want to do it but thank you Holly [skipper] for being persistent, nicely. And empowering. I’ve learnt so much about how to drive, steer, whatever it is – obviously not the absolute correct terms, but that for me was an absolute thrill, so thank you”; “Thank you for a wonderful voyage and all the hard work the volunteers do for the charity. All the best to all the crew! Fair winds and following seas. Massive thank you for helping me discover a passion. I’ll come join you again!” and “An amazing Outdoorlads experience, the gay, bi and trans outdoors charity. Thank you so much for hosting 12 of us yet again, and for doing it with such care, patience, fun, inclusivity and brilliant practice. You are an amazing charity, the pre-event information is really excellent and there is a lot for Outdoorlads to learn about access, inclusion and outcome evaluation from the amazing team at OYT. Thank you for an amazing time.”
October half-term included a short voyage for a mixed group of individual bookings including a lot of very deserving young people supported by bursary funding. They gelled into a really effective crew and it was great to see people with complex home lives making friends and supporting each other. Comments included: “I think the best bit was meeting new people and making new friends and going on the bowsprit”; “My favourite bit about this trip is being able to steer, talk on the radio and being able to navigate on the map”; “I think my most memorable bit was using the fire hose, I think I had a bit too much fun with that”; and “Thank you so much, I hated sailing before but after this I enjoy sailing quite a bit. I would defo do it again and the staff were amazing. Thank you once again, I enjoyed it so much!”
The final youth voyage of the season was for east London charity Ambition, Aspire, Achieve, which supports young people from the borough of Newham and surrounding areas. One boy said: “I had an amazing five days, it was lovely, everyone was co-operating and it was lovely because everyone made new friends, they had fun, everyone had to work hard and some people even enjoyed sleeping on the boat … it’s an amazing cooperation where people can always go on the sea, do a lot of hard work, it’s like five days off from the land and you enjoy yourself on the boat, it’s like a new experience for everybody because some people haven’t been on a boat before, and it’s lovely.” Another said: “Loved this trip as it was my first time on a boat and would beg to go again.” One of the adult leaders who came with the AAA group told us: “A really good part for me was getting to see all the young people that I work with, working as a team together and putting their differences aside, and focusing on what needed to be done … Lots of learning and development made, thanks to you all”.
A key feature of our return to sailing after losing a season and a half to Covid was to recognise that the pandemic and lockdowns had a profound effect on young people, in different ways. Some were just thrilled to be taking part in outdoor activities and meeting new people again, but others showed marked anxiety, mental health problems and more.
Two Hampshire children’s homes selected young people for a voyage and one later wrote: “I wanted to say a huge thank you to you and your team on behalf of our young resident who has had the most amazing time and has not stopped talking about the trip since we collected her. She has grown in confidence and has told us about all of the challenges that she faced during the voyage, and how she was encouraged and supported to achieve every challenge presented to her … She has been talking so positively about this experience I feel it has been the highlight of the year for her so far. She has spoken so highly of your team on board and how helpful, friendly and kind all the crew were to her for which I am grateful as she was initially very anxious.” A girl aged 16 told us the best bit was: “Probably just meeting everyone and getting to know people, ‘cos of lockdown and we haven’t been able to go out and stuff, it’s just so much nicer to just meet loads more new people… Really fun, enjoyed every minute of the trip. Got to learn loads of new things and learned how to work better in a group. Very educational.”
After another voyage, a parent wrote: “[My daughter] had a great time on her recent voyage and I think this was a great way for her to end a stressful school year … I wanted to thank you, and OYT South for the opportunities you have given her. She has faced many challenges in the last few years and your work has helped towards giving her the tools and confidence to realise she is as able and deserving as others to achieve.”
Another parent said: “Our daughter has spent all afternoon travelling back home, regaling us with her experiences and how much fun she had working alongside friendly and supportive crew and volunteers … Hope the season continues to bring many more sailing positives, you achieve lots more successes and awards. Your ‘training’ ethos is fantastic and your reputation second to none.”
Many crew members sailing in 2021 had initially booked as far back as 2019 and waited a long time to sail after all 2020 voyages were cancelled. Another parent wrote at the end of a voyage: “As you know, the initial voyage was scheduled for April 2020 in the Solent and [my daughter] had resigned herself to the fact that it was a fantastic, yet missed, opportunity and never anticipated that she would be considered to participate at a later date … Since she stepped off Prolific back in Brixham, she hasn’t stopped talking about her adventures with the Ocean Youth Trust and can’t wait to sail with you again. She can’t pinpoint what she enjoyed the most as she’s still buzzing from the voyage and tales of her new experiences, from holding on tight on deck in choppy waters with music playing whilst the waves seemed as high as the side of Prolific; steering and hoisting the sails; jumping into the sea and swimming out of her depth; learning technical terms and teaching others how to record in the log book; seeing dolphins swim alongside and the beautiful views of the Cornish coastline; night-time sailing; watching out for lobster pot buoys; making new friends; dinghy race; beach cove BBQ; the showers at Plymouth marina and washing up with disco lights! Again, our sincere thanks and appreciation to all the staff and volunteers at the Ocean Youth Trust”.
The fears and anxieties of those who had struggled during the pandemic were voiced by a 15-year-old who said: “I think my most memorable bit would be the fact that I actually made good mates ‘cos I thought I was just going to be like a little loner on the side.”
Others had spent a lot of time during lockdowns staring at screens, for education, entertainment and socialising. One 16-year-old boy wanted to put into the words the difference between experiencing something for himself rather than through an image on a screen: “There’s like a sort of weird thing that you can’t – with experiences you can’t really see it the same way as like a photo or a video and it’s like being there has so much more meaning to it, and it’s like you’re actually experiencing it, there’s a lot of things you don’t have in a photo, like even smallest things like the sound of like, I don’t know, waves splashing, going past the wind, the wind in my hands, and all that kind of thing, you just don’t have that when you’re not there.”
Dartmouth Academy was a new client in 2021 and responded to our detailed post-voyage feedback: “This is absolutely brilliant – so much to digest … THANK YOU to everyone involved … – what an amazing opportunity, and how clearly you’ve seen our pupils. I can’t express how very grateful we are to OYT South – just phenomenal.” Another staff member said: “As a member of the leadership team at Dartmouth Academy I am so impressed with this entire endeavour. The report submitted here is comprehensive and as I know all these pupils well it makes me so happy that they have had the opportunity to undertake this experience. Thank you to all at OYT South”.
Bay House School, Gosport, had a voyage in October funded largely by Portsmouth Harbour Marine. The school has recently set up a Marine & Maritime classroom and these students were doing Marine & Maritime qualifications. The teacher who sailed with them on the voyage wrote afterwards: “Many thanks indeed for providing such an in-depth report from the sailing trip, with our Yr10 Marine and Maritime ‘cadets’. The data provided is extremely useful and can be used in multiple ways. I believe this trip has been a pivotal point in the young people’s lives. They’ve learnt new skills, dealt with setbacks maturely, had to live with people they don’t necessarily know that well, independently looked after themselves etc. If anything, I feel the trip has released a new energy amongst the group which has pushed them into thinking about their futures within the Maritime Industry – and we need to celebrate this. Thanks again, I look forward to working with OYT South in the not too distant future.” And one of the parents wrote: “She came back engaged and excited and I think the trip was what she really needed after a difficult year! … It was so great for her physical and mental well-being at the moment.”
The Vyne School, Basingstoke has sent 67 students on voyages over 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 told 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.
OYT South works in partnership with the Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust. 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.”
“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.” Mark O’Prey, teacher, New Beacon School
“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.” Group Leader Paul, Skelton Explorer Scouts
“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!”
Poole Harbour Boat Show sponsored a voyage for some exceptionally deserving young people from Dorset. One parent said: “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!”
Hillingdon’s Virtual School for Children in Care arranged a voyage for young people who are in care having arrived in the UK as refugees – one of this year’s group had walked for three months on a journey from Syria to the UK at the age of 13. Post-voyage comments from these young people who have lost their families show how much they are affected by the family atmosphere on board: a 15-year old girl said: “My best bit was how we all just got on like a family, like how we didn’t know any of us, we didn’t know each other at the beginning but as the week went on we all just basically was like a big family”.
The Ormiston Leading Lights Project brought together teenage girls plus highly successful women as mentors. It turned out to be a personal development experience for the mentors just as much as for the girls. One of the mentors, a lawyer, was very seasick on a passage down to Dartmouth and later wrote in her blog: “When a small voice appeared at my side and asked if I was going to go home I said immediately and without thinking, “yes”. But then I thought I heard a quiet sob followed by “It’s not fair Miss” and then louder, “I can’t go home. I never asked to be here. I have to stay on the boat and I don’t want to. My Dad can’t leave to get me and I really, really want to go home.” I felt dreadful. It struck me that I could not possibly go home. That no matter how bad it was, we had signed up for this together and I could not leave – I had to see it through. And I wanted to. I had signed up to this adventure to somehow give something back to those who are coming up behind us and will take over our roles as women in business and what would I be demonstrating if I chose to exit hastily, stage left? In that moment, I could and would be that person who stuck it out and showed that this too would pass and that all would be well. And how immensely grateful I am to that small voice who showed me the value of sharing difficult moments together and out loud and of being real to the difficulty of the moment and how, in acknowledging that adversity, we can most likely get through it.”
Outdoor Lads is a charity which enables gay, bisexual and trans men to take part in outdoor activities. One participant commented: “I was really nervous about the trip because I had no idea what to expect and I think meeting everybody like 10 minutes before we came on this boat was incredibly nerve-wracking and I think the nicest part of this week is seeing how everyone has gelled and working in teams and it’s a really satisfying thing to think all the walks of life that we have in this room and everyone’s come together on this experience and I think it’s been amazing. The team here is an absolute credit to themselves, not only are you incredibly personable but you are some of the best teachers around. You don’t just ask someone to do something, we get explanation of it, we’re doing it because of this, you let us problem solve and I really enjoyed that.”
A 16-year old from a special school working with students with challenging behaviours, alongside a range of other conditions which can hinder academic progress, said: “My best part was conquering the fear of open water which is a bit of a problem when you are in the middle of the ocean … I think I’m gonna go and do more after this now I’ve seen I can do this, I’ll go and do more other things and then it’ll all have started from here so I’ll remember this for sort of doing everything else I’ll do.”
An email from a grandfather said: “He truly came back from the voyage a different re-energized young man, which was so lovely to see. He has had to deal with a lot of heartache and upset during the last few years, his father died in 2014 and his other Grandad died just over a year ago from cancer … His mother had to move them to a new house and area, so he changed school just over a year ago, and my grandson has become very quiet and withdrawn … the whole family are concerned for his happiness. So having a chatty, enthusiastic young man brimming with confidence tell us about his voyage on the way home was priceless to us.”
“The young people genuinely developed through the experience. Two want to join sea cadets and one carer explained to me how much confidence the trip has given her foster daughter – she has seen this spill over into other areas of her life, which is gold dust.” Robin Douglas, West Berkshire’s Virtual School for Children in Care
Oversands School is a specialist school catering for young people with complex special needs and behavioural problems. “The concentrated nature of the experience, coupled with the unique environment, produced marked changes in outlook and behaviour of pupils and staff in a very short time. The young people who return at the end of the voyage are very different in attitude from the ones who set out. Pupils left the voyage with a definite sense of having reached some personal goal, and were encouraged to attempt things they would not previously have thought possible, and so take charge of their lives.”
MACS – Microphthalmia, Anophthalmia & Coloboma Support is the charity for young people born without eyes or with under-developed eyes. Robbie Crow, the Chair of MACS, who is himself visually impaired, wrote: “Ocean Youth Trust South has been working with MACS for three years now. During those three years OYT South has never failed to provide a voyage which goes above and beyond the complex needs of our young people. The training standards they demand of their staff and volunteers, coupled with the exemplary safety standards they keep on Prolific, mean that the voyages they provide are always outstanding. In my 12+ years of sail training experience – in capacities of young person, group leader, sea staff member, trustee, trainer and employee – I can safely say that, in my opinion, OYT South deliver the best product for the overall development of young people in the UK market today.”
“Our young person returned from his voyage today and had a wonderful time. He was unsure on Sunday and there were several calls asking to be picked up, however we rode the storm (!) and he has been gushing about all the things he did over the last few days upon his return to the home. He overcame some fears and gained some confidence in his abilities.” Staff member from a Hampshire children’s home
HMS President (London’s Royal Naval Reserve Unit) raised funds for disadvantaged young Londoners to sail in 2016. Geoffrey (12) said: “It was so amazing when watchleaders teach how to drive the helm and when we were pushing and pulling every day and you know that gave me some muscle. I was very happy I went to the beach for the first time and it was so fun and we covered David in sand”. One school wrote afterwards: “My students had such a great time and have changed their opinions on sailing and the sea”. The other school said: “It was an amazing opportunity and a life changing experience. I have lots more students asking can they go next year. Thanks to all of you for making such a difference to the young people we teach.”
The Limes College in Sutton is a Pupil Referral Unit working with young people who can display really challenging behavior. “Thank you so much for the opportunity given to our pupils this year. They had an amazing time and really took many positives out of their week away. The crew on board were absolutely fantastic and worked so well with our sometimes challenging pupils and they really enhanced their experience. We would definitely like to book again for next year and allow them to experience this again … Many of the young people had never been away from home for a night let alone a week on a yacht. They are still talking about their week away and still looking at the pictures. Some have even said that they wish they were still on the boat!” Libbi (14) said “It was an amazing week. I learned all new things. On the second day we went into the big waves it was very scary – I felt well sea sick – but other than that I really enjoyed myself. I’ve never stayed away from home for this long and was worried at first but I would love to go back and do it again.”
“On a few occasions I have had to remind one or two of the students how to use what they had learned on the boat to overcome a difficulty they were facing. I was really impressed to see that this experience had given them the confidence to deal with the situation in a mature and sensible manner. The students seem much happier since their trip and I believe that they will remember this for a long time to come. I was also speaking to some of our students who were on previous voyages as they wanted to come again. One boy in particular thanked me for the opportunity as it changed his life and his learning perspective. He has really put his head down and is focussing on his studies. Had he not been on the trip, I am not sure he would be as optimistic and confident as he is now.” Vyne School staff member
“Thank you for treating each young person as an individual and bringing out the best in them – that is a real special quality.” Hannah, staff member, Hackney’s Virtual School for Children in Care
Step By Step is a Hampshire-based charity working with homeless people and those facing adversity. They sent two individuals to sail with us: one had been in care following sexual abuse and had recently gone through a court case resulting in the conviction of her abuser; the other had been a homeless drug user. Both earned qualifications on their voyage, and their key worker said: “The whole trip sounds amazing and I really do think giving these opportunities to young people is fantastic! I think the work done by OYT South is truly brilliant. I am also so pleased that both people we put forward had an experience of a lifetime and really enjoyed it.”
JACK DIGNAN was born unable to see out of his left eye and, aged 17, sailed with a group from MACS, the charity for children born without eyes or with underdeveloped eyes. He was later chosen to give a speech in front of an audience of dignitaries – including HRH the Countess of Wessex – during the Tall Ships festival in Greenwich. An extract: “As we were pulling into Plymouth to mark the end of our week-long voyage, the sea was still with the August sun gently sinking into the horizon, Freddie Mercury was belting out a ballad, and the entire crew were reminding nearby residents that we were in fact the champions. I soon realised I was experiencing one of those magical moments. Turning around to see 15 friends … friends that only 7 days ago, 148 miles and an obscene amount of fish finger sandwiches earlier were complete strangers, and yet, after spending a mere week working and living together it felt like we had always known each other … As I took a step back to reflect afterwards, I found it difficult to believe the transformation that had occurred to those of us onboard John Laing, it is truly staggering. Although the sailing backdrop itself undoubtedly does create some amazing moments, it brings out the adventurous spirit in people, and it almost forces them together as a group…As far as I’m concerned, the uniqueness of sail training is what really sets it aside from existing services aiming to provide similar outcomes....”
The XL Group from Sherborne Learning Centre includes young people who are unable to attend full-time mainstream school. One 14-year old girl wrote this review of her voyage: “I was completely dreading going on the John Laing, I didn’t know what to expect, I never thought about sailing on a boat, I always thought it wouldn’t be my thing, not many kids like me get a chance to go sailing. After a while I started to like the idea and I was excited about going but I wasn’t too sure what the crew was going to be like, or the boat. I was so worried that everything would go wrong and it would be my fault and everyone would shout at me … I truly can’t put into words how much I enjoyed myself, I will never forget it. The crew were amazing, they were so welcoming and they didn’t shout they explained and it was quite easy once they explained. It was like a massive family. At dinner we would squish up round the table and we would all be laughing and talking. We worked together to get everything done. My best part was steering the boat, on the way back it was absolutely chucking down with rain. I wasn’t fussed I was enjoying steering the boat too much … I learnt so much about sailing and about myself. I feel so much happier since I came off the boat, my confidence is so much better and I don’t worry as much as I used to about doing activities outside of school with people I hardly know. When I left it was hard I just wanted to stay, I was so close to crying. I would love to come back and do another trip but for next time longer, time goes quickly when you’re enjoying yourself. I couldn’t thank everyone enough for giving me such a brilliant memory, I will always remember.”
“Some of the county’s most vulnerable children have been excluded both specifically from school but also socially excluded. Often the most hard-to-reach children find it difficult to engage with education even at a Pupil Referral Unit. They are often at risk from substance misuse, flirting with the criminal system, at risk of violence both domestic and street, all compounded by being excluded from school…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.” Senior Manager, Alternative Provision, Hampshire County Council
“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 activities which produce 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 (not in education, employment or training).” Zandra Ranger, Coordinator, Gosport Local Children’s Partnership
Back in 2009 we had arranged for a 17-year-old girl to join a Tall Ships race following the deaths of both her parents. More than three years later, aged 21, she wrote to us: “It was an amazing experience for me, one which I think of often still to this day and will stay with me for the whole of my life…I was very much in need of an opportunity to take some time out – the John Laing experience really helped to distract me from my troubles and give me enjoyment and happiness.”
Lucinda Neall, author of About Our Boys and How to Talk to Teenagers, brought groups of young people from London to sail with us. “A voyage in John Laing 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’”.
“The changes that are made by young people who attend your sailing residentials are absolutely amazing.” Kirsty Cremer, staff member, Motiv8
Hampshire County Council funded a bursaries programme for a number of exceptionally disadvantaged young people. One support worker wrote to us about a boy whose parents were substance abusers: “He came back into school bouncing! He’s told anyone that will listen what a fantastic time he had. His tutor feels it has really helped his confidence and self-esteem. I asked him how many he would give the experience out of 10 and he said 100! He didn’t stop smiling the whole time he was talking about it.”
Chichester High School For Girls brought a group including students whose difficult home situations have affected both their education and their behaviour. Their teacher wrote of one girl: “Before she went on the trip she was one of the students who would be at most risk from permanent exclusion. I am really happy to say that since our return she has been like a different child, I actually witnessed her walking away and not getting involved in an incident in school when before she would have got involved and probably excluded again. She seems to be making the right choices now … long may it last. And of another student: “During the trip I was able to see what a bright girl she was and given a bit of support she has a good future in front of her. The trip was fantastic for her, she worked very hard and surprised herself …She has since been attending school and has stayed out of trouble … They were both superstars on the boat and I am hoping it will help them to realise what great kids they are and what they are able to achieve as a result of a bit of work.”
“Having a brother or sister with a life limiting condition puts [these young people] in a more vulnerable position than their peers. They often don’t get the same opportunities as their friends due to the complex needs of their sibling, so having this chance to have a week away with other young people in similar situations can relieve the isolation they may feel, give them time to share their experiences and to make new friends. A week on board John Laing is so much more than a holiday. It is a chance for these young people to have a week dedicated to them. Over the week you can see confidences building as they make friends and learn new skills. They are given the freedom to have fun without feeling guilty and to have a break from the caring role they often take on at home. We at Naomi House feel that this voyage is an important part of the support we offer our siblings and that the OYT staff and organisation provide an excellent opportunity for our young people.” Jenny Astall, Sibling Support Worker, Naomi House Children’s Hospice
The Wheatsheaf Trust works with a wide variety of people in Southampton, including young people not in education, training or employment. “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, Chief Executive, the Wheatsheaf Trust.
The Rotary Club of Hitchin Tilehouse sponsors voyages for young carers: “The difference that a trip like this makes to these youngsters is wonderful to see. They come from a wide range of backgrounds, but all of them help to look after an ill or disabled sibling or parent. They don’t have much time to do the things that other young people do … The team spirit that this trip generates is a joy to see: getting their hands dirty, cooking in the ship’s galley or doing night watch gives them a real feel-good factor. They push themselves to limits they didn’t know they had.” Sue Manning, Youth Activities Chair
“Sailing with OYT South offers Hampshire’s children-in-care many benefits, among these being the opportunity to experience working as a member of a team, where mutual cooperation, communication and sharing responsibility are key aspects to sailing a large ocean-going vessel. Sailing also offers the participating children an alternative approach to re-engaging with education albeit outside of a school classroom environment, in which many experience some kind of difficulty either interacting with other children or coping with academic study. The children who sail gain confidence and self-esteem through a sense of accomplishment, as well as benefit from the physical activity and maritime environment, both of which not many children experience in normal everyday life these days. And finally, every child who has participated in the sailing programme has thoroughly enjoyed the experience and always asks to do it again.” Geoff Buss, Team for the Education of Children in Care, Hampshire County Council
Toynbee Hall, a charity in Tower Hamlets, ran four voyages as part of the year-long Aspire Project, for disengaged young people. The project reported significant improvements in confidence and in school engagement. “The sailing trips our young people took part in were a fantastic culmination of the skills and experiences they had throughout their year with Aspire, and we have booked up to go again in 2009. Many of our participants do not leave London very often (or indeed ever), certainly have never been on a 72’ yacht and mostly have not cooked and taken responsibility for themselves and a group in this way ever before.” Jane Fletcher, Toynbee’s Education Programme Manager
Alfreton Park Community Special School works with pupils with multiple physical and learning difficulties: “The group really grew in confidence and worked well as a team. They began to look after one another, which is a great achievement for youngsters with these difficulties. The voyage also helped our teachers grow as they learned more about the children away from a school environment. The OYT South sea staff were absolutely brilliant and put in lots of effort to help our kids.” Rosemary Mackenzie, headteacher
The Teenage Cancer Trust had to pass on the sad news that someone who had sailed with us had died a few months later. “At the funeral her dad read a piece about her sailing experience and how it empowered her and made her feel strong when she was so sick. I just wanted you to know what an effect you had on her.”
Naomi House Children’s Hospice, Winchester organised a voyage for brothers and sisters of children who had died in the hospice. One teenager commented: “Usually I am shy when I first meet people, mainly because I dread when they are going to ask how many brothers and sisters I have. Being in the same situation as everyone else helped me to feel more at ease and happier.”
Sunnydown School, Caterham works with profoundly dyslexic pupils. “Sailing can do so much to develop their confidence. Most of them were at mainstream schools before they came to Sunnydown, and will have been really struggling. They often come to us with very low self-esteem, and we have to work hard at building them up again.” Heather Perkins, Senior Residential Childcare Officer
A girl who was starting to rebuild her life after exceptionally traumatic early experiences was awarded funding to take part in the Tall Ships races: “I can honestly say that it’s been one of the most challenging experiences yet; however, Ihave taken so much from this trip and I will never forget it. I always as a child dreamt of doing things just like normal people did, but never thought it would happen. This was way beyond anything I could imagine and has touched my life in so many different aspects; and for that I cannot thank you enough. I feel that this is the start to many endless opportunities for my future.”
“The best residential experience I have ever taken part in – and I have been on a few” Derek Bowen, Neighbourhood Youth Worker, Worthing
“I am writing to thank you for the remarkable work OYT South does for young people with dyslexia and other specific learning difficulties … I have been deeply impressed by how much you can achieve with these youngsters in a short space of time … Sometimes an individual who normally lacks self-belief has got off the boat looking two feet taller.” Bob Collier, Stanbridge Earls School