Gipsy Moth trophy

An award given each year to recognise an outstanding volunteer under the age of 25.

Gipsy Moth trophy

OYT South Young Volunteer of the Year

In 2022, Ocean Youth Trust South received a generous grant from the Gipsy Moth Trust which they asked us to spend on training and supporting young people who excel on an initial youth voyage and are working towards becoming the bosuns and watchleaders of the future.

Along with the grant came a trophy: a mounted section of the mizzen mast from Gipsy Moth IV, which after her epic 1967 voyage held the records for the fastest voyage around the world by any small vessel; the longest non-stop passage that had been made by a small sailing vessel (15,000 miles (24,000 km)); and more than twice the distance of the previous longest passage by a singlehanded sailor. These days we regularly hear of record-breaking single-handed non-stop voyages round the world, but in 1967 to see Francis Chichester circle the globe alone with only one stop was truly remarkable.

So we now have a trophy which we can award annually to a volunteer aged 16-25 who has successfully made the step up from youth crew to sea staff and is excelling as a young volunteer.

The current holder is Unity Bowns, who received the trophy at our training event in February 2024, where it was handed over by previous winner Tom Knight:

Tom Knight presenyts OYT South's Gipsy Moth trophy for Young volunteer of the Year. The trophy is a mounted section of the mizzen mast from record-breaking yacht Gipsy Moth IV.

Unity first sailed as youth crew in 2021, and skipper Andy Viney phoned the office midweek and said “I think I’ve got a future skipper on board”. He gave Unity a sea staff recommendation at the end of the week, writing: “Already able to function as a watch leader with their sailing and interpersonal skills. Initially nervous of translating their small boat experience on to sailing a larger vessel but was delighted when they found so much of their knowledge was transferrable. Always had a smile and was great at supporting other crew and the sea staff. A natural born leader who does it with grace and ease. Would be an asset to OYT South.”

Unity has definitely become the asset that Andy predicted, having qualified as a third mate in 2022 and being upgraded to second mate last year, sailing as often as possible and reliably stepping in to help us with unexpected sea staff vacancies. Last year’s Staff Skipper Diggory said: “Awarded for utter dedication, covered in oil or in the rain … Nothing they won’t do, nothing they won’t attempt, often in the face of specific circumstances that make things especially challenging.”  Staff Mate Lauren added: “Loved by so many for bringing a sense of friendship and fun to the boat. Strong watchleader and has given us a lot of time at last winter’s refit and all last season. Performed a few pranks …”

Unity Bowns at Prolific's bow with a backdrop of sails

Unity is the third winner of this trophy. The 2023 winner was Tom Knight.

Here’s Tom receiving his trophy from the previous winner Sara Abdur:

Tom Knight receives the 2022 Young Volunteer of the Year Gipsy Moth trophy from previous winner Sara Abdur

Tom’s award citation in 2023 said:

Although Tom is still aged under 25, he is one of our more experienced volunteers, with several years under his belt as bosun, 3M and 2M. He originally came to us on a youth group voyage in 2016 when his report from the skipper was “Wow, how keen. A really enthusiastic young man. He took the lead where he could and encouraged and praised the others. Reliable doing all asked of him and more, a proactive young man. He also took pride and responsibility in the boat. He was thorough during clean up. He was keen to learn reading the almanac when he had a spare moment. He conned the boat into Portsmouth and he relished the opportunity and did very well. Another who earned a sea staff recommendation and would be enthusiastic to rise through the ranks.” 

Young people looking at a chart

Tom has fulfilled that early promise and along the way he has become a really popular watchleader, with excellent skills in working with young people which he has carried forward into his career. Everyone who sails with Tom speaks of him with genuine warmth, appreciation and affection; and his bedtime stories on board are the stuff of legend. However, something that helped to tip the balance in Tom’s favour when we came to select the 2023 Gipsy Moth winner was the effort he has put into gaining RYA qualifications and building his experience. One of the main things that can keep good volunteers at second mate level without the chance of trying for first mate and beyond is the lack of RYA theory and practical qualifications, including time spent in smaller vessels where they can practice things like boat handling, and gain command experience. We have been trying to support and encourage people with the potential to climb through the ranks, and Tom is a great example of someone who has been really proactive in doing courses and gaining experience with other boats and in different sailing areas. At the time he won the award, he had a coastal skipper qualification and was thinking about the 60-mile passages he needs to complete as skipper before he can go for the Yachtmaster exam.

The first award of the Gipsy Moth Trophy for OYT South’s Young Volunteer of the Year was made in February 2022, to Sara Abdur:

Gipsy Moth trophy

Sara was 19 and first sailed with us on a school voyage in 2019 – earning a recommendation to return for volunteer training in 2020 though of course that was cancelled by the pandemic. Nevertheless, Sara stayed in touch and took every opportunity to get involved and support the charity, both on board once voyages resumed and also at refit and training events. She became a qualified bosun in 2021, and after winning this award went on to become a third mate in 2022.

She was chosen as the winner for her potential, her enthusiasm and commitment – and even the office team commented that she makes their lives easier by sorting out paperwork and qualifications without needing to be chased!

OYT South’s Chief Executive Mark Todd said: “We are delighted to announce Sara as the winner of the Gipsy Moth Trophy for OYT South’s Young Volunteer of the Year. She has thoroughly deserved it for the effort and energy she has put in since she earned her recommendation to train as a volunteer, and she has shown immense potential for the future. By supporting young people who will be helping to deliver our voyages for years to come, we can ensure that the values of the Gipsy Moth Trust live on. I am very much looking forward to seeing how far Sara can go in sail training!”

Sara said: “Thank you so much for the award, I am truly honoured to be the first winner and can’t wait to see all the amazing people who will get it after me! Being a part of OYT, getting the chance to sail and meeting so many cool people these past few years has honestly helped me a lot and is something I definitely want to keep being involved with the charity so you’ll see a lot more of me in the coming years :))”

Sara temporarily ceased volunteering with the charity in June 2022 when she accepted a short-term contract to join our paid team on board until November 2022. After that she was elected to our Board of Trustees as our Youth Trustee.

A new Young Volunteer of the Year will be announced in February 2024.

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Ocean Youth Trust South is an adventure sail training charity which takes young people aged 11-25 to sea in our 30-metre vessel Prolific.

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