A common thread links the Foundation’s sail training with other activities such as the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award and cruising and charter opportunities for the general public. Not only is the environment the same – strong, stable, homely, reassuring – but the way we deliver the activities is the same whether the ship’s company is comprised of disadvantaged or disaffected young people, their peers aiming for DoE awards, or adults who may range in age from 20 to 70 and beyond.
It is a hands-on experience, where everyone works together under the direction of our crews, carrying out the tasks that enable the vessel to get from where it is to where it needs to get to. Our staff organise people into teams for each specific task, explain and demonstrate how it needs to be done, then supervise while it is carried out to ensure that it is done correctly and safely.
From the outset there is involvement and communication between our staff and those in their charge, as well as between those guests, clients or trainees.
By the end of the first sailing session the ice has been broken, people have begun to make friends and relationships start to develop. When sailing for the day is over there is the satisfaction of having reached the first destination and time to relax before dinner. Meals are taken with everyone – up to twenty people – sitting round the same table in the saloon and sharing the same meal. Foundation staff, sail trainees, adult staff and guests intermingle.
Sail trainees also help with the preparation of meals, and even guests help with the washing up.
It only takes a day, or at most two, for the dynamics involved to have melded a diverse number of individuals into a team. And from then on it just keeps getting better. Every day a new plan, agreed jointly, and a new destination. Sometimes a cross-Channel voyage or a night passage, or the early hours of the morning on watch in rough weather while half the ship’s company are asleep below. New places to explore: harbours, creeks, beaches or anchorages. Different communities. Amazing scenery. Wildlife.
What is certain is that at the end of the voyage everyone has had an experience to remember. And for the young sail trainees so much has been learned, so many life skills gained, new relationships started, confidence built and self esteem developed, that they leave aware of being capable of more than they had ever realised, and prepared to take on new challenges that may change their life for the better.