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In between the thick fog and the gale-force winds the Association of Sail Training Organisations (ASTO) managed to fit in its 15th annual Small Ships Race on Saturday.

This Cowes based event, on the first Saturday every October, saw 22 sailing vessels crewed by 190 trainees aged between 12 and 24 race West from the Royal Yacht Squadron start line, down to Lymington, and back. Fresh North Westerly winds made for some active sailing.

New additions to the fleet this year were the ferro-cement ketch Tenacity of Bolton and the junk rigged wooden yacht Boleh. Both had young people from the Isle of Wight on board, as did UKSA Ambition.

At the prize giving ASTO Chairman James Stevens said: “The wind today was Force 6 and sailing in that is an achievement; huge thanks to the Skippers and Mates for getting you all back safe”. This prompted a very loud cheer from all the trainees in the room.

Winners in Class D for boats flying spinnakers were the yacht Amaryllis, crewed by the Combined Cadet Force. Class C2 was won by Solent Hero, from the Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust, based in Cowes; class C1 was won by Rona II, who also won overall. Class B winner (gaff rigged vessels) was the ketch Maybe, crewed by cadets from the Trinity House Academy, who also wore the smartest uniforms at the prize giving.

The Richard Langhorn trophy, which is voted for by all vessels who take part and is for the ‘spirit of the race’, was won by the all girl crew of Merrilyn from the Rona Sailing Project in Hamble: when not dancing to ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun’, they lined up on the side deck of their ketch and sang when any other boat got near enough to hear them.

As a backdrop to all this Small Ships sailing, 3 masted barques Lord Nelson and Tenacious operated by Southampton charity the Jubilee Sailing Trust, started their first ever Cator Trophy in the same waters. And if there weren’t enough Tall Ships to be seen under sail, they were joined by the Sea Cadet brig Royalist which chased them down the Solent and out past the Needles lighthouse.

Full race results are at https://uksailtraining.org.uk/events/small-ships-races 

ASTO is always looking for more young people from the Isle of Wight to take part. If you work with a local school or youth group that would love the opportunity, please contact us on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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The date of this year’s Small Ships Race - for smaller British Sail Training vessels - is Saturday 6th October. This annual Cowes based event, organised by Gosport charity the Association of Sail Training Organisations (ASTO), will see more than half of the UK’s Sail Training vessels gather for a one day race around the Solent. In order to take part, half the crew members on each vessel must be between 12 and 25. Most Sail Training vessels are operated by charities who use the experience to teach life skills to young people.

Regular winners Dauntsey’s School will once again be entering their hundred year old pilot cutter Jolie Brise and having their own match race against the pilot cutter Pegasus, operated by The Island Trust. The Marine Society and Sea Cadets will be entering both of their new yachts, City of London and Sir Stelios; members of the Combined Cadet Force will be aboard Amaryllis and Cornish Air. Chatham based ketch Morning Star of Revelation will have a similar competitor in Tenacity of Bolton, entered for the first time by Portsmouth’s Tall Ships Youth Trust. They will be sailing with young sailors from the Isle of Wight who will also be aboard the yacht UKSA Ambition.

Commodore David Gower of the Royal London Yacht Club said: "We are more than proud to be associated with the ASTO annual Small Ships Race on Saturday 6th October. The event has been running for 15 years and the club has supported it from the start. The club's Youth Trust also makes a financial contribution towards the event."

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This year’s Small Ships Race coincides with the inaugural Cator Trophy which marks the 40th anniversary of the Jubilee Sailing Trust. This race will see the two biggest vessels in the UK Sail Training family, three masted barques STS Lord Nelson and SV Tenacious, sail across the Solent to the finish line in Southampton where the crews will join the JST's 40th anniversary Community Celebrations. Both ships are designed and built to sail with mixed ability crews including sailors in wheelchairs.

The best place to watch the event on Saturday will be on the Cowes sea front near the Royal Yacht Squadron cannon: there will be a Parade of Sail from 0915 with race starts expected from 1000. Supporters can follow the action on www.facebook.com/uksailtraining where we will post regular updates throughout the event.

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ASTO Patron HRH The Countess of Wessex and her daughter Lady Louise Mountbatten-Windsor joined one of the Gosport-based charity’s member vessels, Donald Searle for a day sail in the Solent on Monday (6 August).

The Association of Sail Training Organisations (ASTO) is a registered charity with a membership made up of more than 30 not-for-profit bodies that operate more than 50 vessels around the UK offering Sail Training opportunities for young people from all backgrounds.

The Countess of Wessex and Lady Louise, 14, teamed up with a group of teenage girls from across the UK and Ireland who are currently embarked on a six-day sailing adventure on the 75-ft ketch operated by the Rona Sailing Project, which runs programmes from Easter to October each year.

ASTO President Rear Admiral John Lang, who welcomed the Royal party at Haslar Marina this morning, said: “We’re delighted that our Patron HRH The Countess of Wessex and her daughter Lady Louise could join one of our member vessels today to see first hand the great work done by one of the many Sail Training organisations that offer programmes across the UK. The Rona Sailing Project is one amongst many vessel operators who work tirelessly to widen the horizons and self confidence of young people from all backgrounds and abilities through their Sail Training activities.”

Donald Searle set sail from Haslar Marina in Gosport on Monday morning and everybody on board, including the Royal crew mates, got involved in hauling the sails and helming during their day sail in light airs under glorious August sunshine.

Amongst the crew on board today were seven girls aged between 16 and 19 from across the UK and Ireland who are taking part in a six-day trip starting and finishing at the Rona Sailing Project’s base in Hamble, Hampshire.

One of the trainees sailing on board Donald Searle was Hannah McKenzie, 19, from Glasgow who is sailing with the Rona Sailing Project for the third time.

“It’s been a really great day and having our special guests on board reinforced the amazing experience we’ve been having over the last days. The great thing about Sail Training is working together with people from all different backgrounds and bonding together as a team.

“I didn’t used to cope well in large groups and kept to myself, but Sail Training has given me so much more confidence and social skills, which has really helped for interviews and at university.”

For Donald Searle’s skipper Bill Jermey, 69, today’s visit was particularly special as this is his final voyage with the Rona Sailing Project after first sailing with the organisation as a trainee aged 15. Since 1989 he has volunteered with the charity and has sailed as skipper for the last 25 years.

For further information about ASTO, its member organisations and opportunities for young people from all backgrounds to get involved in Sail Training across the UK visit: www.uksailtraining.org

The Island Trust are delighted to announce the arrival of topsail schooner Johanna Lucretia to join The Island Trust fleet. As she is currently the only UK flagged topsail schooner in sail training, she is guaranteed to draw attention wherever she goes.

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"Like our other vessels, Johanna Lucretia is rigged traditionally, with lots of sheets (ropes) to pull for everyone on board and the wide array of sails means that there is plenty for everyone to get involved to sail the boat well. The topsail schooner is arguably one of the most versatile of all sailing rig types, being able to sail quickly close to the wind with her fore-and-aft sails like our other vessels, but also has excellent downwind performance with a square topsail and course. Her spacious decks are ideal for group activities, and her large size, sheltered cockpit and high freeboard mean beneficiaries feel safe at sea. Below deck, she is comfortable and cosy.

ASTO reception Sunderland 090 resize credit ASTO Max Mudie credit ASTO Max MudieBenefits of Sail Training for young people showcased to north-east youth organisations


Representatives from educational organisations across the north-east attended a reception aboard the Sail Training vessel TS Royalist in Sunderland yesterday (Thursday 12 July), two days ahead of the start of Race 1 of The Tall Ships Races 2018 to Esbjerg, Denmark. Hosted by the Association of Sail Training Organisations (ASTO) – the umbrella body for Sail Training vessels in the UK – representatives from ASTO, their local members OceanYouth Trust North and Maybe Sailing, and Skippers of some of the nine ASTO vessels gathered in Sunderland for the race joined local invited guests for an exclusive reception aboard the four year-old brig operated by the Marine Society & Sea Cadets.

With an emphasis on promoting year-round opportunities for young people, ASTO was able to showcase to educational organisations how the challenging and adventurous activities of Sail Training can be pivotal in developing skills such as teamwork and leadership. The reception also provided an opportunity to highlight the fact that not all vessels competing in Tall Ships Races are tall ships; many are large yachts that have been specially adapted to offer life changing experiences for young people. A total of nine ASTO member vessels with 133 young people on board, including eight ASTO-sponsored trainees, are taking part in the North Sea race that starts from Sunderland on Saturday.

On the success of the reception aboard TS Royalist, Lucy Gross, ASTO General Manager, said: “The Tall Ships Races are a fantastic opportunity for young people from all sorts of backgrounds. Sail Training is a great way of learning about communication, leadership and resilience and the young people taking part will come back more confident and with a sense of achievement. But Sail Training doesn't just happen during the Tall Ships Races, the UK Sail Training fleet runs voyages all year round that any young person can benefit from. We've hosted this reception to make more youth organisations aware of the opportunities and to put them in touch directly with the ships.”

Skipper Steve Burgess from Rona Sailing Project, commenting on what the three ASTO bursary-funded crew members on board are likely to experience when they set sail on Saturday, said: "In common with all race crews, Rona II trainees will face a number of challenges. Whatever the conditions, they’ll be sharing a 21m yacht with 22 other people. The experience of living and working together will set them up for whatever they face in the future. They’ll always remember it, alongside the significant international friendship of a Tall Ships Race."

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