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Tall Ships Races


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Proceeds go towards bursary funding to enable more people to take part in Sail Training.


"Enjoy the experience, because it will be VERY different."

That was the message from Princess Anne as she visited Sunderland today ahead of the Tall Ships Races' visit to Sunderland in 2018. The Princess Royal told an audience at Sunderland's National Glass Centre she was 'amazed' the city had not hosted the event before.

"The Tall Ships have a way of attracting very large numbers of people," she said. "So it is entirely proper that you should have it here in Sunderland I am amazed you have not had it before.

"I am sure you will make the best possible use of the event."

The Princess' visit was a very special event for brothers Kieran Boyce and Saul Cranston.


Challenge Wales - South Wales based charity sails to funding success to help change more lives.

Cardiff Bay based Sail Training charity Challenge Wales has been awarded almost £250,000 by the Big Lottery Fund enabling the charity to work with even more young people locally and further afield over the next three years.

The funding is specifically for its “Voyages of Discovery” project enabling the charity to work with 400 young people who will be learning employability skills on accredited day and residential voyages. This will include teamwork and communication skills, decision making & planning skills as well as developing self-confidence. 100 volunteers will also benefit from additional training and support plus a new part time Education Officer role will be created.

Trustee Vicky Williams stated; This is an amazing opportunity for Challenge Wales to make a real difference in the outlook of many young people. Although Challenge Wales works with a wide range of young people from all over the UK in its sail training activities, the “Voyages of Discovery” project in particular is linking in with Local Authority Strategic Plans and the Welsh Government’s Tackling Poverty Action Plan to work with disadvantaged young people and groups.


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ASTO - The Association of Sail Training Organisations - is the UK's National Sail Training Organisation. Our membership is made up of more than 30 not-for-profit organizations that operate more than 50 Sail Training vessels around the UK. ASTO is a registered charity (no. 1083059) and company registered in England and Wales (no.4084476). ASTO's Royal Patron is HRH The Countess of Wessex GCVO. ASTO is also a founding member of Sail Training International, with ASTO's Chairman sitting on STI's International Council.

ASTO's mission is to promote Sail Training and to support the UK Sail Training industry. It achieves this in a variety of ways, by:

  • Issuing grants from the estate of Hammond Innes to member organisation to ensure that Sail Training is accessible to all, regardless of age or ability.
  • Providing training to the highest standard for up-and-coming young Sail Training staff through the Skippership Scheme.
  • Administering grants provided by Trinity House, to enable ASTO members to train their sea staff and volunteers.
  • Organising events, such as Small Ships Races,  to help bring Sail Training into the public eye.
  • Working with our international partners to organise and fund International Exchanges for young people that have taken part in UK Sail Training.
  • Working closely with regulatory and governing bodies such as the Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA) and the Royal Yachting Association (RYA) to ensure appropriate levels of training and regulation exist within the Sail Training industry.
  • Acting as a forum for its member organisations to promote the sharing of best practice, and organising an annual conference with this aim.
  • Monitoring compliance with the conditions of membership, which include policies and procedures in addition to those required by the regulatory framework set out by the UK flag. An example of this is child protection or ratios of supervision, and using a voluntary Safety Management System. 

ASTO is pro-active in developing the safety standards within Sail Training and encourages good practice in their member organisations. ASTO also acts as central representative for its members. For example, it has played a part in advising government policy in the production of Codes of Practice for Sail Training vessels.

ASTO is supported in its work by many charitable organisations, including Trinity House, the James Myatt Memorial Trust,  and Sail Training International, amongst others. Pictures on this site are courtesy of

Ralph Hammond InnesRalph Hammond Innes CBE   was born in Sussex in 1913. A journalist at the Financial Times from 1934 to 1940 he then served with the Royal Artillery during World War II.  It was during this time that he began writing adventure novels.  His books, set in locations around the world, regularly feature spies and intrigue, black markets, counterfeiters, liquor-running, skiing, whaling, exploring, and shipwreck.  He was a prolific author and has many international bestsellers to his name.  He also wrote of his world travels and sailing.  He achieved international fame in the early 1950’s when his books The Lonely Skier, Campbell's Kingdom, The White South and The Wreck of the Mary Deare became renowned films.  (Click on the image below to view a full list of titles or alternatively, visit your local bookshop and purchase a 'Hammond Innes' novel whilst helping to raise funds for ASTO.) 

Hammond Innes books and signature





Sailing and Ocean Racing

Ralph Hammond Innes was an accomplished yachtsman and together with his wife Dorothy (an actress and author in her own right) ventured far and wide.   In their yacht Triune of Troy, and later in Mary Deare, they took part in ocean races and explored much of the coastline of Europe.

Ralph Hammond Innes (left) aboard the Sir Winston Churchill
Introduction to Sail Training  
On an early voyage, Ralph Hammond Innes sailed as Purser on the Sir Winston Churchill from Portsmouth to Stockholm. At the end of the passage he asked the Captain if he could write the voyage report:  "It was a wonderful sunny morning.  Trees blazed like giant flowers in their autumn tints. The Skargard that morning was so beautiful that the dirty weather, the headwinds and the cold were forgotten. We had come almost 1,300 miles. We were in the north now and the air was crisp and bracing. It all seemed suddenly enormously worthwhile and boys who had come on board, raw to the sea, moved now with greater confidence - most of them one step nearer to adulthood." 
His chosen words clearly reflect his first impression of the value of Sail Training.

Tall Ships, ASTO and the Legacy
The experience stayed with him for over 30 years and was reinforced when a trip to the Isle of Man co-incided with the ending of a Tall Ships Race.  Shortly after this Ralph Hammond Innes agreed to become a Vice Patron of ASTO, a post he held from 1978 until his death in 1998.  In the last few years of his life he indicated that he was considering leaving a legacy to ASTO to enable the association to continue its work promoting and supporting Sail Training.   His wife Dorothy had pre-deceased him and neither of them had close relatives, but no one had any idea that the legacy would be the majority of his estate.

Public Lending Rights 

In addition to the legacy, Ralph Hammond Innes’ Will also transferred ownership of copyright of his many books and films to ASTO.   Every time a Hammond Innes book is borrowed from a public library a small amount of money is payable to the author, or the owner of the copyright. The rate per loan is minimal, varies year on year and is dependent on books being borrowed – so bear this in mind next time you’re searching your local Library’s shelves for a good read, or alternatively, purchase your own copy via your local bookshop whilst helping to raise funds for ASTO.

Ralph Hammond Innes

Enduring legacy
What Ralph Hammond Innes’ generosity means in real terms is that ASTO's member organisations are able to provide the adventure of Sail Training to many young people who would otherwise not be able to afford this amazing personal journey and experience the life-changing benefits of Sail Training, enabling them, in Ralph Hammond Innes own words, “to take one step nearer to adulthood”.



The idea of using the maritime way of life to introduce adventure and challenge to young people is not new. As far back as the 1850's, institutions such as the Navy Lads' Brigade were taking young boys to sea for a taste of adventure and to prepare them for life in the Navy.

Times change, and Sail Training as we know it today can be seen emerging during the late 1950s and early 1960s when organisations such as the Sail Training Association, London Sailing Project and the Ocean Youth Club were formed. Rather than preparing young people for a career at sea, Sail Training now focusses on life and team skills that can be used anywhere and develop more rounded and confident citizens.

ASTO came into being in 1970 when Lord Dulverton arranged for a number of british Sail Training organisations to meet and discuss common operating procedures and problems. After three or so annual meetings it was decided to form an Association and seek charitable status. ASTO was registered as a charity in the UK in 1979.

As well as providing support to members with bursaries and training, ASTO's role is recognised by the MCA who appreciate the necessity for input into new legislation that could make it impossible for Sail Training organisations to operate. More information can be found in the section 'About ASTO'.

Today's Sail Training fleet of more than 50 boats would amaze the Navy Lads' Brigade of the 1850s who would find it hard to imagine purpose-built vessels of all shapes and sizes, operated purely to provide the benefits of Sail Training to everyone that steps aboard.


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