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Marine / ‘Great team player’ Vaila named Swan trainee of the year

John William Simpson (left) presenting the award to Vaila Wright. Photo: Chris Brown

NINETEEN year old Vaila Wright, from Lerwick, has been named the Swan sail trainee of 2022.

Supported by Sail Training Shetland, Vaila was one of twenty Swan trainees who took part in the Tall Ships Races 2022, visiting Denmark, The Netherlands and Belgium, followed by the Excelsior Trust Centenary Smack Race in Lowestoft, England.

She took part in race one of the Tall Ships Races, and her enthusiasm for her time on Swan shone through in her feedback: “If I were to sum up my time on Swan it would be ‘Best. Experience. Ever.’.

“I couldn’t recommend it enough, the most fun and happiest experience of my life. All of the sailing was so memorable and just the most amazing experience, you feel very proud of yourself, and your team’s abilities.

“The Swan is a beautiful boat and I always felt proud representing her.”

Vaila was awarded the Vevoe trophy, which was commissioned by the trust in 2010 following a donation from the family of the late Willie Simpson. The trophy is a replica of Swan’s original wheel.

Willie o’Vevoe, as he was known, went to the fishing aboard the Swan, a vessel his family were closely involved with for over 50 years.

Presenting the trophy was Swan trustee, and Willie’s son, John William Simpson.

He said: “It means a lot to me that this trophy is in my family’s name, and that it promotes our young folk enjoying, and learning the ropes aboard, the Swan.

“Opportunities for our youth are at the heart of the Swan Trust, and this trophy highlights the effort our trainees put into their voyages.

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“All of the trainees who came aboard this year were fantastic, engaged and up for the challenge.

“Both groups gelled really well as a crew, were supportive and enthusiastic, which made it very hard to pick a winner. Vaila made a tremendous contribution to her voyage.

“She stood out as a great team player, who cared for her fellow trainees and stepped forward to do extra duties when needed with a very positive attitude.

“Her enthusiasm was infectious, both with tasks aboard Swan and during the on shore activities, and she was influential in our trainees mixing and making friends with trainees from other vessels.

“She was also a great ambassador for the Swan, Shetland and youth sail training. Having never sailed before, she was surprised at how much she loved it.

“Since her trip, she has become a committee member of the Aberdeen University’s sailing club and a Sail Training Shetland Youth Ambassador, encouraging others to get involved in the 2023 Tall Ships Races. 

“We wish her all the best in her future adventures, look forward to seeing how she develops her passion for sailing, and hope to welcome her aboard the Swan again soon.”

Swan passing Bressay Light under full sail. Photo: Maurice Henderson for Swan Trust.

Sail training is said to go far beyond sailing instruction, as it uses the experience of being at sea to help young people learn about themselves and discover hidden strengths and talents.

Sail trainees who embrace life on board reap the benefits through increased self-confidence, independence, team working, communication skills and testing their personal and physical boundaries, with some going on to pursue careers at sea. 

Vaila added: “You don’t just learn how to sail, you learn so much, including about yourself.

“One of the most valuable takeaways is the connections made. I have met so many great and memorable people due to this experience.”

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