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Marine / Busy year for sail training scheme

Sponsorship of 100 trainees for The Tall Ships Races was a huge achievement for Sail Training Shetland. Photo: Ben Mullay

THIS YEAR’s sailing training scheme was the biggest yet – with 50 fully funded trainees from Shetland taking part.

They were joined by another 50 trainees recruited and funded by other Scottish ports for sail training voyages calling to Lerwick during the 2023 Tall Ships Races.

Seventy six trainees travelled to Fredrikstad for the 13-day trip to Lerwick on the Cruise in Company, featuring guest harbour visits.

Another 24 trainees raced on the 10-day trip from Lerwick to Arendal. Ships used for the trainee placements included Swan, Christian Radich, Eendracht, Roald Amundsen, Statsraad Lehmkuhl, Sørlandet, Patricia and Atlantica.

All trainee placements were fully funded, so that cost was not a barrier to anyone applying.

For the trainees from outwith Shetland these costs were met by their own ports/communities.

The costs of the Shetland trainee placements were met through sponsorship from businesses, local fundraising, and support from the Coastal Communities Fund and Shetland Community Benefit Fund.

At its recent AGM, the volunteer board of trustees of the Sail Training Shetland charity reflected on the positive season.

Outgoing chair Peter Campbell, said “We’ve been operating formally as a charity since 2009 and this has been by far the biggest scheme we have done.

“With Lerwick being a Tall Ships Races host port, the opportunity for young people to participate and challenge themselves through taking part in the sail training experience has been tremendous and very rewarding to witness.

“I am delighted that so many past sail trainees have joined our board of trustees, all their voluntary input has made this ambitious season possible.

“Other volunteers helped with everything from fundraising to travel bookings and our committee took on a variety of roles to finance, recruit, engage with vessels, kit out and mentor the trainee placements.”

Melanie Henderson has been appointed as the new chair of Sail Training Shetland, while her former role as secretary has been filled by Ailish Goodlad.

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Henderson said: “The feedback from the trainees and their parents is what makes the efforts we put in worthwhile.

“It is so special to see so many young people return from their voyage having grown so much and found new confidence in their abilities.

“This year, we had the benefit of four young ambassadors from the 2022 scheme that have worked with us all year on engaging with their peers, fundraising and social media posting.

“They all sailed again this year on different ships, with some acting as chaperones for younger trainees.

“We also work closely with The Swan Trust, including the Swan providing taster days for the scheme applicants, and placements during the Tall Ships Races.

“This year, the Swan crew of Maggie Adamson, Scott Sandison and Anya Kurtz, who are all past sail trainees, provided such a positive experience for the new trainees.

“Also for this season, we partnered with other Scottish ports – Stornoway, Ullapool, Scrabster, Aberdeen, Montrose and Orkney – who recruited and funded trainees for placement through us.

“There is no other organisation that provides what we do and we are delighted that they too have seen the benefits for their young people.

“A personal highlight for me this year was seeing all the trainees gathered together in Fort Charlotte for a group photocall while they were all at Lerwick.

“We were honoured that HRH The Princess Royal dropped along, and she was so interested to speak to everyone about their sail training experience.

“The individual experiences posted across social media from our young trainees has been incredible and well worth a look. In the coming weeks, we will also be sharing some of their feedback.

“For 2024, we will start again in the spring with a launch of our next annual programme for the 15-25 years age group.”

Ola Balfour, a trainee who sailed aboard Eendracht, said: “This has genuinely been the best two weeks of my life so far and it is truly unbelievable that we managed to get the whole experience paid for by our amazing sponsors.

“But that would have been impossible without Sail Training Shetland who have worked so hard to achieve this.

“I am still in disbelief that all this work is done by volunteers, but I am so extremely grateful for the work that was put in to allow me and the other ninety-nine trainees to have the most unforgettable experience ever. I cannot thank you enough”.

Nicola Innes, the Developing the Young Workforce North Highland lead, said: “We are delighted to have had the opportunity to support Sail Training Shetland’s scheme through sponsoring some of our young people in Caithness & Sutherland.

“This fantastic experience has offered them the opportunity to uncover hidden strengths and talents, build new friendships whilst increasing self-confidence, and we hope to continue offering sponsorships in future years”.

More information about Sail Training Shetland can be found online.

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