So what have been our best bits of 2014? That’s a really tricky question and if you ask that to our volunteers too then everyone will undoubtedly say something different.
It’s not just the weather that makes a memorable voyage, but the people onboard, the build up to a voyage, the comararderie and the wildlife that we see…throw in a few events and the unexpected and the list of best bits gets longer…and longer!
We’ve rounded up just a few, and if you’ve sailed on Challenge Wales and have your own thoughts then by all means throw them in!
January – it was cold and it was the start of our onboard volunteer training sessions that fill up the winter months. Lots of camaraderie and team-bonding.
March – receiving funding to pay for two administration assistants for six months and having our first full time employed staff!
March – celebrating our fifth birthday with volunteers and supporters and the local Assembly Member, Vaughan Gething, at the Senedd, Cardiff Bay. We even managed to have a couple of guest speakers from the sail training and voluntary youth sector world, plus exhibited the impact of our work.
April – our first funding from Comic Relief/Young Carers Can to work with a local carers organisation and take them on day and residential voyages to develop confidence while having fun.
May – We were filmed for Brilliant Wales which featured lottery funded projects and several young people were interviewed about their experiences, while we ‘sailed’ around Cardiff Bay.
June – An adult fundraiser; Round the Island Race. We competed against five other Challenge boats and yes, we beat them all despite there being very little wind.
July – Following a very unusual 48 hour interview, with fellow candidates, we employed our first full time crew person. Sam, joined as Mate and was partially funded through the Welsh Government’s Job Growth Wales scheme for six months.
July – A youth group from Caerphilly jumped onboard Challenge Wales in Scotland and following a youth sail training race took part in the once-in-a-lifetime Commonwealth Games Flotilla up the Cylde. Challenge Wales was honoured to be the lead boat in the flotilla for the last few miles into Glasgow. Waved on by thousands of people it was truly memorable for all those onboard. We even made it onto BBC Scotland website and on BBC Wales Radio.
August – Dolphin spotting; Seeing wildlife is a magical experience and sail training in the Irish Sea and in West Wales meant dolphin sightings during the summer holidays. It is fantastic when they swim alongside the boat – whether a young person or an adult you can’t help but look at them.
August – Challenge Wales was snuggled up in Ireland when the ex-hurricane Bertha hit the UK, but it made for a quick sail back to Milford Haven. The two day voyage from Milford Haven back to Cardiff, via Lundy Island was exhilarating and fun with continued strong winds. As one of the guests on board said; The voyage was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. As a solo traveller with zero sailing experience, I was made to feel totally welcome and learned lots with plenty of chances to join in with the crew. Such an adventure, I would urge anyone to get involved, you won’t regret it.”
August – By now we had done 13 days of sail training with visually impaired young people onboard and at the end of August we sailed from Cardiff to Falmouth with visually impaired and blind young people onboard. When arriving in Falmouth they took part in shore-side activities and won the Inter Crew Tug O War event. This was the start of the Tall Ships Regatta 2014.
October – Volunteer Induction sessions were introduced, a compulsory shore-based session for new volunteers, delivered by one of the charity’s trustees, to help them learn about the Challenge Wales charity and how we operate. We also picked up our third trophy of the year in the Small Ships Race.
October – The mast comes out of the boat for the first time since owned by Challenge Wales as part of our planned maintenance programme….don’t worry, it goes back in….eventually!
November – We launched our ‘Jump Aboard’ fundraising pack making it easier for people to raise funds for us. We now recycle clothes, stamps, unwanted small household items/gifts, printer ink cartridges and the pack gives our supporters some great ways they can raise funds for us. We also show how money, no matter how small, is helping deliver our services. We’ll be uploading it onto our website soon but if you want an electronic copy please email us.
December – we launched our 2015 charity calendar, featuring some fantastic landscapes and seascapes.
…….and more of the good bits we haven’t mentioned include; celebrating birthdays and smuggling birthday cakes onboard, exploring ashore at Lundy Island and seeing the seals, the fun moments with volunteers who are part of the Challenge Wales family, being plagued by no wind while racing, meeting new people on our journeys (not just the young people but the groups leaders and parents), the thousands of miles we sailed this year and the many many young people we had onboard. Thanks to everyone who made 2014 a great year for Wales’ Tall Ship; Challenge Wales.
To follow us on our journey in 2015 you can follow us on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, and don’t forget if you want to get involved with Challenge Wales as a volunteer or want to sail on her (as a young person or an adult) then find out more by visiting www.challengewales.org