Looking for an unusual Christmas Gift – Yule love this…

Christmas is now on the horizon…well-known stores have launched their emotional and expensive TV adverts to draw us in and get us commenting on social media, Christmas movies dominate some of the movie channels and with that famous red truck of the well-known soft drink making guest appearances around the UK you definitely know the “holidays are coming”.

But having made it through Christmases year after year it can sometimes be difficult to find the perfect gift for that special friend or relative.  Christmas disappears as quickly as it arrived, Auld Lang syne is sung and then it’s back to the usual day to day activities for the next year.


But have you thought about doing something different this year and give a gift that is not only going to be different, exhilarating and fun but will keep on giving well into 2017?

This year on Tuesday 27th December 2016, Challenge Wales | Wales’ Tall Ship will be hoisting the sails and heading out to sea in the Bristol Channel off Penarth for its FUNdraising Sail and Curry voyage.  No sailing experience is necessary to take part and this is a fun way to give to a local Welsh charity while blowing away the Christmas cobwebs and having loads of fun. A full day of sailing and a curry meal, it’s certainly a gift with a difference!

Everyone purchasing a place on this adult day voyage will be contributing to the Challenge Wales bursary fund, a fund which helps fund Welsh residents aged 12 – 25 years to learn employability skills through sailing. So by joining Challenge Wales on one of her big boat sailing days you will also be giving a life-changing experience to others in 2017.

And, what’s more the Challenge Wales sail training charity has found that often those who sail onboard on one of her adult fundraising trips come back as a volunteer to jump aboard on one of her many life-changing sailing adventures.

Whether on your own, with your partner or a small group of friends or colleagues – come and join Challenge Wales! And of course,  Gift vouchers are available too. Further details can be found on the sailing page of www.challengewales.org or by emailing reservations@challengewales.org or telephone 029 20 704 657.

Waterproof jackets & trousers and lifejackets provided, as well as all food and refreshments during the day and training. A curry meal is only served on Bank Holiday 27th December 2016. Maximum age 75 years. A maximum of 12 places are available. Cost is £99 per person for the day.

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From Wales to the other side of the world

Opening up a door of possibilities can actually mean opening up a world of possibilities.

Often you need to have the motivation to find that opportunity and, when an opportunity then passes by, have the enthusiasm to jump at it. For some people it is more difficult to find that motivation spark to ignite the hunt for a passing by opportunity. And, how do you know that opportunity (and the experience that it brings) is going to change you, or leave a footprint with you, for the better?

Sail training  helps people of all ages to develop their self-confidence (and not to mention teamwork, communication, resilience skills and more!) and once you have jumped aboard a sail training vessel then it can help provide the lighter paper so when a spark happens a world of possibilities can ignite. And, that is just what happened to someone who stepped aboard Challenge Wales – with no sailing experience – who then got to experience new countries and now there is an opportunity for others to do the same as part of a free International Exchange programme co-ordinated through ASTO the UK Association of Sail Training Organisations.


Shannon’s Journey – From Cardiff Bay to Australia

Shannon, who decided to undertake a voyage on Challenge Wales in 2014, applied in 2015 for an Australian Tall Ship exchange and this gave her the confidence to start a career in sailing – something she had never thought about. Since applying for the exchange she has graduated from university, sailed on an Australian Tall Ship, completed a four month sailing course, became a crew member on yachts overseas, started skippering and became a sailing instructor working with other young people teaching them life skills, sailing and getting them to experience new places…and opening other doors of opportunity.  Now back in the UK, she spends time working with young people and planning the next adventure. But this all started with a voyage on Challenge Wales and an application to the UK Sail Training Association, which she says herself, didn’t think would be successful!

It’s not the sailing but the experience that has been life-changing; giving the opportunity to travel, meet new people and develop skills and confidence you never knew you had.

What’s stopping you broadening your horizons?


Challenge Wales offers a variety of sail training voyages, many of which are subsidised for young people aged 12 – 25 years. A young person who has sailed on Challenge Wales over the last 2 years, and is over 18, may be eligible to apply for a sail training International Exchange. For further details please visit the Association of Sail Training Organisations (ASTO) website here.



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We’ve had a right royal time….Ahoy HRH Prince Edward

It’s not everyday you expect to have a member of the royal family don lifejacket and deck shoes and jump aboard Challenge Wales. But as part of a Royal UK Tour to celebrate the Diamond Anniversary of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award (DofE) that is exactly what happened!

On a damp day in Cardiff Bay,  HRH Prince Edward The Earl of Wessex, was introduced to some of the Challenge Wales volunteers and Trustees before being introduced to some of the young people who had worked with Challenge Wales on one of the DofE Award elements.

Trainees and volunteers lining up ready to welcome HRH Prince Edward, with Challenge Wales in the background

Trainees and volunteers lining up ready to welcome HRH Prince Edward, with Challenge Wales in the background

Challenge Wales has been an Approved Activity Provider for the DofE for the last few years and has welcomed many young people for their Gold Residential. If you aren’t aware of the DofE scheme it’s an opportunity for young people aged under 24 years to learn new skills, take part in volunteering, undertake physical activity, go on an expedition and for the Gold award, there is an extra element of a residential activity – meeting new people, experiencing new things, working as a team which must be away from home and for a minimum of 5 days. So, for Residential DofE activities, Challenge Wales fits the bill perfectly.

After the introductions and formalities were over, HRH was accompanied to Challenge Wales by some of our trainees…but of course not before he had spoken to some of the parents and family members who were providing moral support to those about to board Challenge Wales.

Two of the Challenge Wales trainees accompany HRH Prince Edward to Challenge Wales (photo by R Batten)

Two of the Challenge Wales trainees accompany HRH Prince Edward to Challenge Wales (photo by R Batten)

After the safety briefing onboard, Challenge Wales released her lines and motor sailed across Cardiff Bay. As Challenge Wales got nearer to her destination; Cardiff White Water centre, the mist seemed to lift. The young people showed HRH the ropes, hanking on a sail, working the snake pit, winching and helming before the voyage ended.

Challenge Wales motoring past the St Davids Hotel, Cardiff Bay

Challenge Wales motoring past the St David’s Hotel, Cardiff Bay (photo by M Horwood)

It was certainly a day to remember for those involved in this special Royal voyage.  We understand HRH had himself done sailing as part of his DofE when he was younger….no wonder he blends in well as one of the crew in the picture below!

HRH Prince Edward onboard Challenge Wales, before departing for the rest of his Royal visit in Cardiff

HRH Prince Edward onboard Challenge Wales, before departing for the rest of his Royal visit in Cardiff

Not only was it great to have a special visitor onboard Challenge Wales but it was fantastic to see how some of our young people had developed since undertaking their DofE with us. Just one of the many journeys that Challenge Wales helps young people with!

A royal wave from trainees and volunteers

A royal wave from trainees and volunteers

Challenge Wales is ideal for DofE Gold Residential providing a variety of voyages in 2017 that will suit the requirements of the award. For more information visit www.challengewales.org For more information on the DofE visit www.dofe.org

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Challenge Wales set to return to Cardiff Bay

After being away for over 60 days, and having sailed almost 4,000 miles on her most epic young persons adventure yet, Challenge Wales | Wales’ Tall Ship is set to return to her home port of Penarth / Cardiff Bay on Saturday 27th August, just in time for being the feature boat at the Cardiff Harbour Festival.

Challenge Wales moored in Mermaid Quay on display

Challenge Wales moored in Mermaid Quay on display

In her previous life, Challenge Wales had sailed the oceans and had many exciting adventures as she sailed around the world, twice. Now, her activity is focused on young people and youth work  mainly around Wales as Wales’ Tall Ship and sail training vessel but this summer saw her going the furthest she has ever gone as Challenge Wales to Southern Spain for Tall Ships racing with other young people from all over the world.

Tall Ships spectacle

Tall Ships spectacle – Challenge Wales is there and in these events is one of the smallest boats taking part

During her summer adventures, Challenge Wales visited Southern Spain, Portugal, Northern Spain and Belgium. Young people onboard got to experience the magic of dolphins swimming with the boat, seeing whales, racing against the spectacular Tall Ships and meeting young people from all over the world.  After each Tall Ships Race all the crews from the boats paraded through the streets of the host port, representing their countries and we were certainly proud to represent Wales in what is one of the largest events in Europe.

Representing Wales in the Tall Ships Races

If you want to take part in our 2017 adventures, our fundraising adult voyages, fancy being a volunteer crew person or just want to see how up to 18 people have lived onboard Challenge Wales during the summer then jump aboard at the Cardiff Harbour Festival for a free tour.

The Cardiff Harbour Festival is Sunday 28th August and Monday 29th August 2016. Free tours are being offered by Challenge Wales volunteers from 11am each day where people of all ages can jump aboard.  If you want to wave Challenge Wales back into Cardiff and want to check when Challenge Wales is returning to Penarth/Cardiff visit www.marinetraffic.com and do a vessel search for Challenge Wales. She is trackable while she is close to land but may lose signal temporarily as she crosses from the English to the Welsh coast.


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Celebrating International Youth Day

Challenge Wales is always up for celebrating an event or a moment in time.

Celebrating the huge commitment our volunteers give and recognising this in Volunteers Week. Celebrating St David’s Day, the Patron Saint of Wales, celebrating with young people after every voyage. Celebrating Youth Work Week and making sure people know about the work that we do to help young people broaden their horizons and improve their employment prospects.

Representing Wales in the Tall Ships Races (Northern Spain)

Representing Wales in the Tall Ships Races (Northern Spain)

We celebrated the Queen’s Jubilee Pageant in 2012 in London, and the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2014 by being part of the Commonwealth Games Flotilla up the Clyde. But, it wasn’t until recently we were aware of International Youth Day and Challenge Wales couldn’t get more international than where she was and what she was doing on that day.

So when is International Youth Day we hear you say? As we found out, International Youth Day is marked on 12th August every year.

As stated on the United Nations website; “On 17 December 1999, in its resolution 54/120, the United Nations General Assembly endorsed the recommendation made by the World Conference of Ministers Responsible for Youth (Lisbon, 8-12 August 1998) that 12 August be declared International Youth Day.”

So where was Challenge Wales on 12th August 2016, on International Youth Day? Challenge Wales was in A Coruna (Northern Spain) as part of the Tall Ships Races. The Tall Ships Races is one of the most spectacular youth events in Europe with, on this occasion, no fewer than 16 flag states represented. It gives the opportunity for young people all over the world to take part in sail training. On one vessel there were no fewer than 13 different nationalities. Tall Ships Racing is cross cultural and with at least 50% of trainees on each boat having to be aged under 26 years it is a fantastic opportunity for young people to experience something that is life-changing, share stories and make friends.

Young people from all over the world partying and spending time together at the Tall Ships Races amongst the backdrop of....Tall Ships

Young people from all over the world partying and spending time together in A Coruna at the Tall Ships Races amongst the backdrop of….Tall Ships

Challenge Wales was there representing Wales, and proudly flying the Welsh flag. We joined young people from all over the world in a parade around the streets of A Coruna, took part in inter-crew sports shore-side. Celebrating culture. Celebrating young people. Celebrating sail training. What better way to be a global citizen!

And, on that international note, when Challenge Wales departed A Coruna no fewer than 5 different languages were able to be spoken onboard!


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Volunteering on Wales’ Tall Ship – why people volunteer

We always get people contacting the Challenge Wales office, or meeting us when we are hosting an Open Boat event who are interested in volunteering. And, we are always looking for volunteers – as the charity grows and we do more work, we need more assistance to deliver our work and as a predominantly volunteer-run charity means we wouldn’t be where we are without volunteers.

So to start… what is the definition of volunteering? Volunteering is an activity that involves spending time, unpaid, helping and benefiting others.

On Challenge Wales volunteering means; helping to sail the Challenge Wales sail training vessel, it means helping young people to hoist the sails, it means showing young people how to cook a healthy meal onboard, it means exploring new islands and taking part in new adventures,  it means sharing your life experiences with someone else, it means seeing dolphins (sometimes), and getting wet (now and again). Of course, if you opt for a shore-side volunteering role then you usually stay dry and the dolphins you get to see are on our photos!

Learning the ropes

Learning the ropes

Volunteering on Challenge Wales isn’t for everyone, but if you are looking to help young people in an innovative way then this could be an opportunity for you.

But why do people volunteer, what can they get out of being part of the Challenge Wales volunteer team?

  • They make a difference to young people’s lives and want to give something back – volunteering can have a positive affect on young people during and beyond the voyage. Our volunteers pass their life experiences onto others
  • They gain confidence and can improve their teamwork and communication skills – sail training benefits young people in this way but can also benefit our volunteers in this way too
  • They meet new people – volunteers get to meet other volunteers and make new friends themselves, they become part of the Challenge Wales community
  • They have lots of fun doing something that is different and sometimes challenging – Volunteers get to sail to new places, take part in races, be a budding Captain Jack Sparrow through day sailing, residential voyages and non-stop trips that involve night-sailing
  • They learn new skills or improve their current skills – from maintenance to fundraising, from sailing to working and talking with new people
Challenge Wales volunteers help with maintenance

Challenge Wales volunteers help with maintenance

This summer Challenge Wales has been taking part in the Tall Ships Races – the largest youth event on the water, and a spectacular one at that, sailing from the South Coast of the UK to Antwerp (Belgium) to Lisbon (Portugal) to Cadiz (Southern Spain) to A Coruna (Northern Spain) before heading back to the South Coast for a Small Ships Race.

Tall Ships Parade of Sail (pic courtesy of Sail Training International)

Tall Ships Parade of Sail (pic courtesy of Sail Training International)

And, Challenge Wales volunteers have been part of this spectacular activity, and they give up a minimum of a few days a year to sail with us and be volunteers. Many join us on our residential voyages which are on average 5 days. So if you can donate some of your time to Challenge Wales for at least one of our crew training days, up to one day shore-side and one of our voyages, and are aged 18 – 70 then get in touch.

It’s simple to become a volunteer. Just submit your volunteer form, then book yourself onto one of our adult voyages (minimum duration 1 day) which is used as an assessment voyage, if successful we follow up on references and undertake an enhanced DBS (background check). The last step is to join us for a Volunteer Induction session and then book yourself on to a crew training day.

Aged under 18? Then our Youth Panel could be for you – check it out here.

Will you be jumping onboard for your own personal volunteering adventure?

Challenge Wales is now starting its 2017 volunteer crew recruitment programme, so now is the perfect time to join the Challenge Wales team enabling potential volunteers to undertake their qualifying voyage and crew training prior to the 2017 sail training season starting.  For further details on volunteering contact the Challenge Wales office on 029 20 70 4657 or by email or check out the volunteering section on the website.

The next voyages which count as a qualifying voyage include:
* Sailing by the Stars voyage 25th – 27th August (Gosport  – Cardiff)
* Challenge Experience Day – 4th September (Penarth – Penarth)
* Challenge Experience Day – 17th September (Penarth – Penarth)

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A very warm welcome into Southern Spain for Challenge Wales

At 38 degrees it was a very warm welcome for Sail Training Vessel and Wales’ Tall Ship, Challenge Wales into Cadiz (Southern Spain) on 28th July 2016.

Young people from Caerphilly had joined us in Lisbon (Portugal) for the start of Race 2 of the Tall Ships Races 2016 organised by Sail Training International.

First off with any Tall Ships event, is the Parade of Sail. The spectacular departure of the Tall Ships, crews cheering and waving to those left on land. And those left on land, cheering, waving and clapping to those heading off on their adventures.

Click on the image above to see the footage of the Tall Ships departing Lisbon 2016 . It will open up in a new window and should start automatically in a few seconds

Click on the image above to see the footage of the Tall Ships departing Lisbon 2016. It will open up in a new window and should start automatically after a few seconds.

After the boats had paraded, it was time to go into race-mode. All boats are wanting to get their own race off to a great start and it was a mass of colour on the Tall Ships Races Boat Tracker (Yellow Brick) as all boats headed to the start line.

All boats taking part in the Tall Ships Races 2016 heading to the start line (the red dot) for the Lisbon - Cadiz race

All boats taking part in the Tall Ships Races 2016 heading to the start line (the red dot) for the Lisbon – Cadiz race

This race was quite a short race, it still included a couple of nights at sea and non-stop racing. Working in shifts, 3 hours on and 3 hours off, making sure everyone was well-fed, making sure everyone was having fun, working together to trim the sails and taking it in turns to helm the boat (remember, Challenge Wales doesn’t have auto-pilot), there was always something that needed doing.

Unlike the first race from Antwerp to Lisbon where the time to cross the start line spanned over a 24 hour period, this time everyone was crossing the line close together and with the varying wind strengths, which at some times meant that we slowed right down, the Tall Ships fleet remained closer together than in the previous race.

Racing to Cadiz. Challenge Wales is the orange boat highlighted with a white line around it.

Racing to Cadiz. Challenge Wales is the orange boat highlighted with a white line around it.

It wouldn’t be until a couple of days later at the Tall Ships Award ceremony that we would be advised of our official placing, the Tracker had placed us at 13th in Class, but the final results announced placed us into the top 10 and we fell into a well-deserved 8th place in Class.

Cadiz welcomed the Tall Ships Races and Challenge Wales with colour and enthusiasm. The warm seas of Cadiz meant the opportunity for jumping off the boat and cooling off with a swim for many. It also meant yet another crew parade of shouting and cheering….and we must admit if there was a competition for the loudest and noisiest crew, I am sure the Challenge Wales team would have won!

Crews getting ready to parade in Cadiz. Challenge Wales and the Welsh flag is in there somewhere! (pic courtesy of Sail Training International).

Crews getting ready to parade in Cadiz. Challenge Wales and the Welsh flag is in there somewhere! (pic courtesy of Sail Training International).

So what is the Tall Ships Races actually teaching those onboard – is it actually teaching them anything as it just seems to be too much fun?!! Well the answer is it’s teaching those onboard (both our volunteer crew and the young people we welcome) several key things:

  • Resilience – being able to bounce back and adapt well to different and challenging situations, seasickness can effect people, new surroundings which place people out of their comfort zone can be a challenge. Sail training helps people become more resilient.
  • An understanding of diversity and culture – Vessels, and crews from all over the world are taking part in this event. Our host ports are sharing their culture and history with us and we’re sharing a piece of Wales with them. The young people are sharing their cultures, in fact one vessel taking part had no fewer than 18 different nationalities onboard! Read more about Cadiz being a meeting place of cultures and traditions from Sail Training International. There is no better way to be teaching Global Citizenship than being part of this event!
  • Time -keeping – Watches are run on Challenge Wales, so when your watch is about to finish you are relying on the person replacing you to be up and raring to go. Meals are planned at particular times to ensure everyone is fed on all watches while ensuring there are plenty of people on deck at all times.
  • Teamwork  and sharing the same goals – Challenge Wales and those onboard are working to one goal, to successfully cross the finish line in the Tall Ships Races in the quickest time possible. This means trimming and changing sails quickly, it means helming in the right direction (and trying to avoid submarines as we often say), making sure everyone is fuelled, making sure the food is prepared, meals planned, dishes washed up, it’s about looking after each other and supporting each other through the sail training challenges that arise. It’s a great feeling when it all comes together.

Moreover, sail training on Challenge Wales is giving young people and crew the opportunity to broaden their horizons, see new places in the world and make new friends. It’s improving their social skills and experiences, increasing self-confidence and self-esteem and focus on a common end-goal.

So what’s stopping you trying this?

Tall Ships racing is just one of the sail training opportunities on Challenge Wales, Wales’ Tall Ship. Other events include Small Ships Racing, and residential voyages which take in new ports in the UK, amazing sea-life such as dolphins and seals and even visiting an island. While bursary funding supports many young people jumping onboard, Challenge Wales is now looking for more support from companies wishing to support young people who are wanting to develop their skills through sail training and improve their prospects to enable Challenge Wales to reach more young people. For further details on Challenge Wales visit www.challengewales.org Some voyages are for adults aged 18 – 75 while others are for young people aged 16 – 25. Day voyages are suited for those aged 12+. Bursary funding is only available for young people.

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Wanted – A landlubber (Youth Development Officer) looking for adventure with a charity

Now in its 7th year of operation, Challenge Wales | Wales’ Tall Ship is now recruiting for a part time Youth Development Officer. This role is funded by the Big Lottery Fund for 3 years and is shore- based. Are you a landlubber with a sprinkle of Captain Jack Sparrow tendencies? Are you working in the education sector and have an inner-adventurer wanting to get out? Are you wanting to work for a fun, charity that is literally providing life-changing voyages to young people? Do you want to jump aboard and help us develop our innovative sail training programme to enable us to reach out to more young people? Then read on…..

Challenge Wales is a sail training charity and Wales’ Tall Ship and is seeking to a appoint a part time Youth Development Officer. Based shore-side in Penarth (near Cardiff Bay) this new role is key in the growth of the charity.
Salary – £13,000 (20 hours a week)
Term – a 3 year contract (subject to funding availability after 3 years)
Closing Date – 8 August 2016

Full job spec with details on how to apply:

Elusen hyfforddiant hwylio a Llong Uchel Cymru yw Her Cymru ac mae’n awyddus i benodi Swyddog Datblygu Pobl Ifanc rhan amser. Wedi’i lleoli ym Mhenarth (ger Bae Caerdydd), mae’r rôl newydd hon yn allweddol i dwf yr elusen.

Cyflog – £13,000 (20 awr yr wythnos)
Mae hwn yn gontract cychwynnol o dair blynedd a ariennir gan y Gronfa Loteri Fawr
Dyddiad cau: 8 Awst 2016.

Gwnewch gais am ein swydd Swyddog Datblygu Pobl Ifanc:



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The Tall Ships Races begins – Fair winds to all

During the summer, Challenge Wales usually heads further afield – quite often our voyages start from West Wales, where dolphins swim alongside us, the water is bluer than the Bristol Channel brown and our residential sail training voyages can take in Southern or Northern Ireland, the Scottish Isles or the South West Coast of England.

This year is a little bit different as we head to Antwerp (Belgium) for the Tall Ships Races, before racing down to Lisbon (Portugal), Cadiz (Spain), A Caruna (Spain) and back home to the UK. It’s our longest summer trip yet and one we have been planning for and looking forward to for some time.

It’s an exciting time for all, the Tall Ships Races is one of the most spectacular events; from shore side crew activities, crew parades and festivities around the streets, awards and meting people from different cultures – all with a story to tell.

Tall Ships Crew Parade - can you spot the 3 Welsh flags and the red dragon's head? (pic courtesy of Sail Training International)

Tall Ships Crew Parade – can you spot the 3 Welsh flags and the red dragon’s head? (pic courtesy of Sail Training International)

Crew festivities from the parade melted into an awards ceremony. Lots of cheering and support from crew, trainees and the locals. Unexpectedly, which was a lovely surprise!, Challenge Wales was awarded the Environmental Award and Blue Flag status – a great achievement for us and recognition of our efforts to play a part in protecting the seas we sail in. It was also a great opportunity for two of our trainees to experience the limelight and go on stage in front of thousands of people and pick up the award with the Skipper. Lots of smiles all round.

On stage at the Tall Ships Awards (pic courtesy of Sail Training International)

On stage at the Tall Ships Awards (pic courtesy of Sail Training International)

From the Awards Ceremony, the evening rolled into the crew party – an opportunity for everyone to let their hair down and relax before the start of the Tall Ships Race.  A fun evening was had by all and all topped off by a spectacular firework display that brought colour to the sky and illuminated the masts and unfurled sails of the Tall Ships.

Fireworks and Tall Ships

The following day it was time for the Parade of Sail – an amazing opportunity to see some of the most spectacular tall ships in the world and it certainly drew thousands locals and tourists to the dock to cheer the boats off.

Tall Ships departing Antwerp for the Parade of Sail (pic courtesy of Tall Ships International)

Tall Ships departing Antwerp for the Parade of Sail (pic courtesy of Tall Ships International)

From Antwerp the vessels headed down River and into heavy weather, that first evening most vessels darted into nearby ports to get a few hours rest from the choppy seas. Challenge Wales motor sailed into Dover and got a few hours rest before later that evening heading off, at 10pm, when the wind dropped and the tide was in our favour, to Gosport.

Our passage from Dover to Gosport

Our passage from Dover to Gosport

From Gosport, Challenge Wales headed towards Torbay – this would be the start of the Tall Ships Race. Many of the larger Tall Ships had continued sailing through the night to get to the start line with many crossing it shortly after 10.00am on 13th July 2016.  Although Challenge Wales crossed the start line at 5.00pm, that day, this was still within the starting window and that starting window would remain open until 8.00pm the following day. Today has been a party day onboard Challenge Wales as we celebrate one of our trainees getting a year older! What a fantastic way to spend a birthday – starting an adventure with new found friends!

Challenge Wales about to cross the start line of the Tall Ships Races 2016

Challenge Wales about to cross the start line of the Tall Ships Races 2016. A screen grab taken from the Yellow Brick tracking system. Challenge Wales is highlighted with a white line around it just underneath Torquay.

As all the boats make their way to the start line, we wish everyone fair winds and a safe passage. And, for any budding Captain Jack Sparrows out there, there is still the opportunity to jump onboard some of these spectacular Tall Ships this summer!

The Tall Ships Races are organised by Sail Training International and the 2016 race that Challenge Wales is taking part in  can be tracked here. Tall Ships Races is one of the largest young people’s events taking place and one of the largest spectator events in Europe bringing people from all over the world and all walks of life together. Sail training helps build young people’s resilienc and self-confidence as well as improve teamwork and communication skills. There are still 4 berths left on Challenge Wales for a 15 day voyage from Cadiz to A Coruna (30th July – 13th August) and bursaries are available for UK residents to cover between 50% – 90% of the costs (depending on eligibility). Berths with full bursary are from £135. If you are living in Europe and wish to join us then you can book your berth via Windseeker

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Over 1,500 boats and a fundraiser like no other – it’s Round the Island Race

At 0730hrs last Saturday, Challenge Wales was slipping the lines at West Cowes, Isle of Wight. In fact quite a few other boats were doing the same thing. There was the chit chatter of voices, there was the jangle of halyards against masts, there was a buzz and excitement brewing…

Today was the day when novices and experienced sailors take part in one of the largest participation events – after the London Marathon and the Great North Run and Great South Run (we believe) – to race around the Isle of Wight.

Over 1,500 boats were registered for the event including Challenge Wales. We enjoy taking part in Round the Island Race as it is the only adult race that we do and is one of our fundraisers. Guests who were sailing onboard were paying to take part and by doing so they were contributing to our bursary fund and helping young people. Our bursary supports those who can’t pay the full amount to jump aboard Challenge Wales and helps them to have the same opportunity as anyone else. Who would have thought that giving to a charity could give you so much fun on the water!

0830hrs was our start time for the race and as always there was a battle to cross the line. Skipper Andy was pleased we had a good start! It would take over an hour and a half though for all the other boats to cross the start line and get into the race.

Hundreds of sails on the horizon

Hundreds of sails on the horizon

Throughout the 50 mile race we had a variety of conditions – mainly choppy waters and gusts of 35 knots, which resulted in no fewer than 311 boats retiring from the race and even one small boat sinking (don’t worry, the RNLI were on hand and everyone was safely rescued).

The team on Challenge Wales, most of whom had only met for the first time onboard the day before, had their jobs to do on the boat – from trimming the sails, to waving to the film crew in the helicopter to cooking breakfast to navigating! They had had a day of training the day before the race so by now knew the routines on board and putting what they had learnt hours earlier into practice.

Different crew on the winches and the mainsheet. The Skipper is tucked down by the wheel

Different crew on the winches and the mainsheet. The Skipper is tucked down by the wheel

Once the race is over there is still that exhilaration and excitement as crews head ashore and share their Round the Island Race tales. As we headed back into Cowes, and the mainsail came down there was a loud shout of “Challenge Wales !!” as a couple of volunteers were shore-side and gave us a welcoming and congratulatory well-earned cheer and wave.

Challenge Wales picture sailing round the Needles, Isle of Wight

Challenge Wales racing past the Needles (pic courtesy of Jim Haviland)

One of our volunteers was tweeting and following the race from ashore so if you want to catch up on any of the race then visit www.twitter.com/challengewales  search for #RTIR or visit the Round the Island Race website.

By the time Challenge Wales had finished just under 40 boats had crossed the finish line and 144 had retired. Challenge Wales finished the race in 7 hours 11 minutes and 28 seconds and was just over 3 minutes slower than when she took part in 2015! Like the other times we had raced other Challenge 72 boats, we once again beat them all  (and not bad seeing that we were weighed down with food and fuel for the rest of the summer!).

Visit Wales are using the hashtag #FindYourEpic to showcase fantastic Welsh adventures, with the weather conditions we had and the exhilaration it brought we can certainly say that those onboard #FoundTheirEpic on Challenge Wales!

Challenge Wales crossing the finish line in Round the Island Race 2016

Challenge Wales crossing the finish line after an epic day in Round the Island Race (pic courtesy of Patrick Eden)

It was a fantastic effort, so well done Challenge Wales team, and what’s even more fantastic is the day on the water generated over £3,000 for Challenge Wales – a huge amount of money we are very thankful for.

Challenge Wales takes part in Round the Island Race each year to raise awareness of the charity and its activities. Adults take part in the event onboard Challenge Wales to help raise funds and may have no experience of sailing. Next year’s race is on Saturday 1st July 2017.


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