Our Tall Ships Adventure Under Sail Is Underway

Our summer of adventure has started, and for the uninitiated a Tall Ships adventure is like no other.

If you haven’t been involved in sail training before, you might think that we just ‘sail around’ and if that is what you think then you are definitely missing out on something. Sail training is adventurous outward bound on the water which provides a life-experience and social skills development on a variety of levels across all abilities. For Tall Ships racing you can add culture to the list!

Tall Ships Races encourage international friendship, competition and fun, teambuilding and passion about the country you are representing in the race. It’s a cultural and youth event like no other with races consisting of several hundred nautical miles and a ‘cruise in company’ allowing crew to explore new places. Over 50% of the crew participating must be under 26 years which often surprises people.

On 2nd July, our Tall Ships summer adventure truly started. We said goodbye to Danish, Scottish and English young people who had sailed across the North Sea to help deliver the boat and welcomed, Welsh, Polish, Swedish, English and Canadian young people for the next journey. We were already in the Tall Ships spirit having partnered up the day before with the German sail training vessel Esprit to take part in the Stand Up Paddleboarding competition….which we won!

The 3rd July, the Tall Ships fleet paraded out of Halmstad, Sweden. Choppy seas, westerly winds of up to 30 knots greeted Challenge Wales and the fleet and knowing that we didn’t need to cross the start line for another 30 hours (yes, the start line was 100 miles away) we took the opportunity to have another night in port and headed for Helsingborg.

We were spotted, sailing past Denmark’s most famous castle: Kronberg Castle, made famous as Esinore in Shakespeare’s play Hamlet.

The start of the first Tall Ships Race was a virtual start, and Challenge Wales (as a  Class C) boat was scheduled to cross through the start gate a couple of hours after the big square riggers had gone through. It was fun watching on Yellow Brick tracker at the start of the race, and must have been quite a sight to be actually there!

From the strong winds that greeted us at the start of the race, the wind slowly settled down and by 1530hrs (BST) today but at the other extreme had settled down to nothing, as the Skipper reported “We’re having curry tonight, we need the wind, we are currently sailing at a speed of 0 knots!”  The image below shows 0 knots of wind speed and 0 knots of boat speed (yikes!)!

So, with no wind and warm weather it was the perfect time to take an aerial shot of Challenge Wales sailing, in fact this is probably the first time we have had an aerial shot with an onboard camera while sailing.

So, as we go into the evening of 8th July there is less than 50 miles to go to the virtual finish line. Two boats have already crossed the line and with the current weather conditions Challenge Wales is expected to finish around 0450hrs (BST).

Safe passage as the sun sets on another day of adventure under sail.


Don’t forget for frequent updates on Challenge Wales visit www.twitter.com/challengewales
To track Challenge Wales during the summer while she is Tall Ships racing, visit www.challengewales.org and scroll to the bottom of the home page!

Challenge Wales Dragon on Scottish Canal

Neptune’s Staircase, a dragon in Loch Ness and big big ships!

It was a wet morning as Challenge Wales left Oban, Scotland, in a mere 3 knots of wind. Passage planning complete, Fort William was where we were heading for and we were on a strict timescale to get there ready to enter the Caledonian Canal at midday. The Caledonian Canal is 60 miles long and would take us across Scotland through some spectacular scenery. As the sun was trying to break through, the lock gates opened and we started our journey.

Challenge Wales entering Caledoninan CanalAs we tied up on arrival, we were welcomed by some friendly Scottish people who had been watching our journey on Marine Traffic (a vessel tracking system) and had been ‘spying’ on us as we arrived. Fear not, they came to the boat armed with doughnuts, and Scottish accents, which went down very well….in the rainy weather!

Eating doughnuts in the Caledonian Canal

Tea break over, the next part of our day was to climb up Neptune’s Staircase, an amazing engineering feat and the longest staircase lock in Britain lifting boats up 2 0metres. Prior to arriving in Scotland, we had seen some fantastic pictures of Neptune’s Staircase in the Scottish sunlight but the misty haze of rain didn’t quite make it as picturesque as we were hoping. But it was fun and lots of people came and said hello to us along the way.

Of the 60 miles that makes up the Caledonian Canal, 38 miles are along Loch Lochy (we thought this was quite an original name), Loch Oich and…..Loch Ness with the remaining 22 miles being canals. At the top of Neptune’s staircase we decided to call it a day, and moor up for the night…and the rain was just about stopping (yippee!).

Wakey, Wakey! Another day, another new adventure in the Caledonian Canal and although we could say it was a wet and murky start, we like to think it was misty, mystical and eerie! Well our dragon mascot thought that peering at the low drifting clouds.

Today, Challenge Wales would be at the highest altitude and highest latitude that she has ever been at, which was quite exciting (certainly to the person who was tweeting back at Challenge Wales Towers!….in the dry). It was a great view from this lock and now it was time to descend from Fort Augustus into…..Loch Ness.

We were very excited to enter Loch Ness. Loch Ness is the second largest Scottish Loch by surface area and the second deepest and apparently it contains more fresh water than all the lakes in England and Wales combined. With all the rain we were experiencing we weren’t surprised!  Was Nessie going to make an appearance? Think of the press coverage that could bring us! The rain seemed to lift but being a little bit behind schedule at this point we decided to motor through Loch Ness quite quickly. Thank you to a fellow sailor who sent us a picture (below) of us in Loch Ness. We are wondering though whether that black blur in the bottom right corner is actually our wake or is it Nessie about to make an appearance and we’ve missed a money-making opportunity!

We spent another night in the Caledonian Canal, and the following day started our journey down to the North Sea. We were still waiting for the Scottish sunshine to come out and were feeling optimistic about this.

In the distance was Kessock Bridge, a focus of the Inverness skyline, which at some point we would need to go under (cue double and triple checking our charts and calculations to ensure we get under the bridge at the right time!).

Interestingly why Challenge Wales was crossing through Scotland she was encountering significant rain showers (did we mention the rain?!), and at times quite torrential. Back at Challenge Wales’ home port, and in fact in most other parts of the UK there was a heatwave! The Met Office picture literally shows the rain tracking the boat through the Caledonian Canal! Those onboard weren’t too happy with this picture. Good job they didn’t see us tweeting about this at the time!

Our journey through the Caledonian Canal was at an end, and that night moored up in Inverness marina we enjoyed (at long last) a peak of the sun and a golden sunset….with the water glimmering and now enjoying the longest day of the year we kept our fingers crossed for sunny weather the following day!

In the morning, it was goodbye Inverness Marina and hello to Kessock Bridge. We knew the last part of our journey before heading out into the North Sea was to go under a bridge. Going under a bridge with a big mast is always nerve racking, even when you have checked and checked again the calculations. There isn’t much of a gap between the top of the mast and the bridge, and even when you know you can fit under the bridge, most of those onboard the boat decided now would be a good time to go below deck, make a cup of tea, and not watch!

Well, we couldn’t not include a picture of what it looked like going under the bridge. Goodness it looks a tight fit! We did joke about sending someone up the mast with a fender. And it looks like that was almost needed!

From Inverness our journey would be non-stop to Aberdeen, so working in 3 hours on and 3 hours off watches we sailed through the Moray Firth, famous for its dolphins…and yes we did see dolphins.

Thank you again to the person who captured us motor sailing through. By now we were having a bit of respite from the rain, and the clouds started to disappear. It was our last night at sea and what a sunset we were treated to.

It was chilly on the water, but we were all wrapped up warm (apart from those who were snuggled up in their bunks trying to have their three hours of sleep) and we were enjoying the sailing. Our journey then took us towards Fraserborough before we would tack towards Aberdeen. Before we knew it, the sunrise peaked over the horizon and the fresh morning rays bounced off our mainsail giving our ‘Autumn Harvest’ coloured mainsail a warm glowing tinge.

A mile offshore from Aberdeen the mainsail was lowered and an hour or so later it was ‘Ahoy’ Aberdeen Port. It was our first visit to Aberdeen and we were warmly welcomed. We were a bit of an unusual sight in a port with menacing looking ships dwarfing our now very tiny sail training vessel.

Luckily in this picture (above) we were tied up just in case you did think we were being followed very closely by a very big boat.

Challenge Wales in Aberdeen PortYou can only just make out Challenge Wales in the picture above, but can you guess who is moored up in front of her? Yes, its Gipsy Moth IV. For the uninitiated Gipsy Moth is a vessel that Sir Francis Chichester commissioned to sail, single-handedly, around the world in and departed Plymouth in 1966 on this venture. So, two round-the-world boats alongside each other. Interestingly the last time Challenge Wales and Gipsy Moth were together was at the Queen’s Jubilee Pageant on the Thames in London in 2012 when we were both tied up in St Katharine Docks as part of the Avenue of Sail.

So after a couple of days in Aberdeen and after new crew and young people had arrived, it was a big farewell to our Scottish friends and our next adventure was to start. Halmstad, the Welsh are coming to have fun and be part of the spectacular Tall Ships Races.   And, to get into the spirit of the Tall Ships Races we departed in style, cheering and doing a Mexican wave! See you in Sweden!

Challenge Wales departing Aberdeen

 

 

Travelling could make you more employable

Taking time out in between studying, or taking a break from work could be seen as a risk. How do you pay for travel? Am I going to miss a promotion at work? Will I get left behind as my friends and family carry on with their lives.

Well, according to new research conducted by Hostelworld who surveyed 1,000 people in eight different countries, taking time out (from a month to longer) to travel to gain some worldly experiences might actually make you more employable.

The results showed that over 80% of employers believed that travelling made you more employable. 38% of those surveyed felt travel boosts confidence, 37% believed it increased people skills, 35% said that travel helped them adapt to new situations well while 31% felt travel improved their communication skills. When looking at those who had travelled themselves, 62% said their travel experiences helped them understand what they wanted to do with their life, while almost 50% made connections while travelling who helped them get a foot in the door at companies.

Who knows what is over the horizon, but travelling suggests something better?!

We at Challenge Wales think this is very interesting, as we are into travel and skills development to improve employment prospects, we are also keen on adventure so we looked at one of our own case studies and did a little bit more digging!

It’s a competitive place on there, get your CV noticed
The Higher Education Statistics Agency shows 73% of students are graduating with a degree that is a 2:1 or higher….which means there is a lot of competition out there for jobs so your CV has to stand out. A life-experience like travel can do that.

Skills learnt are transferable into a variety of jobs
So, what skills can a life-experience like travel provide me with: Teamwork skills (if you are working with others), communication skills and confidence (visiting a new part of the world you might have to overcome language barriers, come out of your comfort zone, ask how to find a bus or talking to strangers?), adaptability (you are going to be out of your comfort zone, the unexpected might be happening, your routine might be changing – so you need to adapt), responsibility and independence (you’ve arrived at an airport, you are in charge of yourself: it’s you, your backpack, your passport and your travel money!). Read our case study ‘From unemployment and into work’.

Volunteering
Your travel adventure could tie in volunteering helping you to develop skills and experience in a specific field of interest. Challenge Wales offers this, so if you join us for a week or two one year, how about joining us for much longer the following year! Plus, this opportunity is available for those up to the age of 75!

Giving you a focus
One of our young trainees was coming to the end of her university degree and didn’t quite know what she wanted. to do Her adventure with Challenge Wales gave her that focus and drive to pursue a career she hadn’t thought of. Read our case study ‘From Wales to the other side of the world’.

Representing Wales and the UK
Challenge Wales is part of the international Tall Ships fleet, and those aged 16 – 25 years have the opportunity to represent Wales and the UK at these cultural events that form part of the Tall Ships races. All of the above applies to Tall Ships Racing: skills development, developing drive and focus, sense of competition, dealing with success, achievement but also reflecting on when things haven’t gone so well. Our voyages can be life-changing. And, with Challenge Wales being just one of over 100 vessels taking part, you can spend a whole summer jumping on and off different vessels or use the event to take you to new countries before continuing your travel on land.

Sometimes you can’t get to where you need to go until you find a different path
Quote – Unknown


 

 

Nominate someone for an adventure!

As Challenge Wales prepares for one of her biggest adventures yet, we’re doing a shout out to see if you know anyone who may benefit from an adventure outdoor experience, giving you the opportunity to nominate someone or encourage a young person to apply! Certain restrictions do apply as that is due to how the places are funded.

Challenge Wales | Wales’ Tall Ship has 13 fully funded places across two of its Tall Ships legs this summer in Finland and is encouraging young people aged 16 – 25 years  AND living with a CF Postcode area to apply for a place as soon as possible.

 

Challenge Wales already operates a bursary scheme to subsidise UK residents to take part in  its innovative adventure activities however, extra funding is enabling Challenge Wales to offer 13 fully funded places, to those living in a CF postcode area, across two of its Tall Ships legs this summer in Finland which will cover 100% of the voyage costs. In addition a small travel bursary is also included to help with travel to and from the ports.

Successful applicants will be racing Challenge Wales against over 100 vessels, from no fewer than 23 countries, from the international tall ships fleet and representing Wales and the UK at this spectacular event. Around 4,000 young people from all over the world will be taking part in the Tall Ships Races series this year and no sailing experience is required.

The charity is looking for young people who are wanting an adventure and are up for a challenge. Those taking part are actively running the boat, so it’s not just sailing but also cooking, cleaning and working in watches! We have lots of fun onboard too and there is a host of shore-side inter-crew activities organised as well at the end of the race.

How To Apply:
Young people can contact us themselves to apply but we are also encouraging teachers, colleagues, group leaders, parents and friends to nominate others, aged 16 – 25, for this opportunity who might benefit. Perhaps someone has been working hard for exams or at work and needs a break, maybe someone has had a tough few months, it might be someone who hasn’t been able to have a holiday for a few years or someone who would enjoy an adventure, challenge and experiencing new cultures
To get an application form and for further details email the Challenge Wales office  or call 029 20 704 657.

The deadline for applying is 8th June 2017 and applicants must be available to travel from 15th – 22nd July or 22nd – 31st July 2017.

Read our Tall Ships Race Trainees information 2017 v5 with full details of what a Tall Ships event is like.


A CF postcode area is found in Wales and is a group of postcode districts around Aberdare, Bargoed, Barry, Bridgend, Caerphilly, Cardiff, Cowbridge, Dinas Powys, Ferndale, Hengoed, Llantwit Major, Maesteg, Merthyr Tydfil, Mountain Ash, Penarth, Pentre, Pontyclun, Pontypridd, Porth, Porthcawl, Rhoose, Sully, Tonypandy, Treharris, Treorchy.
Successful applicants will need to write a voyage report and blog about their time onboard the boat and be available for publicity. Challenge Wales works hard to secure funding for its activities and any person awarded funding is required to write a thank you to the funder. There is a £35 refundable deposit to reserve a berth, this is refunded once the applicant has started their voyage.

As with all our voyages, our booking terms and conditions apply

Other bursary funding is available for Welsh residents  and UK residents for Tall Ships Racing if you are not eligible for the above.

8 top tips for your DofE Gold Residential

The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award (DofE Award) is the world’s leading youth achievement award for those aged 14 – 24 year olds. With three levels (Bronze, Silver and Gold) the award enables young people to try new things, be inspired, help others and meet new people along the way while building confidence and independence.

The awards have different sections which need to be completed: Physical, Volunteering, Skill and Expedition and an extra section for the Gold Award is the Residential.

So, you’re thinking about your Gold Residential….now what?! We’ve put 8 top tips together to help you!

  1. Where you go and what you do is important – a Gold Residential is a great excuse to get out there and do something really exciting, something different that you’ve never done before – and maybe never thought you would be able to do; something that will challenge you, and something you will remember for the rest of your life!
  2. Don’t limit yourself to the UK, there are plenty of opportunities overseas and an international perspective can give additional benefits. What’s more, this will look great on your CV and a fantastic experience you can talk about in job or university interviews putting you above other applicants.
  3. Base your choice on your interests: eg. helping others in need, or creating new facilities and activities, or learning new skills for yourself.
  4. Wash away those exam cobwebs or workplace blues! It really is the best thing after all that intense brain work!
  5. It’s not just about where you go and what you do – it’s about who you do it with!
  6. This is a chance to meet up with all sorts of people from all sorts of places – young people like you, who are looking for friends, fun and adventure! Many lifelong friends have been made on a residential. They will be a bit nervous, just like you.  They will be wondering if they have made the right choice. They will probably feel a little homesick at first, missing family and friends.  But very soon, they will have made a great new friend – You!
  7. Don’t despair over costs: the DofE Gold Award is well known and respected, you will get support from others to help you achieve your goals – you can raise some extra cash by doing a sponsored event, or applying for bursaries.
  8. Commercial providers can often be expensive – look at registered charities, who will be organising real, worthwhile experiences that you can feel glad to be involved with. As mentioned above, bursaries are sometimes available through some charities to also help you.

Your DofE Gold Residential will be a blast! Now is your chance to make it happen… Whatever it is, you can be sure it will be a positive and memorable experience!

HRH Prince Edward onboard Challenge Wales, before departing for the rest of his Royal visit in Cardiff to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the DofE

Did you know? Challenge Wales | Wales’ Tall Ship is just one of those great opportunities waiting for you to grasp. Challenge Wales is an Approved Activity Provider for the DofE and what’s more provides bursary funding to help young people jump aboard making it even easier to do something fun and exciting for your Gold Residential whether in the UK or overseas.

Look out beyond your horizons and sail away to adventure
for your DofE Gold!


Any of Challenge Wales’ voyages of 5 days or more qualify for Gold Residential , including the Tall Ships Races that Challenge Wales takes part in overseas  AND all these voyages have bursary funding available making it even easier to jump onboard. You just need to apply by contacting Challenge Wales! Don’t miss out! No sailing experience is required to take part in Challenge Wales’ activities.

Another award for Challenge Wales | Wales’ Tall Ship

It was the end to a busy week in Challenge Wales Towers. But what a week it became!

Our first residential of the season was about to start, a 9 day voyage from Cardiff to Lymington on the South Coast. Volunteer crew were getting ready to arrive, the boat had been prepped: fuelled, food onboard, cleaned. Paperwork had been prepared, marinas liaised with in preparation of our visit and emails & phone calls made to marine-based organisations who were also helping us with an educational element to our voyage.  Throw in some forecasted bad weather and contingency plans and yes, it was a busy week.

But before the voyage started there was one evening to be had. It was the South Wales Business Growth Awards 2017 and what was great about this was that Challenge Wales | Wales’ Tall Ship had been shortlisted as a finalist in not just one, but two categories: Innovation AND People Development.  To be a finalist is fantastic news and a great achievement for us. To be a finalist in two categories was amazing!

The Innovation Category  recognises companies who have successfully created innovative products or processes that make a difference – either by developing something new or delivering a significant improvement. There was tough competition and Challenge Wales didn’t win this. However, it was a different story for the People Development category.

The People Development award recognises businesses who put people at the heart of everything they do, enabling and inspiring their team through professional and personal development opportunities and support.  The host of the evening went up on stage with a gold envelope in hand, she leaned forward and said “And, the winner of the People Development Award is…….Challenge Wales”.

Trustees Vicky Williams and Andy Hall accept the award at the Business Growth Awards

WOW!! It was an amazing evening and a brilliant end to the week.

And, what does winning the People Development Award mean?

It is fantastic that a small charity like Challenge Wales gets recognition amongst the business world. It is great that judges have felt we were worthy winners. It is all about those special moments when we see young people develop confidence and skills they didn’t think they had, it is inspiring when we hear that someone we have helped has gone into employment as a result of our programme. But this award wasn’t just about the young people we help but the work we also do to develop volunteers …and it’s our volunteers who make the charity what it is and who have helped us to get this award.

…And then 36 hours later it was a quick change from black tie and posh frocks to deck shoes and waterproof clothes and getting ready for the first youth development college voyage of the year.


If you want to develop your skills with Challenge Wales and are aged 16 – 26 years then get in touch about our residential sail training voyages. If you want to develop yourself as a volunteer, then check our out volunteering pages on our website for more details. Younger than 16 years then join us on our shorter voyages.

The People Development award is the second award to be won in 2017 by Challenge Wales having won “UK Sail Training Vessel of the Year” in January – the highest award in the sail training industry.

Challenge Wales wins UK Sail Training Vessel of The Year Award

We are excited to announce that Challenge Wales, Wales’ Tall Ship, has been awarded the UK Sail Training Vessel of the Year by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) and the Association of Sail Training Organisations (ASTO) at an industry conference in Southampton.

The award is given to a vessel which has had an exceptional year and has fulfilled both the Sail Training aspirations of ASTO plus the seamanship and safety requirements for the MCA. The award looks at good management, the sail training programme, innovations in the types of young people groups working with us, maintenance management and how results are measured.

For Challenge Wales to win this award is a fantastic accolade to our volunteers, who donate so much of their time to volunteer with us, supporters and staff and a great start to 2017.  YAY!!!!!

Sir Alan Massey (left), CEO of MCA presenting award to Vicky Williams and Andy Hall from Challenge Wales. Pic credit: Max Mudie / ASTO

Challenge Wales works with a wide range of groups and in 2016 has developed its sail training programme to include accreditation in Teamwork. Sail training opportunities are available for those aged 12 – 25 years regardless of their background. Challenge Wales works with young people in schools, colleges and as part of their DofE Award, and also works with those who are particularly disadvantaged and need additional support to jump aboard.

Challenge Wales announced as finalist in South Wales Business Growth Awards

Being a charity means working hard all year round to continue to make a difference. Recruiting and training volunteers, identifying funding sources, planning and delivering fundraising activities, undertaking strategic planning sessions to ensure we are on target towards our vision while understanding external influences outside our control can impact at any moment, working with beneficiaries and youth workers to ensure what we do is meeting the needs of the young people, evidencing activities and report writing for funders, developing ideas, consulting with stakeholders to name a few …..it’s ongoing.

Young carers working towards their Youth Achievement Award on Challenge Wales.

Young carers working towards their Youth Achievement Award on Challenge Wales.

As a visual charity (if you haven’t seen it, we have a big boat), that involves sail training on what is probably Wales’ largest sailing boat and sail training vessel quite often it can be forgotten in what is going on behind the scenes and what it takes to develop our volunteers and develop young people to improve their employment prospects and be seen as leading the way and an authority in sail training.

So it is always a fantastic feeling when we get told we are finalists for an award. As a young charity, it hasn’t happened all that often to be honest, but what a great feeling it was today when we were told we were finalists in not just one, but two categories in the South Wales Business Growth Awards. YAY!!!!

          

The Awards recognise and celebrate achievements across nine key areas of business growth and Challenge Wales | Wales’ Tall Ship is pleased to be shortlisted as a finalist in the Innovation category and the People Development category. Our excitement levels at Challenge Wales HQ are bubbling over, we feel delighted that the hard work of our volunteers, our innovative approach to learning, our positive can-do attitude directed at everyone regardless of their background and ability to improve someone’s own development is being recognised.

Youth development voyages on Challenge Wales

Youth development voyages on Challenge Wales

Sail training is often seen as people just sailing a boat but it is so much more than that; it is empowering, it is about developing teamwork and communication skills, it is about developing leaders, it is using decision making and planning skills, time keeping skills, it is about personal development and improving self-confidence. It is about improving social skills, understanding Welsh culture, wildlife, sustainability, it is about reflecting on one’s life before the voyage and reflection during the voyage in what can be a challenging situation and putting the skills learnt into an everyday situation. It’s about broadening horizons, giving people opportunities, putting a life-changing experience onto a CV. It’s about fun and camaraderie and meeting people from different parts of Wales, the UK and the World and understanding new cultures.  It’s also a nice link that Challenge Wales has been nominated for a business award and we are helping young people to develop skills to help them to get employment. We talked about the above in a previous blog post talked about “What price do you put on a life-changing experience.” It’s certainly worth a quick read!

 

Dophins swimming alongside Challenge Wales

Dolphin Watching off West Wales onboard Challenge Wales. The charity is also part of a Citizen Science [climate change] project to measure plankton levels using onboard equipment

It is great to be a finalist in what is often dominated by commercial companies, who aren’t charities themselves. Even small charities, like us, should be shouting about what they do and their individual successes (even when human resources are really limited!) as being shortlisted can only help raise awareness of the work they do.
Being shortlisted for an award is a fantastic end to a fantastic Challenge Wales year!


The announcement of the finalists of the South Wales Business Growth Awards 2017 will be on Thursday 2nd March 2017 in Cardiff. 

A look back at 2016

Well, 2016 has certainly been a memorable year for Challenge Wales | Wales’ Tall Ship and before 2017 knocks on our porthole, we wanted to take a quick look back at the year. If you have missed some of our blog posts this year then we’ve linked some of them into the below too!

January and February
The beginning of the year is the time for training our volunteers and taking time out of sailing to undertake maintenance as part of our Planned Maintenance Programme. It’s often a cold, but fun and busy time of the year.

March
Challenge Wales  was a finalist in the South Wales Business Growth Awards in the Innovation category and although didn’t win was awarded Highly Commended. The same week Challenge Wales was awarded its largest grant to date to develop its accredited learning ‘Voyages of Discovery’ Programme – a 3 year programme of activities for disadvantaged young people.

April
Trialled a SEA and TELL programme – enabling those under 12 years old to come onboard. Although there is no sailing involved, the young people get to meet the Skipper, try winching, learn about the boat, see where everyone sleeps and to try out the bunks themselves and ask the Skipper & volunteers lots and lots of questions.

April saw the first of many residential youth voyages. One of our residential voyages over Easter had long lasting implications for one trainee who used it to turn his life around and break the cycle of unemployment he was in.

In April, we were also shouting at the television encouraging our London Marathon Fundraiser Runner to make it to the finish line. Well done for the amazing effort & commitment!

May
Challenge Wales continued with crew training and undertook the first of two ‘Sailing by the Stars’ voyage. Non-stop sailing which also involved seeing the International Space Station! (Yes, we did wave to you Tim Peak!). 2016 was Visit Wales’ ‘Year of Adventure‘ with the aim of putting Wales on the adventure map and we certainly provided some great Welsh adventures this year onboard.

Sailing by the stars

Sailing by the stars

June
Challenge Wales’ sail training season began and we were excited to be one of the Tall Ships as part of the Seafair Haven Festival in West Wales. Lots of local young people had the opportunity to jump onboard. West Wales is also a great place for dolphin watching!

Dophins swimming alongside Challenge Wales

Dolphin Watching off West Wales onboard Challenge Wales

July
Challenge Wales took part in its fundraiser Round the Island Race. A race against over 1,500 other boats of all shapes and sizes. It’s a day that adults can jump aboard Challenge Wales and experience big boat racing, while helping to support the charity. Challenge Wales beat the other Challenge 72’s (boats like us!) and then Challenge Wales headed to Antwerp to take part in the Tall Ships Races – one of the largest cultural youth events in Europe! We picked up a trophy along the way and an environment award – Yay! While the boat was working with young people in sunnier climes, our shoreside team spent a few days talking to visitors at the slightly rainier Bridgend County Show...meeting young people, adults and potential volunteers!

Taking Wales to Belgium, Spain and Portugal for Tall Ships Racing

Taking Wales to Belgium, Spain and Portugal for Tall Ships Racing

August
Over the summer we sailed almost 4,000 miles from Antwerp to Lisbon, crossing the Bay of Biscay, Lisbon to Cadiz (Southern Spain) and re, Cadiz to A Coruna (Northern Spain)…and all with young people onboard who met other young people from all over the world at the Tall Ships Events we were taking part in. A first was having a whale breach alongside the boat! We also celebrated International Youth Day on 12th August amongst young people from all over the world in A Coruna as part of the Tall Ships Races. We then headed back to the UK to take part in Small Ships Racing with other sail training vessels from the UK. August was also the month that our Youth Development Officer started – a role funded by the Big Lottery, and the month we welcomed hundreds of people onboard at the Cardiff Harbour Festival when we returned back to our home port after our summer adventure.

September
Many young people jumped aboard Challenge Wales throughout 2016 to take part in their Gold Residential DofE (Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Scheme) and as an Approved Activity Provider for the DofE, we were excited to say ‘Ahoy’ to one of the Trustees of the DofE charity, His Royal Highness Prince Edward. We took him for a sail and he was shown the ropes by some of the young people we have had aboard this year.

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

November
A Sixtieth Anniversary celebration of the DofE was held at Westminster Abbey in the presence of the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Edward and the Countess of Wessex as well as celebrities, such as Philip Schofield, Charlie Boorman, Astronaut Chris Hadfield, Comedian John Culshaw, DofE volunteers and award holders of the DofE. A trustee of Challenge Wales, who is also a DofE Gold Award holder, was invited to attend and it was great we could be part of this very special event…and get a mention in the special Diamond Anniversary celebration booklet!

December
As the year comes to an end we get the phone call to say we are finalists in the South Wales Business Growth Awards in not just one but TWO categories, Innovation and People Development. Being a finalist is a great achievement but we will need to wait a few months until we find out whether we have won.

When we look back on the year we can’t believe or volunteers donated almost 14,000 hours of their time – amazing! We celebrated this achievement with a volunteer event in December in….Santa’s post office! Where else could you host a festive celebration event!

With 2017 on the horizon we’re looking forward to new stories, welcoming new volunteers as well as familiar faces back to the Challenge Wales fold, helping more young people achieve more, offering accredited voyages for the first time and raising awareness of sail training and its benefits throughout Wales and beyond.

We still need more support to do what we would like to do and fund those who need a bit of extra help to jump aboard, but we wouldn’t be where we are today with the support from businesses, funders, young people, group leaders, volunteers, donors and trustees.

Happy New Year and we hope you will continue to follow our journey in 2017!


To learn more about Challenge Wales’ youth work, adventure voyages, Tall Ships programme, bursary scheme, volunteering opportunities or how you can support Wales’ Tall Ship visit www.challengewales.org

Celebrating Volunteers

Where did the year go, and what a year it has been for Challenge Wales | Wales Tall Ship!

Without it’s volunteers, the Challenge Wales sail training charity wouldn’t be the charity it is today and wouldn’t have been able to deliver the life-changing experiences it gives to young people.

To say thank you to our amazing volunteers we held a festive Volunteers Evening on 1st December 2016 in…..Santa’s Post Office, Mermaid Quay, Cardiff Bay.  Well, where else would you host a festive celebration event!

santas-post-officeIt was an opportunity for volunteers to meet each other, for new volunteers to speak to our long term volunteers and for volunteers to meet the Challenge Wales Trustees and shore-side team.

santas-post-office-fireplaceAppreciating, and recognising, the value of volunteers’ contributions is really important to the Trustees of Challenge Wales – and this event was one way of doing that.  Amazingly, Challenge Wales volunteers had donated almost 14,000 hours of their time to the charity in 2016 alone – a huge achievement in itself.

challenge-wales-final-group

Thank you to our volunteers and supporters and here’s to an even better 2017.

And now that Christmas is truly on the horizon it is time for the Challenge Wales Trustees to write their Christmas list to Santa and hope he brings some new equipment and funding to help us reach even more young people next year!

Interested in joining us for our festive voyage on 27th December – ‘Yule’ find more information here: http://wp.me/p10gm1-bE


For further details on Santa’s Post Office in Cardiff Bay and how to visit it click here. Challenge Wales is looking for additional sailing volunteers to add to its current volunteer base for its 2017 voyages, why not come and join us!