Almost 3000 miles later, Challenge Wales Returns Home to Cardiff

After almost 50 days away, Challenge Wales is returning home to Penarth today having had an amazing youth-led summer of adventure.

Having left her home port of Penarth Marina in June crewed by young people from Newport, Challenge Wales set sail for the South Coast for an adult fundraiser before heading to Sunderland for the start of the Tall Ships Races which would see us visit Esbjerg (Denmark), Stavanger (Norway), Harlingen (Netherlands) before returning into UK waters.

The rest of the summer would see young people jumping onboard representing no fewer than 10 different nationalities to experience one of the largest cultural, youth events in Europe as we represented Cardiff, Wales and the UK.

Those onboard would be racing, cooking, cleaning and running the boat…often jumping onboard with no experience whatsoever….but that’s fine as our volunteers and sea-staff help show everyone the ropes (literally!)

To get a snapshot of what was being experienced on Challenge Wales take a look at the film that one of our French trainees put together;

Although our summer has been fun, it has been educational which underpins all our activities.

From making ourselves more plastic aware and doing a litter pick at one of the ports we stopped at, to developing teamwork and communication skills, meeting young people from all over the world and understanding and accepting different cultures, to working in watches and strict routines, to broadening horizons and developing confidence and making new friends through adventure – It’s sail training in action. We are also proud to have given every young person who joined us a reusable drinks bottle to use during the voyage and to take home afterwards in our efforts to educate young people on the damage one-use plastic is doing to the environment.

49 young people have jumped onboard over the last few weeks, some were doing their Gold DofE, some were wanting to put something different onto their CV, some were onboard as they were deserving of a place and had been nominated for the experience while others were onboard working on an accredited environmental project. What was really good to see was that some of the young people who booked onto one leg, asked to stay on for the next voyage…so we must be doing something really special for that to happen!

What also made the Tall Ships Races exciting was not just the range of weather conditions from no wind to 35 knots, sailing non-stop through the night in watches or seeing a whale (albeit briefly), was that the Tall Ships fleet were trackable so parents, families and friends could follow our progress from home. With regular updates on twitter too, it really felt that you were there experiencing it with the young people!

Did you know that Challenge Wales volunteers helped deliver our summer adventures and this year amazingly 21 volunteers donated collectively almost 250 days of their time to make our overseas summer voyages happen?

And, with Wales’ sail training charity heading towards its 10th birthday next year, who knows what other exciting adventures are on the horizon and will be shared. #SharetheAdventure

Challenge Wales arrives into Harlingen at the end of the Tall Ships Races 2018. Pic courtesy of Sail Training International

 

Adventure Wales Wins Environment Award

Not only has it been our first voyage in Adventure Wales but she has picked up her first award too!

It’s been a week of firsts for Adventure Wales. Her first proper voyage adventuring around the Welsh coast and into England, her first visit to Neyland in West Wales,, her first visit to Aberystwyth, her first visit to Pwllhelli, her first visit to the City of Liverpool, her first group of trainees onboard, her first Tall Ships event but the icing on the cake was being publicly told at the Tall Ships awards ceremony in Liverpool  that Adventure Wales had won the Environment Award. YAY!!!!

The Challenge Wales charity has put sustainability at the heart of its sail training programme. A few years ago the charity started measuring plankton as part of a global citizen science project, we’ve had microscopes onboard looking at what is under the surface of the water, we’ve looked at our own recycling systems onboard our vessels, identified how we can link into other marine action plans to help the environment, we’re currently waiting for our first order of reusable water bottles to give every young person as we aim to ban one-use water bottles coming onboard (this creates a great talking point with young people and adult guests onboard) and more recently we have developed an accredited learning programme around an environmental project which we hope will inspire our young people to help us all do our bit for the planet.

Adventure Wales in the Tall Ships Crew Parade (Pic courtesy of Sail Training International | Valery Vasilevsky)

The Environmental Award was won by Adventure Wales for its environmental commitment and is a great recognition for the environmental focus the vessel and the charity have taken.

Sail Training International Race Director, Paul Bishop said: “Protecting the marine environment is more important today than it ever has been with the immense levels of plastic pollution in all the world’s oceans today. The Environmental Award went to a vessel which has environmental stewardship education as part of their on board training.”

As a charity it is great for Adventure Wales to be recognised publicly for the work that the Challenge Wales charity is doing in this area.

And this award couldn’t have come at a better time!!! In a couple of days time the Volvo Ocean Race fleet races into Cardiff and on 31st May we are welcoming Dee Caffari, Skipper of Turn the Tide on Plastic onboard Challenge Wales that will be moored within the Volvo Ocean Race village. Although we are wanting to talk to her about our sustainability actions and of course our newly won Environment Award, we can’t wait to ask her about her adventures and ask her some questions too!!

The Tall Ships Regatta, organised by Sail Training International, brings young people from all over Europe together in a spectacular youth and cultural event and the young people onboard Adventure Wales will be representing Wales and the UK. Adventure Wales will race with the fleet before returning back to Penarth on the 5th June 2018.  The race starts in Liverpool and when the event took place previously around a million people turned out for the four-day festive maritime extravaganza.


Read about our sustainability activities here…

Adventure Wales has been supported by the European Regional Development Fund through Welsh Government.

Sailing to take centre stage in Cardiff

Challenge Wales raced in the world’s toughest yacht race, against the prevailing winds, now the next toughest yacht race rolls into town and it shouldn’t be missed!

The Volvo Ocean Race is endurance like no other. Professional teams race against each other around the world facing the toughest conditions the oceans can throw at them. It’s endurance, teamwork, adventure, inspiration and challenge rolled into one, and a big one at that.

The event brings the top performers of the sailing world together but you don’t need to be a sailor or interested in sailing to get involved in the event when it rolls into Cardiff this month as the race has an environmental message with it which we can all take something from.

Leg 7, Auckland to Itajai, start day. 18 March, 2018.

The 45,000 mile race now has the end in sight and the next big race-leg is across the Atlantic from Newport (Rhode Island, USA), up the Bristol Channel and into Cardiff (Wales).

Although Challenge Wales is bigger than the Volvo boats, ok only by a few feet, the Volvo yachts are pure racing machines bred for speed and fly through the water in a not-to-be-missed spectacle. This is the first time the race, in its entire history (since 1974) has called into a Welsh port so it is going to be something pretty special.

During the two weeks that the event is in Cardiff, the Race Village is where you need to head to and will be open (free of charge) to the public. Make your way to the Barrage (from either the Penarth or Cardiff end) and follow the crowd and the buzz of excitement that will be wafting through the sea-air. You will be able to get close to the boats and the teams in this carnival-like atmosphere.

Challenge Wales racing in Round the Island Race and will be heading out to greet the fleet into Cardiff

 

There is a strong sustainability message that comes with the race and one we all need to learn from. We hope that this is the legacy that the race will leave. Marine litter is playing a huge part in devastating the oceans and the wildlife that lives there. If you don’t live near the sea you might not realise this. We need to leave the world for the next generation to enjoy and at this rate with rivers clogged with plastic bottles and straws and microplastics getting into some of the remotest parts of the world and into the food chain it is frightening what will happen next. The event is going to help us think about how we can look after the world better than we are doing now. Something as simple as giving up using plastic straws (there are some great non-plastic alternatives out there), can make a huge difference. The event has also made Challenge Wales think about its sustainability activities too. You can also check out our Marine Litter blog.

With around 200,000 visitors expected to descend into the area for the event, there’s going to be an atmosphere like no other.

What not to miss:

  • A visit to Penarth – Although Cardiff is the host port, the seaside town next door is going to be THE place to watch the boats on the water. The cliff top and the promenade will be great options for the in-port race plus there are lots of retail businesses and restaurants waiting to welcome you. And, if you can pick up a copy of the local Penarth View magazine or follow them on twitter it will give you lots of useful information about the town. It’s a great read!
  • The arrival of the boats – Who knows when the boats will arrive? They are due in 27th – 29th May so Challenge Wales | Wales’ Tall Ship is going to go out hunting for them, for three days via Lundy Island, with the aim to be first on the scene. We want to personally welcome Turn the Tide on Plastic boat who we have been following throughout the race. Will they race across the Atlantic really quickly or will winds in the wrong direction hamper progress?
  • A free festival – It’s half term so bring the family out to soak up the race atmosphere in the Race Village and on the Barrage
  • The Race start – on 10th June the boats will depart Cardiff and head off on the next leg of the race. Jump onboard a spectator boat to get as close to the action as you can. Both Challenge Wales and Adventure Wales will be on the water as spectator boats so why not jump aboard, either on your own or with a couple of friends and have a fab afternoon on the water.

Check out the Volvo Ocean Race Cardiff Stopover website for details of what’s going on.
And, don’t forget that we’ll be enjoying the Volvo Ocean Race atmosphere both on and off the water so come and join us. Read more about our Volvo Ocean Race activities and jump aboard.

Volvo Pics courtesy of Jesus Renedo

Pub Quiz raises almost £200!

Move over Mastermind, University Challenge and Eggheads as this week it was the local Penarth pub quiz and a chance to raise money for Challenge Wales.

Teams of regular quizzers as well as volunteers from Challenge Wales came together at the Windsor Pub, Penarth, to test their  knowledge.

As the quizmaster read out the questions, it was heads down and pens to the ready. Faint whispers travelled around the bar & restaurant as we tried to recall our music knowledge from the 1970’s, 80’s and 90’s, guess the pictures round where we realised squinting at the pictures doesn’t really make any difference and put our general knowledge and geography to the test.

Many thanks to the companies and individuals who donated no fewer than 11 prizes for the fundraising raffle including:

The evening raised almost £200 for Challenge Wales and will contribute to the Challenge Wales bursary fund enabling young people to access our youth development opportunities. It’s a big thank you to everyone who took part!

In less than 10 months, the Windsor Pub has raised a whopping £4520 for local charities and whichever charity you are supporting it is certainly a really welcoming, social evening.


The Windsor Pub, Penarth hosts a community quiz the last Tuesday of the month raising funds for local charities. You can book directly with the pub or turn up on the evening.

Plastic Marine Litter on our Doorstep

Marine litter has been a part of Challenge Wales’ sail training adventures over the years. It’s taken teamwork to recover disused fishing nets that were just left bobbing in the sea and deliver them to a local marina, we’ve sailed past thinning, faded, plastic carrier bags and been nestled in marinas where a change of wind direction and raised river levels have created masses of driftwood and ‘drift plastic’ to congregate. Even on a quiet, windless day, white items of plastic including empty drinks bottles, sweet wrappers and straws can be seen floating in Penarth Marina.

Over the last eight months we’ve been researching the unfantastic plastic and marine litter problem to see how we can really make a difference. We’ve been speaking to organisations who are playing their part nationally in Wales so that we know who to feed our findings or research into, we’ve been doing some market research and thinking about how our future actions can link into the bigger picture….and what a big picture it is becoming.

Challenge Wales plays a large educational role within Wales. Not just in alternative curriculum programmes and accredited learning but through our engagement with children and adults within school, college, university and the work place who jump onboard and into our outdoor classroom. In 2018, to underpin our educational programme and youth adventures will be awareness of marine litter and one-use plastic with a particular focus on plastic water bottles. We want to help change thinking in a throw-away society and bring some new conversations to the table and the people, organisations and suppliers we work with.

TV programmes, blogs, newspapers, social media, conversations, radio have been great in raising awareness of the plastics issue but what next?

Like many, we watched the recent BBC programme Blue Planet II, like many (no doubt) we ordered the free Oceans Poster/Educational pack that was advertised after the show to help us learn more about marine life and the issues around microplastics and marine litter, and to share this knowledge with those who come onboard. With anticipation when our pack arrived we ripped open the plastic package it came in, and like many (hopefully) we popped the plastic envelope in our recycle bin. We had assumed it was recyclable, it must be, surely?!

Our plastic envelope had a 5 PP symbol on it. It’s got recycling arrows on it so must be ok to recycle, surely?

And, this is where awareness kicks in. We had assumed a few arrows in a triangle shape had meant it was recyclable and our local council website suggested all plastics can be recycled, but an online search revealed a Grade 5 plastic made from Polypropylene (shown as PP on the envelope) might not be. But surely such a powerful programme about our oceans and the importance of protecting them in which David Attenborough warned that plastic pollution was one issue that was threatening our oceans wouldn’t get the Open University to send out information in a package that was at the heart of the problem?

A quick call to the Open University, who had despatched the information, gave us not quite the answer we were looking for. But they said: “It can’t be recycled in your kerbside collection but you will need to find a supermarket that recycles carrier bags and they should be able to take it”. But if the plastic packaging was in fact recyclable then why did a packet of muffins with exactly the same logo on it have “Currently not recyclable” stamped clearly on the packaging?

So does this mean there are different plastic composites within different plastic packaging so that even with the same symbol some can be recyclable and some can’t?!

 

So, we went and did a teeny weeny bit of market research and showed 16 volunteers our empty plastic envelope that our poster had come in, followed by the unrecyclable muffin pack and pointing out the same logo, followed by putting our Open University/Blue Planet Poster back into the plastic envelope and re-circulating it. Gosh, what a gasp there was. OK it was a small sample size but it was proving a point. The majority thought that the plastic envelope was unrecyclable, with a couple suggesting to check it out with the council as it might be. And, with most thinking it was unrecyclable there was the shock and questions asked as to why was a programme raising awareness of plastic issues providing us with information in an unrecyclable plastic envelope.

It’s an interesting conversation piece! With our local supermarket advising us that they don’t do carrier bag recycling anymore it now looks like the plastic envelope that our Blue Planet/Open University poster came in….is not going to be able to be recycled and the consensus is that it wasn’t recyclable in the first place. But even if it was recyclable with the information we’ve received it was probably going to be disposed of in the refuse with the risk of becoming marine litter/microplastics and contributing to the problem. Can’t all packaging be labelled in the same way to help the consumer, clearly like our Muffins pack?

Challenge Wales is now going to be helping to turn the tide on plastic through our educational and adult programme and having more conversations like this.

Our first step, yes – you can probably guess, is the one-use plastic water bottle. The Challenge Wales charity hasn’t purchased bottled water to go onboard the boat since it’s been operating. We carry our own water (yep that’s a whopping 1,760 litres of it on Challenge Wales and an almost equal amount on Adventure Wales) so we’ll be discouraging (as we progress to banning) everyone from coming onboard with a single use plastic water bottle and, with financial support, our aim is to be able to provide ALL our guests with a refillable water bottle.

This is the start of our own awareness as we bring the conversation of one use plastic and the impact of marine litter to the table.


As of writing this our plastic envelope is sat in the office on the desk as we really hope it is recyclable.

Challenge Wales sail training vessel has Blue Flag Status through Sail Training International. Blue Flag is a programme of the Foundation for Environmental Education and we play our part through our actions and education in protecting our marine environment.

 

 

 

Challenge Wales New Vessel

Charity expands activities with second vessel

We’re excited to announce that we’re expanding our activities following the Challenge Wales charity taking ownership of a second ocean-going vessel.

The 60ft two-masted schooner, currently named Ocean Venture, was built for adventure and over the years she has circumnavigated the world, won First in Class in the famous Round the Island Race, raced in numerous transatlantic activities (including the ARC) and taken part in the international Tall Ships Races. More recently she has been used in outreach work providing teamwork and leadership opportunities with disadvantaged people.

Picture of Ocean Venture courtesy of Ocean Venture
Picture courtesy of Ocean Venture website

The new vessel will enable the Challenge Wales charity (which currently runs Challenge Wales | Wales’ Tall Ship) to expand its sail training activities into North Wales and strengthen the charity’s current activities in West Wales, Ireland and other ports around the UK. As the boat is slightly smaller than the larger Challenge Wales yacht she will be able to explore new ports, marinas and anchorages which were not possible in Challenge Wales enabling more young people to access sail training opportunities.

Sail training is about learning life skills which can build confidence, teamwork and employability skills. During 2017 the charity introduced accredited learning through Agored Cymru which has helped increase the number of young people it currently works with.

The project has been supported by the European Regional Development Fund through Welsh Government and through the Social Business Growth Fund, which is managed by WCVA (Welsh Council of Voluntary Action).

The boat had been based in Cowes, Isle of Wight, and over four days, Challenge Wales volunteers sailed her up to her new port of Penarth, near Cardiff Bay, in time for the New Year. With 2018 being celebrated in Wales as The Year of the Sea, the Challenge Wales charity will be using both vessels to continue to play its part in inspiring and developing young people in what should be an epic year.

 

 

A big THANK YOU to our volunteers

It has been a busy year, as we look back, reflect, reminisce and smile at all the great moments we have had.

But, without our volunteers giving up so much of their time Challenge Wales just wouldn’t be the charity it is. So on Thursday 14th December, we brought many of our volunteers together at our festive Volunteers Evening in Penarth to say thank you and to celebrate our successes.

One of Challenge Wales’ Trustees presents an overview of 2017 to volunteers and guests

It isn’t just the volunteer crew that were thanked but also the shore-side volunteers that have helped within the office, or onboard with maintenance and painting. The evening took a brief look back at everything we had done and my goodness what a lot of amazing stuff we had done!

2017 saw us welcome more young people than ever onboard from North, West, South and Mid Wales. We worked with more young people with learning difficulties and continued to welcome new volunteers into the Challenge Wales fold.

We also used the evening to say thank you to our funders who help ensure we reach the young people that need to be reached.

We look forward to a just as amazing 2018!

If you are inspired to be a Challenge Wales volunteer, then don’t forget to check out our volunteer page on our website.

Welsh plumbing company donates to Challenge Wales

When the Challenge Wales charity moved into their office in Penarth Town Centre they found only half the office had heating.

So one of their volunteers who runs a Newtown-based plumbing business Neil’s Plumbing came to the rescue and helped put the warmth back into the Challenge Wales team….as well as young people, volunteers and clients who visit the office!

It is great seeing support for a Welsh charity from a Welsh business, so a big thank you to Neil and Neil’s Plumbing!

But what made Neil want to give something back and do something for charity?  Neil said: “I am a volunteer crew member on Challenge Wales, I have previously worked for a large charity for many years and had got a little disillusioned with charity’s until I came across Challenge Wales, it was like a breath of fresh air literally, a very open charity that provides a great service to young people. It is amazing that within a one day sail for a young person it can leave a fantastic memory and sometimes life changing experience . I have donated and fitted a few radiators in the new office knowing that the money saved on this will go towards giving a young person a once in a lifetime experience aboard Challenge Wales and I wish the charity all the best.”

If you are thinking about your Corporate Social Responsibility policy or giving to charity, then why not have a friendly chat with Challenge Wales.