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

 

Amazing Start for Challenge Wales in Tall Ships Races 2018

At the Tall Ships Races 2018 prize giving ceremony in Sunderland, Challenge Wales won the Social Media Award followed by an impressive start in the first leg of the Tall Ships Races.

Challenge Wales uses social media to engage with supporters, funders, parents/guardians, young people and volunteers. It’s a engaging way for us to try and capture some of the impact we are having, keep people updated on what we are doing and share our successes. Winning a drone as the prize was fantastic and something we’d wanted for a while. Having seen the Volvo Ocean Race onboard reporters using drones spectacularly at sea we wondered if we were a bit ambitious in even thinking it was going to fly and then return back to us (at the moment we have had a trial run on the quayside).

A very happy Challenge Wales Skipper sporting his reusable drinks bottle with one of the young people accepting our drone prize

Sunderland hosted a truly spectacular Tall Ships event. Flags and more flags could be seen fluttering in the wind and a great opportunity for photographers to capture some spectacular shots.

Pic courtesy of Sail Training International

In the afternoon of the 14th July, Challenge Wales headed out of the port for the Parade of Sail, and what better way to say goodbye to Sunderland. With spectacular square riggers, that Captain Jack Sparrow would be proud of, smaller vessels dressed with flags, seeing the International Tall Ships fleet sail out watched by thousands of people from shore is truly memorable.

Pic courtesy of Liam McCormick Photography

At 1945hrs we started our race and impressively were the first boat in our Class (Class C) to cross the start line. With young people onboard Challenge Wales and going straight into a night sail would certainly be a team bonding event.

By morning (15th July) Challenge Wales was in light airs in the wrong direction which are conditions that Challenge Wales doesn’t perform her best in but even so, she is still making a strong effort being 6th in Class and 6th for Line Honours.

The Tall Ships Races is one of the largest youth and cultural events in Europe and an event whose impact can’t be underestimated. It’s youth work in action and with no fewer than 8 different nationalities onboard Challenge Wales for this first leg it’s an experience that will be life-changing for many.

You can track Challenge Wales when she is racing here: http://yb.tl/tsr2018#

Don’t forget you can keep up to date with our adventures on twitter, facebook, instragram and linkedin. So give us a like or a retweet and show your support!


 

Turn the Tide on Plastic Skipper Helps Launch Environmental Project

Volvo Ocean Race skipper, Dee Caffari helped launched Challenge Wales’ Environmental Project at the Volvo Ocean Race Village, Cardiff Bay.

Dee Caffari Challenge Wales Volvo Ocean Race Village

On 31st May, guests and volunteers turned up initially onboard Challenge Wales for a tour of the vessel,  before heading off to the eco-lounge in the Volvo Ocean Race village to hear Dee’s stories of adventure, the fight against the tide of plastic that is infiltrating even the remotest parts of the world and to hear more about the accredited learning opportunities and life-changing work that the Challenge Wales charity provides. With compostable cups holding tea and coffee in hand, everyone listened intently to what Dee had to say.

The Environmental Project is the latest addition to the Challenge Wales programme to give young people who participate on sailing days and voyages an opportunity to get an accredited qualification to add to their CV, while improving a host of life-skills through the process of hands-on big boat sailing and its development is part of the charity’s Voyages of Discovery Big Lottery funded project.

As skipper of Turn the Tide on Plastic the 65ft Volvo Ocean Race yacht, which is enjoying a stopover at Cardiff, Dee is trying to educate people about the danger of disposable plastics and the effect they are having on the seas and the wildlife. “During the race we have been carrying out a science project to measure microplastics in the oceans. There were microplastics present in the most southerly part of the Southern Ocean! The problem is that you can’t see it, but it is everywhere, and everything in the food chain is affected. The potential health implications are enormous” she said at the launch.

Challenge Wales has been undertaking other environmental initiatives over the years including being part of a global citizen science project and measuring plankton levels, bringing science to life with experiences, working with the warden on Lundy Island to understand ecosystems. Challenge Wales has also worked with both Cardiff and Plymouth universities on marine-related activities.

Pic credits: Bekoh Photography

 

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 (as part of our Big Lottery Funded project Voyages of Discovery) 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.

Tall Ships Racing 2018

Nominate someone for a Tall Ships adventure

As Challenge Wales prepares its season, the sail training charity is on the hunt for 13 young people to take up one of its fully funded places in either the spectacular Tall Ships Races or the Three Festivals Tall Ships Regatta this year and is encouraging those aged 16 – 25 years to apply.

The award-winning charity already operates a bursary scheme to subsidise all UK residents to take part in its activities however, extra funding is enabling Challenge Wales to offer eight fully funded places, to those living in a CF postcode area across two of its nine day Tall Ships legs this summer which will sail from Denmark to Norway and race from Norway to the Netherlands onboard Challenge Wales | Wales’ Tall Ship. You can find out more by reading our Tall Ships Races Information pack.

A further five fully funded places are available on the charity’s smaller vessel Adventure Wales which will be participating in the Three Festivals Tall Ships Regatta, a 10 day experience, racing from Liverpool to Dublin before returning to Cardiff. You can find our more by reading our Three Festivals Tall Ships Regatta Information Pack.

Fully funded berths are going to be offered to those young people who are nominated and are truly deserving of a place onboard for an amazing life-changing adventure. Young people can nominate themselves or ask a teacher, parent/guardian, employer, relative or group leader to nominate them.

Successful applicants will be joining the rest of the crew and racing against other Tall Ships from the international Tall Ships fleet and will be representing Wales and the UK at these spectacular events, and no sailing experience is required to take part.

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! There is 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, employees, 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 reservations@challengewales.org  or call 029 20 704 657.

Due to Easter holidays and some nominations not being eligible we have extended the deadline for applications to 10th May 2018 and applicants must be available to travel from 27th May – 5th June (for the Liverpool-Dublin-Cardiff voyage) or 20th – 28th July (for Denmark – Norway voyage) or 28th July – 5th August (for Norway to Netherlands voyage).


Read more information about both the Tall Ships Race 2018 and The Three Festivals Tall Ships Regatta with full details of what the events are 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 as well as completing before and after voyage surveys. 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 after the voyage.

A £50 travel bursary is available for those taking part in the July/August Tall Ships voyages  that involve overseas ports. Participants need to make their own travel arrangements but Challenge Wales can provide guidance on this for those who want to make their own arrangements or direct you to a travel agent we are working with.

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 and you should email Challenge Wales to see what funding is available!

All Aboard as Mate Position is Filled

The only salaried sea-staff position within the Challenge Wales charity has now been filled and we are excited to announce that Shannon has joined the team as Mate, supporting and assisting the Skipper in delivering sail training activities, supervising volunteers, helping to manage the volunteer training programme and taking an active role in the refit/maintenance programme.

She joins at an exciting time as the charity has also recently acquired a second vessel.

In between servicing some of the winches onboard Challenge Wales today we asked Shannon a couple of questions about her now job and aspirations. Shannon said: “I applied to be the Mate at Challenge Wales because I wanted to be a part of the incredible work the charity does. A few years ago I joined as a trainee on board but didn’t realise at the time it was the start of many sailing adventures! I’m excited to now be able to contribute to other’s positive experiences and inspire young people to follow a different path in life. My goal is to progress to working as Skipper for the charity in the future and I am most looking forward to expanding my knowledge of boat systems and engineering.”

Challenge Wales is keen to support more women to get into the sail training/ marine industry and a few months ago was part of the Only Girls Afloat initiative by RYA Cymru. Challenge Wales is also running two ladies only voyages on 23rd June and 2nd September.

 

We’re recruiting: Full Time Mate

As the Challenge Wales sail training charity expands we have a fantastic full time opportunity arising for someone who has the right sailing experience and wants to help young people develop their potential.

The Mate is a key role in supporting and assisting the Skipper in delivering the services of Challenge Wales. Most of the work Challenge Wales does is sail training; helping young people develop life skills through adventure sailing. Our voyages take us over the Welsh horizon to other parts of the UK as well as overseas. For the right person, this opportunity is perfect for adding onto your sailing or youth work CV. You will also be involved with the refit/maintenance programme and supervising volunteers during this activity.

This role has been created as the Challenge Wales charity is supported by the European Regional Development Fund through Welsh Government and through the Social Business Growth Fund, which is managed by WCVA (Wales Council of Voluntary Action).

Read more about the Mate role including job description and how to apply…

Closing Date: 3pm, Wednesday 24th January 2018

If you don’t have the experience to apply for the above role then there could still be an opportunity for you, why not become one of our volunteer crew?

 

 

TV Appearance for Wales’ Tall Ship

In May 2017, before Challenge Wales, Wales’ Tall Ship set sail for her adventurous summer the former MP Michael Portillo stepped onboard for some filming in Cardiff Bay for his Great British Railway Journeys.

OK, Challenge Wales isn’t a train but Michael was filming in Cardiff as his railway journey brought him to the departure point for Scott’s ill-fated, but most famous, expedition to the Antarctic. Scott’s adventure was onboard a Tall Ship so it was a perfect match that Wales’ Tall Ship, and Wales’ largest sail training vessel, was available to welcome Michael and his film crew onboard.

Although it felt like the wettest day of the year, Michael spoke to volunteers and young people about Tall Ships Races and sail training adventures before hoisting the sails and taking the helm.

We weren’t the only boat on Cardiff Bay during filming, our friends at Cardiff Sea Safaris were there behind the scenes and we’d like to thank Cardiff Sea Safaris for helping us out during filming and providing a high speed boat for some off-boat shots.

The Great British Railway Journeys programme featuring Challenge Wales is airing on BBC2, 6.30pm on Tuesday 9th January 2018 and will be available on BBC iPlayer for a short time afterwards.    It’s great that the programme is airing in 2018 which Welsh Government/Visit Wales have themed as ‘Year of the Sea’!

See you on the water!

Photo: Michael Portillo with Challenge Wales volunteers and young people (pic courtesy of Boundless Productions)

 

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.

 

 

40 knot winds and exhilarating sailing

Ex-hurricane Gert was going to create some windy conditions in the UK and this would mean exciting sailing on the horizon for Challenge Wales crew and trainees.

After a crew change in Amsterdam we left in light airs, engine on, to Boulogne, France. We motored non-stop through the night and at times with the very quiet chugging of the engine we craved some decent wind. But it gave an opportunity for those who were sailing for the first time (ever) an opportunity to learn the boat and gain confidence in helming.

An important part of when we visit ports is to explore and learn. We enjoy experiencing new cultures and that is exactly what we did that evening, enjoying a well-earned meal ashore in a quiet picturesque village although after a short walk around we were particularly drawn to one menu…

 

Les Gallois had arrived in France….or is it Les Welsh?

From France, our next stop would be the UK. It felt like an age since we had been in the UK (we had left Aberdeen on 23rd June) and although we were looking forward to being back in the UK and heading home, deep down there was an unsettling realisation that this was also the end of our amazing summer of adventure Tall Ships Racing.  The winds were starting to change as the UK called. We had to cross the Traffic Separation Scheme in the English Channel and then it was tacking towards Eastbourne.

We spent the evening nestled in Eastbourne and the following day the wind we had craved for certainly showed up!

The Challenge Wales vessel reports into the Challenge Wales office twice a day, every day, and this morning due to the strong winds, which would be on the nose, the Skipper advised that a short sail to Brighton Marina would be in order to break up a long sail to Gosport…..and as we left Eastbourne the winds were getting stronger.

It soon became clear as the winds strengthened that Challenge Wales wouldn’t be able to get into Brighton Marina and we had to stay out at sea. What was to follow was not just challenging and relentless but one of the best sailing experiences we’d encountered in a boat that was built for these conditions and a new-found team that were going to go through a bonding and memorable experience like no other.

Challenge Wales was built for sailing around the world ‘the wrong way’ into the prevailing weather and with the wind on the nose it was a hard beat to get from Eastbourne to Gosport. This is where Challenge Wales came into her own.

Over 40 knots of wind were recorded across the deck, waves were crashing relentless across the boat soaking the crew (if any wet weather sailing clothing manufacturers want to give us some samples to test we’d be more than happy to!), the boat would slam down into the waves…..but with it brought a new found exhilaration and excitement to those onboard. And when it was time for the watches to change over it was with reluctance that those onboard handed the helm over to the next person.

Tired, wet, adrenaline-fuelled and buzzing from what we had all just achieved (it had been a 16 hour experience!) it was 0300hrs by the time we all got into our bunks after being moored up in Haslar Marina, Gosport.

The following day, with the sun shining and a breeze wafting past our banner flags we couldn’t believe the epic adventure we had had the day before and we reflect that we wouldn’t have wanted to have been in any other boat, other than Challenge Wales as she helped us safely cross the high seas.