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.

A Severn Bridge Spectacle – Last voyage of 2017

With the tallest mast in the South Wales area (by the way it’s 95 feet which is almost the length of three UK double decker buses), going under bridges can be quite a worry….but not if you have calculated it correctly of course.

Luckily, Challenge Wales | Wales’ Tall Ship doesn’t go under many bridges on her sailing voyages but our last sailing voyage of 2017, in November, had the perfect tides, timings and weather to head under the Severn Bridge (connecting England to Wales) and as we had only sailed under the Severn Bridge a couple of times before, why miss this spectacular opportunity.

With the Severn Bridge coming up in the distance, everyone was getting excited. Most people onboard had driven over the Severn Bridge at some point but to see the bridge from underneath was a totally different experience.

Interestingly, and we find this with all bridges we sail under, the closer you get the more you start thinking how low the bridge is and how high the mast is…..as did the guests onboard.

As Challenge Wales sailed closer and closer towards the bridge, a faint muffle of words from someone was quietly heard ‘Do we have enough room to get under the bridge?’ Believe it or not, there was plenty of room for Challenge Wales to easily slip under the Severn Bridge with several metres between the top of the instruments/aerials that sit on the top of the mast and the bottom of the bridge.

For drivers tootling along the bridge, it must have been an interesting sight too.

Sailing under the Severn Bridge gave a welcomed change to our adult big boat sailing days, to charging around the Bristol Channel between Flatholm and Steepholm Islands.

And, we’re hoping the weather conditions will be just as perfect for when we attempt to do it again on Sunday 25th March 2018! Why not come and join us!?

Farewell to the Baltic

After departing Cardiff on 9th June for our summer of adventure, this week was the week that we said goodbye to the last port in the Baltic that was hosting the Tall Ships Race series…..and oh my goodness, what a port that was.

Szczecin (Poland), became the sailing capital of Europe welcoming the Tall Ships fleet for the third time.  From small vessels like Challenge Wales (22 metres in length…and even smaller!) to traditional barques of over 100 metres the fleet arrived over a few days to the shores of the Oder.

Our racing from Klaipeda (Lithuania) to Szczecin had been quite quick enabling Challenge Wales to make its way from the back half of the fleet to the second boat in the fleet with the finish line in sight, although light winds then spread across the fleet which meant some of the larger vessels at the back of the fleet struggled to progress at a favourable pace. We were physically the second boat to cross the finish line and had our highest position yet taking 4th in Class (C). It was well earned by those onboard who had been working 3 hours on and 3 hours off.

As we motored into the City which is around 60km from the sea (!) (we were under instructions not to be too close to the vessel in front) the reason was that each vessel’s national anthem was played (note this was the UK national anthem rather than the Welsh one) which we weren’t expecting. We lowered our ensign and all of us stood on deck. It was a moment that felt quite special for everyone.

Once in port, the shore-side celebrations and events started which was an opportunity for all the crews to meet and share their experiences as well as making new friendships. Crews wearing branded tee shirts mixed with the formality of white sailor suits and trimmed hats.

The infamous international crew parade was a mass of colour, vibrancy, noise and music as we paraded almost 3 miles through the City streets to the Summer Theatre, Poland’s biggest amphitheatre. Representing Wales and the UK we were waved, photographed and cheered on by thousands of onlookers that in some places stood 10 people deep.

One of our trainees said about the crew parade “Walking around the City, waving at the crowds, it was like being famous”

Music and festivities were at the heart of Szczecin Tall Ships Races, spectacular fireworks lit up the sky, the boats glowed in the sparkle and thousands of people could be seen watching from the shore.

pic courtesy of Tall Ships Races Szczecin

Thousands partied at the concert, performers one evening were from ‘The Voice Poland’ while another evening Andrea Bocelli performed, all of which took place just opposite Challenge Wales.

Pic courtesy of Tall Ships Races Szczecin

We also had time to explore….this time underground, in the sprawling tunnel network beneath the city streets that were bomb shelters in the 1940’s. Bringing history to life and enabling visitors not to forget the past.

We saw spectacular sunrises and sunsets which always makes an early morning worthwhile and were amazed at the Szczecin hospitality. We were all made to feel welcome, nothing was too much trouble and if we needed any help or assistance people (in particular a big thank you goes to our lovely Liasion Officers Monica and Aga) couldn’t do enough for us.  We even had fresh bread arriving onboard every day which we all enjoyed eating.

Pic courtesy of Tall Ships Races Szczecin

Catherine who was onboard one of our voyages said “I would encourage anyone who was thinking about taking part in sail training as I believe it has provided me with really valuable skills that I will need in life; for example the ability to form an effective team of people who previously never knew each other.”

Photo of Tall Ships at Tall Ships Races 2017 in Szczcecin
Pic courtesy of Tall Ships Races Szczecin..and yes, that is people around the Tall Ships!

 

At 0645hrs (yes, it really was that early) on Tuesday 8th August we let go of our lines and waved goodbye to a City we truly hope to return to on our travels. One by one the Tall Ships fleet left, we were proudly flying our Welsh flag and as we departed the bellows of horns cut through the air as the larger vessels said goodbye to us.

So after taking part in 3 races, one of which had no wind, our final position was 5th in Class and 18th overall, a great performance as we were crewed by young people with most of them having no sailing experience….and of course that is just one part of what sail training is all about!

Our adventure continues and you can be part of it…


Challenge Wales heads from Szczecin to Amsterdam, then to Gosport before returning to Cardiff for the August Bank Holiday. If you missed out on this year’s activities then why not take part in 2018? Our schedule isn’t released as yet as we are still putting it together but you can sign up to our newsletter if you want to stay in touch. Volunteering opportunities are also available.

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