Epic 3,000 mile fundraising row for Challenge Wales by Cardiff Dad

Stalked by a sea creature, facing 40ft waves and facing sleep deprivation was a challenging and adventurous way to raise vital funds for local sail training charity, Challenge Wales.

Cardiff resident and Challenge Wales supporter, John Solosy set sail in a 28 foot vessel with 3 of his friends in December in a mammoth effort to raise £100,000 for 4 charities, including Challenge Wales.

Faced with fierce storms, being stalked by a 15-foot marlin with a very sharp, sword-like bill, rowing in excess of 1.5 million strokes during the race and eating 7,000 calories a day John had trained for two years for this epic adventure yet five months earlier had knee replacement surgery. Where this might have put off some people, John saw it as physiotherapy that was making a big difference!

Pic credit: The World’s Toughest Row

The team ‘The Big Oardeal’ took part in the World’s Toughest Row and pushed their physical and mental boundaries with remarkable levels of resilience and dedication. The four crewmates (including another John from Cardiff and James & Richard from Norfolk started the race in the Canary Islands and 41 days, 6 hours and 44 minutes later crossed the finish line in Antigua.

So why did John row the Atlantic? John said: “Rowing the Atlantic will be a test unlike anything I have ever attempted. I am fascinated to see how the challenge pushes me emotionally, mentally and physically while still trying to enjoy the beauty of being in the middle of the Ocean. When growing up the outdoors provided a great way to escape from the challenges of being a teenager in the London suburbs and since then I have loved the peace, tranquillity and challenges that the outdoor provides. Challenge Wales provides a unique opportunity for young people to develop their personal skills and life skills in an exhilarating environment, creating truly life-changing opportunities that will not only help the individuals who participate but also those around them. What better charity could there be to align myself to.”

Vicky Williams, Co-Founder and Manager of Challenge Wales said ” From everyone at Challenge Wales, we would like to congratulate the Big Oardeal for their epic achievement of rowing across the Atlantic and raising over £25,000 for the Challenge Wales charity. Myself and the Challenge Wales Team followed their journey every day on social media and on the boat tracker and we gathered ourselves around the laptop to watch them cross the finish line live. We are incredibly grateful for John and his 3 amazing team mates for what they did and their support has never been so important to small charities like us. The funding will help us to enable more disadvantaged young people to have a life-enhancing personal development opportunity through our outdoor education programme at sea. Our programme has a huge impact and helps young people face challenges, improves mental health, enhances teamwork and communication skills, increases their awareness of ocean literacy and improves resilience – although the rowers would have experienced the same on their boat at least when onboard Challenge Wales, we can stop in port and also have fun learning shore-side.

Watch Big Oardeal’s amazing journey here. (courtesy of World’s Toughest Row)

To donate to the Big Oardeal Team and John [Solosy’s] fundraising for Challenge Wales visit; The Big Oardeal’s JustGiving page.

14 Years Young – A Time To Reflect

In March 2009, the Challenge Wales sail training charity launched and over the years the Charity has provided many opportunities to thousands of young people helping them broaden their horizons, giving them the first step into a marine career and helping them develop to their full potential.

Sail training is about developing young people at sea through the development of life skills and it wasn’t anything new when Challenge Wales started out. Sail training on tall ships and small ships happens worldwide (check out Sail Training International who organise the Tall Ships Races for more on that) but having this opportunity in Wales started to open doors to individuals, groups, young people and adults who then saw the impact of sail training and the positive benefits it gives to the individual and subsequently families, employees and society as well as our amazing volunteers.

The flagship vessel; Challenge Wales | Wales Tall Ship and probably the largest sailing yacht in Wales at 72-ft was joined by 60-ft Adventure Wales a few years ago and thousands of young people have jumped onboard between them. Voyages range from one-day accredited youth development and life-skills voyages, to residentials of 2 days, 5 days and up to 17 days. Voyages have seen the boats sail locally within Wales, to Ireland and Scotland and as far a field as Finland, Norway and Southern Spain as part of our youth development work.

Our boats are the vehicle for youth work, and although onlookers may simply see a bunch of people sailing, many of those onboard have faced or are facing challenges in their life. Working as a team, develops confidence and communication skills, we help new leaders flourish, we develop resilient individuals and improve their mental health. The Challenge Wales sail training programme develops based on the needs of young people and over the past 14 years, it certainly has and continues to. We’ve brought science to life through STEM activities, we’ve opened up people’s eyes to ocean literacy and the importance of the ocean and the damage marine litter can cause, we take part in citizen science projects and collaborate where we can.

The Challenge Wales charity though wouldn’t be the charity it is without its amazing super-duper volunteers who crew the boats, help fundraise and assist with maintenance. It’s hard work but the rewards are in the faces of the young people who jump onboard who ‘change’ in front of our eyes as they rise to the challenge and the feedback we get after a voyage.

From representing Wales and the young people of Cardiff at the Queen’s Jubilee Pageant on the Thames in 2012, to winning the UK Sail Training Vessel of the year in 2017 and the international award of Sail Training Organisation of the year in 2019. This is due to the amazing work we do, the impact that we have and all the people involved.

So, why does sail training work? Through our own independent evaluation over 3 years and wider industry research our Theory of Change helps us understand the impact of our activities on our beneficiaries. The benefits of sail training activities are intensified and accelerated (happening quicker than a regular weekly activity); it’s isolated (away from the home) and this can cause behaviours to change – little to no social media, no peer pressure, and participants are living and focussed on the ‘now’; it’s a different experience where socially diverse individuals come together; it’s a real experience – actions have real consequences and a real purpose. Sail training activities in general focus on personal development, social development and skills and through this it engages young people into learning, helps them develop a ‘can-do’ attitude, higher aspirations and in the longer term evidenced to improve wellbeing, improve educational attainment, improve employability prospects and improved long term life chances.

Sail training though requires funding and an income, like any organisation and like any other charity. With the cost of living crisis and Covid seeing some funders change their priorities, more charities requiring funding, and with funders not having enough funding to support everyone that needs it, it is a tough world out there. And, that’s why Challenge Wales opens up its sailing activities periodically for adults and corporates of all (or none) sailing experience to jump onboard for big boat sailing, for racing, for opportunities to improve their sailing confidence and skills and for leadership activities. With all profits being donated to the Challenge Wales charity it’s a great way to support a charity on your own or with friends while having fun.

Who knows what this year, next year or the next 14 years will bring. But if you want to be part of this journey as a volunteer, young person, business, supporter or friend of Challenge Wales then please do get in touch. Your involvement will really make a big difference.

But don’t just take our word for it, we thought we would ask what others thought about us over the years, so take a peak below. Happy Sailing and Fair Winds!

Paul Glaze, CEO of Council Of Wales Voluntary Youth Service (CWVYS): “Challenge Wales was one of the first organisations I visited when I started at CWVYS. That occasion has stayed with me for several reasons: I encountered Vicky Williams’s [Trustee] passion and commitment to the Challenge Wales cause; learned how a group of incredibly hardworking volunteers turned their spare time spent on corporate ventures into invaluable, transformational and mainly free of charge opportunities for young people. Oh, and Challenge Wales applied for, and were successful in achieving, CWVYS Membership – and they continue to be valued Members still.

Since then, we have been delighted to see how Challenge Wales has expanded and grown whilst remaining true to its youth work roots: supporting the personal and social development of young people from across Wales and developing key partnerships with voluntary youth work organisations and with local authority youth work teams. In addition, Kerry Rees [Challenge Wales Youth Development Officer] is a hugely active and supportive member of CWVYS activities: as Vice-Chair of our Workforce Development Group and Safeguarding sub-group plus attendance at our Regional Group meetings – ensuring that the strategic and operational links are maintained and strengthened.

Happy 14th Birthday, teenage Challenge Wales!

Challenge Wales is a great youth development organisation. Why?

Lieutenant Nick Woodhouse, School Staff Instructor said: “Challenge Wales has helped to ensure that our pupils here at Treorchy Comprehensive School have independent and interdependence learning skills through outdoor learning, used in a range of ways, this enriches the curriculum and makes learning fun, meaningful and relevant for young people. Outdoor learning projects ‘cynefin’ deliver sustainable development, each outdoor learning opportunity allows children and young people the chance to explore new places and share experiences whilst working with others.”

To find out more, you can email the Challenge Wales team or call the office on 029 20 704657

Half Marathon Fundraising

Challenge Wales Trustee, Vicky Williams, is brushing off her running shoes and fundraising on Sunday 2nd October in the Cardiff Half Marathon to raise funds for Challenge Wales.

COVID has reduced the number of voyages operating this year and with the cost of living increases, Challenge Wales knows that it is going to need to raise more funds to enable more people to tap into its bursary scheme. The bursary scheme enables young people to have some of their voyage fees paid for them making access to Challenge Wales’ services easier.

“The impact of Challenge Wales’ activities has literally turned lives around” said Vicky. “One of our case studies is Jimmy: Jimmy went on a 5 day voyage with Challenge Wales. At the time he was struggling with drug addiction, no motivation and hanging around with the wrong people. During the 5 day voyage a huge change was seen in Jimmy. The voyage allowed him to escape negativity and with the supportive, positive, crew helping him to achieve. Jimmy said on the last day of his voyage he wanted to turn his life around. In the last 12 months Jimmy has now done that. He has moved away from drugs, he has cut out negativity in his life and volunteers to help the homeless. Jimmy came back to Challenge Wales for a 1 day voyage (14 months after his first voyage) to show the Challenge Wales crew how much he changed since his first voyage and show the impact of sail training. Jimmy thanked the Challenge Wales team for giving him a second chance.”

Anyone wishing to donate to Challenge Wales, and sponsor Vicky, can visit the JustGiving page here. And, if you are on the Cardiff Half Marathon course, keep your eye out for Vicky and give her and all the other runners a cheer and a wave.

More case studies on the impact of sail training on Challenge Wales can be found here.

There’s FUN in our FUNdraising

It was a day of fundraising on the water as Challenge Wales joined no fewer than 1,116 boats that had entered the iconic Round the Island Race.

A Race, around the Isle of Wight, that started in 1931 with just 25 boats, it has now become one of the largest yacht races in the world and a fantastic spectacle to watch from the water or the land.

Round the Island Race brings in much needed funds into the Challenge Wales charity and while adults onboard, who have paid for a berth, are having fun racing, by racing they are actually supporting young people to come on board for our youth development activities, which takes learning outside the classroom and out to sea, as all profits go to directly support the Challenge Wales charity.

For some it was their first time racing but the teamwork, communication, leadership, resilience and comraderie that is required in a race is exactly what is needed onboard Challenge Wales when sailing with young people. Throw in whatever the weather is going to bring and a sprinkle of fun and jumping onboard our boat, into sometimes the unknown, becomes a fantastic, memorable experience.

Challenge Wales was racing against two other Challenge 72’s and beat them across the finish line, being the 35th boat in the race to finish and finishing in a time of 6 hours 31 minutes and 31 seconds, one of her quickest times.

Challenge Wales is no stranger to racing as although she raced around the world twice, her youth work activities take her overseas Tall Ships Racing where she is crewed by 16 – 25 year olds as well as Small Ships Racing in the UK.

Of those onboard were four young people, aged 18 – 25, who were part of the team, all of whom had sailed before on Challenge Wales on previous one day or longer residential voyages.

With COVID restrictions stopping us taking part in this event in 2020 and 2021 it is a big thank you to everyone who jumped onboard to make Round the Island Race a special one for us!

To check out some of the highlights from the day (and Challenge Wales does make a couple of appearances) check out the highlights video here.

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If you are interested in joining us for an adult voyage, corporate activity or you are wanting to learn more about our youth work and young persons outdoor education programme then visit www.challengewales.org

Run For Us In The Virtual London Marathon

Are you ready to take on the virtual Virgin Money London Marathon for #TeamChallengeWales and by doing so support more young people to participate in our life-changing youth development programme?

The London Marathon is one of the most iconic running events in the world and now it’s your turn to be part of its history.

When: Sunday 3rd October 2021
Where: Anywhere
Start / Finish of event: 00:00hrs – 23:59:59hrs (BST)

This year the Virgin Money London Marathon is set to be the world’s largest marathon with 100,000 participants. 50,000 taking part on the streets of London (in the traditional London Marathon from Blackheath to the Mall) and 50,000 taking part around the world in the virtual London Marathon.

You can join us on the course of your choice; round your neighbourhood, through Cardiff, Plymouth or Aberdeen, it’s your choice, it’s your course. You will have almost 24 hours to run, walk or jog the 26.2 miles which makes the virtual Virgin London Marathon really achievable for all abilities.

Registration Fee: £20
Sponsorship Pledge: £200

The Sponsorship Pledge is the minimum amount of sponsorship (not including Gift Aid) we would like our virtual London Marathon runners, joggers and walkers to aim to achieve although it can be more than this.

To help you achieve the distance, the London Marathon app will help you bring the virtual experience to life, with an exclusive audio commentary featuring famous voices!

How to sign up and be part of #TeamChallengeWales
If you would like to join #TeamChallengeWales and be part of the Virtual London Marathon then please APPLY HERE.
We will then be in touch to advise how to pay your registration fee and then we will help you set up your fundraising page for donations. Please note we have 5 virtual places for the 2021 London Marathon and runners need to be registered by 16:00hrs 16th July 2021
We will then promote your fundraising page on our social media channels and website to help you raise even more! It’s that simple.

If you would like to speak to us about a virtual place then please email the office.

If you’ve got your own place in the Virgin Money London Marathon why not run for Challenge Wales?

How money raised will help disadvantaged young people?
Challenge Wales is a predominantly volunteer-run charity that works with disadvantage young people enabling them to develop their life skills to improve their potential and prospects in life. Our activities at sea onboard our two sail training vessels develop teamwork skills, communication skills, improve self-confidence and improve mental health. Skills that are necessary to help young people move into work, education or training. Your donations and sponsorship will enable Challenge Wales to continue its programme of voyages and work with more young people who need focus and direction and opportunities to help them to succeed. To find out more, why not read some of our case studies.

Captain Tom 100 image

Captain Tom 100 Challenge: Be part of the legacy and support Challenge Wales

In April 2020, Captain Tom inspired the nation by walking 100 laps around his garden for the NHS. Now, you can build on that legacy from 30th April – 3rd May as people from all over the world fundraise for their favourite charities including Challenge Wales.

What is the Captain Tom 100?
It would have been Sir Captain Tom Moore’s 101st birthday on Friday 30th April 2021. To mark this date and as part of the legacy, the Captain Tom 100 is about getting people to dream up a fundraising activity based on ‘100’ between 30th April and 3rd May 2021. It can be any activity as long as it complies with Government guidelines at the time.

How to get involved in the Captain Tom 100
Make up a challenge based on 100 at any time during Captain Tom’s birthday weekend (30th April – 3rd May). To help you, we’ve come up with some ideas:
* Walk 100 metres
* Bake 100 vegan cookies
* Cycle 100km’s
* 100 keepy uppies
* Go up and down your stairs 100 times
* Read 100 pages of your favourite book
* Pick up 100 pieces of litter
* 100 minute silence or 100 minutes telling jokes!

Once you have thought up your Captain Tom 100 fundraising challenge for Challenge Wales, you can set up a fundraising page here with JustGiving or a fundraising page here with VirginMoneyGiving. Both fundraising platforms link directly to Challenge Wales and will enable Challenge Wales to support disadvantaged young people on their outdoor learning skills development programme.

Then shout about your fundraising on social media using #CaptainTom100 and encourage others to support and sponsor you. Remember to share your fundraising links as far as you can!

Need some more inspiration? Download a list of 100 ideas to get you started.

Why should I support Challenge Wales?
Challenge Wales supports young people through its outdoor learning programme. By taking young people to sea, regardless of their background or ability, Challenge Wales helps develop the life skills and employability skills of young people to improve their prospects. Since March 2020 the Charity has been unable to operate due to COVID but knows it will play a part in a post-covid world particularly as its activities are shown to improve the mental health and wellbeing of young people. Money raised will ensure we can reach out to young people who would benefit from our services. If you aren’t able to take part in a fundraising event but would like to make a secure donation you can also do that here.

2 Minutes To Make A Difference

Coronavirus (COVID-19) has stopped many smaller charities in their tracks. But you can make a difference to Challenge Wales today, by nominating the charity for a £1,000 grant.

Challenge Wales needs 2 minutes of your time to help us get a grant from Movement for Good and your nomination will really count.

You will be nominating Challenge Wales for a chance to win a £1,000 grant to enable us to help young people improve their education, life skills and employability prospects. At this time, £1,000 will really make a big difference to Challenge Wales and the life-changing work we undertake with young people.

Nominating Challenge Wales couldn’t be easier:
* Visit: https://www.movementforgood.com/#nominateACharity
* Nominate ‘Challenge Wales’ using our Charity Number: 1111859

Your nomination could be the one that helps us win the £1,000 grant! By the way, you can only enter once (per email address)!

The more nominations we get, the greater our chance of winning, so please spread the word.

Nominations close on Sunday 24th May 2020, so we encourage you to vote as soon as possible. It will cost you nothing to help us, except 2 minutes of your time to nominate us.

Thank you so much for your support 🙂

Round the Island Race Success

A 5.00am wake up call, a 5.30am departure from the pontoon and a 6.30am race start didn’t dampen spirits on Challenge Wales | Wales’ Tall Ship today, and after just over 11 and  a half hours Challenge Wales crossed the finish line in the famous Round the Island Race.

In what is the largest yacht race, with over 1,200 boats taking part and with around 10,000 participants taking to the water it really is  a spectacle like no other whether you are onboard or in the crowds watching and, if you are not doing either of those then following the fleet on the website race tracker can be pretty addictive too.

An early start for Challenge Wales crew means seeing a lovely sunrise

Challenge Wales, as a Class 0 vessel, was in the first group to start and as the cannon went off (fired with the press of a button by Dame Ellen MacArthur) it was a moment of excitement for everyone. For some of those on Challenge Wales it was their first Round the Island Race, while others had raced multiple times. But that didn’t matter as the exhilaration, anticipation and excitement was just the same.  Every 10 minutes for well over an hour another class of vessels would be facing the start line. Challenge Wales was the last of the Challenge 72 yachts to cross the start line. That gave us a bad start and in light airs which would be reducing through the morning, a bad start wasn’t what was needed.

The Challenge Wales charity uses Round the Island Race as one of its adult fundraisers which helps raise awareness of the sail training charity and also helps bring in revenue into the organisation to support our youth development programme, providing life skills to young people. It’s also one of the only opportunities where you will get to see several Challenge 72 yachts racing together against each other. And a great teambuilding event for companies, colleagues, friends or someone on their own to join in with.



An hour and a half into the race and we were making good progress and swapping places with the other Challenge boats.

As we went past the Needles, the spinnaker came out and as a spectator it is quite spectacular too see hundreds and hundreds of boats, all shapes and sizes turning into a mass of colour.

Pic of Challenge Wales  by Paul Wyeth on Round the Island Race website

Although we seemed well ahead of the other Challenge Boats we knew with light airs and tide it could be anyone’s race.

Challenge Wales managed to make good use of the wind and having a competitive skipper and team onboard and sailed ahead of the other Challenge 72’s.

At 1515hrs it looked like we were well ahead of the other Challenge 72’s but that almost changed as we ended up with little wind

A couple of hours later the wind dropped and it wasn’t until a couple of hours after that the wind started to pick up and we were able to gain some speed again and get across the finish line.

We finished the race,  beating again the other Challenge 72’s and the Clipper fleet, a few minutes after 1800hrs. Our elapsed time was 11 hours 34 minutes and 36 seconds, 18th in class and 283rd overall (which we don’t think is too bad seeing that 1,204 vessels started!). Here’s to next year…maybe!?

 

 

 

 

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.

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!?