On 18th June nine excited CCF Navy Cadets set off from land locked Birmingham and travelled to Portsmouth to join the Challenger 3 yacht as crew on a Tall Ships Expedition. After a brief tour of the yacht, the Cadets were surprised at how compact everything was, we stowed our baggage below decks and were taught the basics of rigging, using the winches and introduced to terms such as “sweating the main”. Then we cast off.
Cadets were split into two ‘watches’ and under the guidance of the watch leader were responsible for carrying out the duties required to successfully crew the yacht, both above and below deck. As we sailed towards the Isle of Wight the cadets observed, learnt and successfully used their newfound skills to rig the boat using the halyards, hoist the sail and steer. Below deck Cadets cooked a nutritious meal using the moving stovetop and cleaned up. We moored that night at Cowes and students freshened up using the on shore facilities.
During our Tall Ships Expedition we visited Cowes, Lymington, Poole and Portsmouth. Cadets continued to grow in confidence and aptitude as they sailed the yacht, tacking, jibing and carrying out night sailing. New skills were introduced such as flaking the sail and various knot tying. Cadets soon found their strengths in the tasks they completed. They attacked each job with gusto, including cleaning the heads! The quality of the meals they prepared often left us asking for more and instilled an eagerness to continue with cooking when they returned home.
We had a mixed bag of weather from glorious sunshine to blinding fog where Cadets had to navigate using the yachts instruments and not the buoys. They were unfazed by new challenges created by rips in the sail.
Cadets not only learnt practical skills but also worked together as a team. It was wonderful to see them develop over the course of five days, to see them interact positively with each other, to respond with respect to their crew mates and trust each other. Many of our Cadets wouldn’t have been able to afford to pay for the opportunity to participate in such an amazing trip. Therefore the support of the grant received from The Ullyses Trust enabled Cadets to experience new things, attempt unique challenges and learn something about their own capabilities, whilst developing self confidence and communication skills. They all gained their RYA: Start Yachting Award and hopefully this will encourage them to continue to pursue with their sailing qualifications.
The expedition tested and developed our young cadets physically and mentally through coping with and learning the skills needed to operate a yacht as well as gelling as a team below deck with the requirements needed to keep us fed, watered and organised through staying in restricted accommodation. Our thanks to the Ulysses Trust for supporting this expedition which will be a stand out moment that will stick with the participants for the rest of their lives
The expedition will have developed resilience, self esteem and independence within Cadets as students were responsible for sailing and so if they didn’t complete the tasks they we went nowhere – we had to find solutions to our challenges. Most students have additional needs of Moderate Learning Difficulties, Autism or Communication needs so it was inspiring to see them communicate with other and strangers in a new and unfamiliar environment. Our school location is an inner city school so for some it will be one of very few if not the only holiday or adventure they participate in during their lifetime.
As a unit it highlights and advertises the amazing opportunities and experiences that can be gained from being involved in the CCF and helps with recruitment. It is also one of the highlights of our CCF calendar.
“It was the best Cadet trip ever. I didn’t think I would be able to sleep in such a small space.”
“I loved all of it – I kept volunteering to use the winches because I knew how to do it and was strong enough to pull them tight.”
“I enjoyed learning all the new skills – and I could share these with my crew.”