There is something about taking on the challenge of tall ship sailing that enables the complete integration of physically disabled and able-bodied crew members. The environment is unusual and takes people out of their comfort zone – a positive thing in this instance. People who were once unknown to each other and from different backgrounds very quickly come together, as you have to work as a team. A buddy system is operated whereby two people are paired together, one able-bodied and one physically disabled. They share the voyage and help one another along the way, developing a special bond that leaves a positive and lasting impression.
By empowering the voyage crew to discover their abilities and to focus on what they can do rather than what they cannot, life-changing experiences are created. The crew arrive on board with doubts about the voyage and their ability to cope and leave with new-found confidence about themselves, new friends and knowing that they can be a useful member of a team, and more often than not it is the able-bodied crew members that come away having changed the most, as their misconceptions around disability are transformed.
Over the last 35 years, the JST has welcomed 45,000 crew members aboard their two globally unique, custom-built tall ships, with over half having some form of physical disability, including over 5,000 wheelchair users.
A voyage with the JST is about joining in and getting involved with all aspects of sailing the ship, regardless of your physical ability. Whether you are a tall ship enthusiast, fair-weather sailor or complete beginner – everyone is welcome.
READY, SET, RACE
Join the crew and set sail for the 2016 Tall Ships Races
The Tall Ships Races began in 1956 and were meant as a final farewell to the world’s last tall ships. However, the event was hugely popular and eventually transformed into an annual event, with races to all corners of the globe, and bringing with it millions of visitors.
The races are a great way to practise your sailing skills, make new friends from around the world, and to immerse yourself in the festival spirit in every port. This year’s festivities will start in the cosmopolitan city of Antwerp, who have hosted the Tall Ships Races four times. After enjoying the opening celebrations, including crew parties and a firework display by the quayside, you will embark on Race One; an exhilarating 16-day voyage across the English Channel and through the infamous Bay of Biscay. The finishing line awaits in the port of Sines, Lisbon, which will greet the fleet for the seventh time since the races began.
Race Two will see Lord Nelson participate in an exciting seven-day voyage from Sines round to the historic port of Cádiz. Founded as Gadir by the Phoenicians in about 1100 BC, there is a definite regal feel about this ancient city with its memorable monuments and museums. After some time spent sightseeing, the family of tall ships will Cruise-in-Company along the western coast of Spain and Portugal until they reach the final port of La Coruña. La Coruña is no stranger to the Tall Ships Races and will be welcoming the fleet back for the 11th time – the most ever – and will host this year’s closing ceremony.
The thrill and excitement combined with the challenges faced during a tall ship race leads to a kind of team spirit, emotional connection and general comradery unlike anything else. You may step on board the ship not knowing anyone else, but by the time you step off, you would have shared an experience together that can’t be replicated and formed strong bonds and friendships to last a lifetime.
A voyage with the JST gave Jasmin a new outlook on life
I’m Jasmin, and I currently work full time as a teaching assistant at a school for children with special needs. The school accommodates students aged two to 19 years, and I work with students aged 16 and over. Every few years a student is lucky enough to be chosen to go on a voyage with the JST, along with a staff member to support them. Although I’d never done anything like it before, I decided to put my name down as I believed it really was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I hadn’t even ever stayed on a boat overnight, so I had no idea what to expect.
When my name was announced, I was giddy with excitement. I would be joining a student called Will who has a physical disability and hearing impairment. Physically Will was able to walk, but could sometimes become unsteady when tired, and so he uses a wheelchair. I signed up for the voyage, made all the relevant arrangements and waited in suspense for September to come round.
My voyage was a five-day round trip from Southampton on board Lord Nelson.
On the first day, we were shown our cabin, given our timetable or ‘watch card’ and were introduced to the crew. All shipmates are set into groups called ‘watches’ and each watch is based in a certain place. You are with the same people throughout the duration, so it really gives you time to get to know one another. The good thing is you’re not alone, and you each have an experienced ‘watch leader’ to look after you for the duration. We then learned the ship’s safety procedures, including how to evacuate in an emergency. Our special equipment was divvied out, and we all received our own wet weather clothes, climbing harnesses and boots. We then had the chance to climb the mast – I really am terrified of heights, so this was a huge achievement for me.
Later on that evening, myself, Will and another shipmate were on harbour watch duty overnight from 2am–4am. This meant we had to carry out regular checks, walk round the ship and ensure everything was running smoothly. I was then glad to be relieved of my duties at 4am and proceeded to wake the next group up.
After some much-needed rest, we awoke to a delicious cooked breakfast. We then went on to learn how to pull ropes, tie certain knots and how to change/alter the yard arms and sails. The weather that day was unfortunately not in our favour, meaning we couldn’t venture too far, so we decided to sail to the Isle of Wight where we anchored for the night.
We left the Isle of Wight and made our way to Portsmouth where we anchored in the harbour. Day 3 involved Happy Hour – which isn’t what you might expect and actually involves everyone cleaning the ship. We then sat down to a scrumptious meal. The food on board was excellent and hearty as you would expect – favourites included stews, bolognese and lasagne. And not forgetting the gorgeous puddings – apple crumble and custard was my favourite.
We remained in Portsmouth overnight until the next morning, so people were able to venture off the ship to explore and shop if they wished. The weather hadn’t been ideal the previous days, meaning that Will and a few other shipmates weren’t able to climb the mast, something they were eager to do. However, today was our lucky day, and the weather was beautiful, meaning it was time for Will to do his thing. This really was the best part of my trip. Will can walk, but sometimes requires support, so to see him muster the strength to pull himself using his arms and legs at the same time up to the platform (much higher than I could manage) was incredible. He was given the option to be hoisted up in the wheelchair but declined and climbed all the way by himself. It was a truly emotional moment.
Later that day we left Portsmouth and sailed back to the Isle of Wight, where we anchored again for the night. Our watch was on duty while we were sailing, meaning we had to help the captain steer the ship, check the sails, keep a lookout for other ships and report back. It really was a lot of fun.
After an amazing few days, we headed back to Southampton and disembarked.
I really was sad to leave my fellow shipmates, all of the team were so friendly and helpful; everybody chipped in, and nobody was left out. The most amazing part of this voyage was that everyone was included regardless of their physical ability. It really warmed my heart to see everyone enjoy full access of the ship and to really join in. I learned an awful lot during my time on board – not only how to pull ropes, alter sails and steer, but about myself too. I was able to conquer my fears, gain confidence, feel independent and learn about my fellow shipmates’ stories, some of which were truly inspiring.
Will said the ship helped him to build confidence through talking to other people while also helping his independence, as he was able to do things himself that he never thought he could do. Climbing aloft was his highlight.
All in all, the Jubilee Sailing Trust is a fantastic charity. The experience they gave me was life-changing, new, exciting, scary and more, but I met some wonderful people, and most of all, had fun. If you are looking to try something new, the JST’s buddy system can help you to support someone, help them to achieve their goals, conquer their fears and try new things – while you are too.
With three fantastic voyages to choose from, don’t miss out on your chance to get involved. To book, please call +442380 426849 or visit jst.org.uk