AFTER 30 hours of intense racing, ASTO member vessel Challenge Wales has provisionally been awarded 1st place in their class in the Falmouth to Royal Greenwich Tall Ships Regatta 2014.
Penarth-based Challenge Wales finished the race from Falmouth to the Isle of Wight on Monday evening at 10.04pm, September 1.
The 44-strong fleet crossed the start line on Sunday after lining up for a spectacular Parade of Sail in Falmouth Bay, which attracted unprecedented crowds and spectator craft.
The international fleet is now enjoying a cruise in company to Royal Greenwich for a spectacular London festival that starts on Friday, September 5.
Almost half of the vessels competing in the regatta including Challenge Wales are members of the Association of Sail Training Organisations (ASTO), the UK’s Sail Training umbrella organisation.
Over 280 young people from a wide range of backgrounds are sailing on board 19 boats operated by ASTO members.
Four of the twelve trainees on board Challenge Wales have received ASTO bursaries to support their participation.
One of them is 22-year-old Shrouk El-Attar, who lives in Cardiff.
Shrouk is a refugee from Egypt who has lived in the Welsh capital for seven years, where she studies electrical and electronic engineering at Cardiff University.
“I wouldn’t have been able to do this if it hadn’t been for the bursary and I’m really incredibly excited about taking part,” she said.
“I would love to sail for a living,” she added.
Shannon Salisbury, 20, is also from Cardiff and another bursary recipient. She is originally from Bude and is in her fourth year of studying Marine Geography at Cardiff University.
Shannon only sailed for the first time earlier this year, from Penarth to the Isle of Wight, after getting an email about the opportunity to sail with Challenge Wales from her university.
"I always thought it was an elitist sport until I sailed with Challenge Wales earlier this year,” she said. "It's sparked a new hobby for me. It's great sailing as part of a mixed crew of all ages from all sorts of backgrounds. It's taught me a lot about teamwork, improved my communication skills and boosted my confidence.”
Vicky Williams, Trustee of Challenge Wales, said: “We are really excited to be arriving in London. The first, and last, time we were in London was in 2012 when we were the official sailing yacht representing the City of Cardiff and the Youth Of Wales at the Queen’s Jubilee Pageant on the Thames.”
ASTO organisations from all over the British Isles are taking part including vessels from Scotland, Wales, East Anglia and the South of England, and at least half of the trainees on board each boat are under 25.
Lucy Gross, general manager of ASTO, said: “The trainees taking part in the regatta will find out first hand what they can achieve when they push themselves beyond their comfort zone. It is an experience they will remember for the rest of their lives and will give them invaluable skills and experience.
“We know that Sail Training can make an important difference to young people’s lives when they return ashore. The message that comes back week in and week out from our ASTO members is that the Sail Training experience increases their confidence, communication skills and ability to work as a team, which can have a huge impact on all areas of their lives.”
The Falmouth to Royal Greenwich Tall Ships Regatta marks the first time a Tall Ships Race has been held from one British port to another and the fleet is expected to arrive in London on Thursday or Friday.
For further information about Sail Training, ASTO and its member organisations visit www.asto.org.uk.