I recently read a fantastic article in the @Guardian newspaper written by Ben Fogle. The article talked about the importance of the wilderness and the health and welfare of children rather than the reliance on continual testing; which we know puts huge pressure on young people to achieve. As with Ben, my own experiences in school weren't the best, I left with very few qualifications and it wasn't until I was 25 that I was ready to go back and change that.

I was lucky to find and engage with a land-based FE college and I studied the HND in Countryside Recreation Management (Outdoor Leisure) course. From the outset the HND was a perfect mix of experiential education and formal class lectures. I learnt about Kurt Hahn, Kolb, Maslow and other important people who have all shaped outdoor education.

The wilderness rescued me. I have been shaped by my experiences in the great outdoors. Feeling comfortable in the wild gave me the confidence to be who I am, not who others want me to be. There is a natural simplicity to nature; it is far more tactile and tangible than the classroom. It’s a leveller; it strengthened my character and set me back on track.Ben Fogle

It was experiencing the outdoors in a structured way, engaging in it, teaching on it that I found the passion that I now have for how much sail training can help young people. I was very lucky to get given the opportunity to sail with the Rona Trust early on and that experience changed my outlook on life completely! I was aboard for 7 days and I saw how quickly sail training gave young people the confidence to be 'them', gave them the resilience to believe they 'can' and gave them the grit and determination to be who they wanted to be.

The benefits and importance of youth development through sail training has been well documented in a number of studies, most notably in the research study conducted by the University of Edinburgh. Each piece of research concludes that those participating in a structured youth development program on a tall ship benefit in a number of ways. We regularly see increased teamwork and leadership capabilities as well as increasing the level of community responsibility and academic ability.

As our launch date nears we have reflected on everything that sail training, the wilderness and the great outdoors can teach young people. We are launching #ASPIRE360. It is a fantastic opportunity for eight young people aged between 14 & 18 to experience the United Kingdom in a way few others have, by sea.

The young people will swap the comforts of home for single bunks, a moving deck and having to learn how to cook, clean and look after each other as they get used to their new home. At 57 feet, and weighing 30-tons, our Tall Ship, Helen Mary R is as long as five cars and weighs the equivalent of two double decker busses! The largest sail, which the young people will have to manually hoist, is 60ft tall and 40ft wide.

It will be a challenge which will see them battle strong winds, freezing temperatures and rough seas at times throughout the trip; as well as marvelling at our beautiful coastline under sun-drenched skies. It will be a feat of pure physical, mental, emotional and academic endurance, but one which will leave the young people changed forever. They will make strong bonds with their crew mates, increase their own understanding of themselves and their boundaries and most importantly have the confidence that they can try and excel at anything!

Ben couldn't have said it any better when:

I want an education system that works inside out. The outdoors becomes a weekly topic – encompassing geography, environment, resourcefulness, home economics, science, and maths – undertaken outside. Ben Fogle

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#ASPIRE360 – Press Release
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