This week (1-7 Nov 2021) is Youth Work Week, and the theme this year focuses on the ‘Champions of Youth Work‘.


All of our UK Sail Training Skippers, Mates, and Watch Leaders are champions of youth work thanks to the vital work that they do to help transform young lives all over the country.


At our annual Small Ships Race in Cowes last month we caught up with The Island Trust’s Laura McLachlan, who was Skipper onboard the 72ft Pilot Cutter, Pegasus. Laura spoke to us about her first time sailing, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and her favourite moment working with young people. Take a look at the interview below…


Q: Could you tell us a bit about how you got into Sail Training?

“I joined a Tall Ships Race onboard James Cook [Ocean Youth Trust North] and we sailed from Newcastle across to Norway and back again in 2010. I just fell in love with it, and my Skipper always says that I was seasick all the way there and all the way back. So, she said goodbye to me thinking she would never see me again — but if you can have that much fun when it can be that rough, just imagine how good it is when you’re feeling great.”


Q: Where in the UK did you start Sail Training professionally?

“In the North East. I started Sail Training with Ocean Youth Trust North, but I came on as a young person and they trained me up to the level as a First Mate. Then I started working in the industry and in 2019 I actually went and skippered that boat for the first time for a couple of trips, so I’ve now come full circle.”


Q. What has been your favourite moment recently working with young people?

“That’s difficult! [laughs…] It’s just all the little moments. So, it’s the little moments of appreciating the difference. In the last couple of weeks, I had a young person who couldn’t eat in front of anyone and we managed to finish the week and she managed to sit and eat dinner with everyone around the table. So it’s just those little moments that I realise why I do the job.” 


Q. Do you think it is hard for someone who knows nothing about sailing to get into Sail Training? 

“No, because there are lots and lots of opportunities out there if you just go looking for them and people will teach you as you go. They will teach you everything you need to know, so you don’t need to know anything before.” 


Q. Have you ever brought your friends and family onboard? 

“No! I’ve never really skippered for my friends and family but, when I was 18, my dad went and did a voyage on Lord Nelson [Jubilee Sailing Trust] so he’s now seen a little bit of sailing and fallen in love with it too.”


“…Do the things that scare you the most, because it might just be the best thing you ever do.”


Q. How do you feel about friendship and sailing because it must be difficult coming aboard a vessel like Pegasus and not knowing anyone?

“On my first trip, meeting new people was my idea of a nightmare. I was absolutely terrified and I think I said about three words for the entire two weeks because I was just really, really, shy. But sailing has pushed me out of my comfort zone and I’ve now got so many friends from it [because] you’re just working as a team and you quickly make friends. So now, I say to everyone do the things that scare you the most, because it might just be the best thing you ever do. That’s what happened to me!”


Q. Can you talk to us about the past 18 months and COVID-19 and what you think has happened in terms of sailing and young people not being able to access Sail Training?

“Well with the young people we’ve had onboard this year, a lot of the feedback they’ve been giving is actually just what they’re getting out of the week from just being free again — just being able to go out, and actually interact and coming onboard has been a bit of normality. They’ve had such disruption in their normal lives and so coming here is just a bit of an escape. [They’re] building their confidence again.” 



To learn more about the life-changing work that Laura and the rest of The Island Trust crew do onboard Pegasus, visit The Island Trust’s website:

For more information on the National Youth Agency’s Youth Work Week, click here: