AROUND 200 young people from across the UK benefited from a life-changing youth development opportunity at the Cowes Small Ships Race this weekend (Saturday 24th September).


The annual event is organised by Gosport-based youth charity ASTO (Association of Sail Training Organisations) and gives young and disabled people the opportunity to experience new challenges and develop key life skills.


Sailing out of Cowes Yacht Haven, the young people joined the crews on board 19 vessels, from 10 different Sail Training organisations, for a round the cans race in the Solent. Many of this year’s participants had never sailed before.


Amongst the young people on board were Scout groups, cadet groups, and a group of home-educated young people on board The Island Trust’s Pegasus.


A number Isle of Wight-based youth groups also took part, including young people sponsored by Cowes Corinthian yacht club, and students from HTP Apprenticeship College who joined the crew on board Tall Ships Youth Trust’s Tenacity of Bolton.


The Parade of Sail took place at 0930 and saw each vessel proceed past the race committee who were watching from the Royal Yacht Squadron’s viewing platform. Trainees on board were seen waving, cheering and even dancing. The race commenced at 1000 to the sound of cannon fire from the Squadron.


This year conditions were ideal for sailing, with a light northerly breeze, although a strong tide made for a more challenging return leg. Despite this, all vessels were back alongside at Cowes Yacht Haven by 1800.


Following the race, crews were able to celebrate their achievements at the race’s first crew party and prize-giving ceremony since 2019.


Lucy Grodie, General Manager of ASTO, said:


It was fantastic to see the energy and buzz of the crew party after what will have been quite a challenging day out on the water.


This event is an intense couple of days which proves to be very rewarding for the young people, many of whom have never sailed before.


“The young people showed great perseverance and resilience…”



The return leg of the race, in particular, would have proved quite challenging due to easing winds and strong tides, but the young people showed great perseverance and resilience and none of the vessels retired.


The prize-winners at this year’s race included:

  • First in Class C1 and Fastest Elapsed Time: Donald Searle, Rona Sailing Project
  • Aurora Trophy (First Place Overall on Corrected Time): Jolie Brise, Dauntsey’s School
  • Bloodhound Cup (Youngest Average Age Crew): Bright Star, Morning Star Trust
  • Richard Longhorn Trophy (Spirit of the Race): Pegasus, The Island Trust
  • Youngest Crew Member: Mitchell (12), Faramir, Cirdan Sailing Trust

A full list of the awarded prizes can be found on the UK Sail Training Facebook page (@UKSailTraining).

ASTO would like to thank the Royal London Yacht Club, Royal Yacht Squadron, Cowes Town Waterfront Trust, High Sheriff, and others for their support without which we would not be able to run this event.

ASTO relies on support from local organisations and on sponsorship to hold this event. If you would be interested in providing future support, please contact [email protected]