Co Antrim young people learn to sail and set off on five day voyage from Belfast

Ten young people from Co Antrim learned how to sail and embarked on a five day voyage from Belfast earlier this month.

The young people, who are from diverse backgrounds, aged between 14 and 19, and involved in community groups in Ballymena, learned how to crew a ship with the help of the Tall Ships Youth Trust. They set off from Belfast Port on May 29, and returned on June 2.

The aim of the programme is to create diversions from participation in antisocial behaviour by providing new opportunities for young people. The unique opportunity helped up-skill the young participants by giving them an opportunity to explore the art of sailing, but also provided them with an opportunity to grow in confidence and improve their communication and leadership skills.

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Tall Ships Youth Trust is a youth development charity headquartered in Portsmouth that helps young people aged 12-25 to redefine their horizons through transformational adventures at sea. Formed in 1956, it is the UK’s oldest and largest youth development sail training charity. It is targeting areas of high deprivation, via links to port towns and cities: Liverpool, Glasgow, Belfast, Hull, Ipswich and London.

Speaking after the crew returned, Alastair Floyd, Chief Executive, Tall Ships Youth Trust said: "Tall Ships Youth Trust brings a cross-section of young people to work and live together in a unique, physically and mentally challenging residential environment.

"Everyone sets off on a level playing field with no preconceived ideas regarding backgrounds or abilities. Its vision is to empower young people to realise their full potential, supporting them on their journey to adulthood and for some, careers in the maritime sector and blue economy.”

This voyage is a culmination of a Good Relations programme for the young people which includes volunteering. The programme itinerary in the run up to the sailing included; a Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) site visit to be briefed on Water Safety, a combined operational site visit to PSNI’s Steeple Barracks for a training experience, before setting sail on the Tall Ship, a debrief session and volunteering with the Life Raft project on Rathlin Island.

Sergeant McToal from the Police Service of Northern Ireland’s Neighbourhood Policing Team, who is police lead for the project, added: “This programme will help contribute towards reducing anti-social behaviour, enabling young individuals to learn how to effectively problem solve and be professionally taught on how to crew a tall ship. This opportunity is done in a safe and controlled environment, with a strong emphasis on potential future roles.”

Loma Wilson, Director of Communities at Radius Housing, who are supporting the project, said: “Through this project we hope to inspire young people to build dreams and aspirations for their lives. We believe that Tall Ships gives a unique opportunity to work in partnership with the PSNI to challenge and build our young people. We will continue to work with them as youth mentors on their journey into adulthood.”

The Tall Ships Voyage is supported by the Department for Communities and the Northern Ireland Housing Executive’s ‘Housing for All’ Shared Housing Programme. The Programme has its origins in the NI Executive Together: Building a United Community Strategy which reflects the Executive’s commitment to improving community relations and continuing the journey towards a more united and shared society.

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