Tall Ships Youth Trust: transforming lives at sea

W Bro Richard Cavanagh reports


In 2022, the London Freemasons’ Charity provided a grant of £5,000 to enable 20 disadvantaged young people from London to participate in a Tall Ships Youth Trust voyage. 


Formed in 1956, Tall Ships Youth Trust (TSYT)is the UK's oldest and largest youth development sail training charity, offering transformational voyages to young people, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, on board their ocean-going yachts.

TSYT is increasing its reach into communities with the greatest needs by establishing regional hubs across the UK to deliver its new three-voyage programme of exploration, empowerment and leadership. This programme has been designed to sustain young people through their lives, delivering highly effective personal and social development. TSYT aims, within the next two years, to provide 1,500 young people per year with a transformational experience, empowering them to realise their full potential and create better outcomes for themselves and their communities.


TSYT gives around 1,100 young people a life-changing experience every year, approximately 75% of whom are disadvantaged. These young people face a range of challenges, including learning, physical or mental disabilities and behavioural, emotional or social difficulties. Many are young carers from ethnically diverse backgrounds and low-income single parent households. Many of these young people are not in employment, education or training, with some being on the cusp of or having already been involved in the criminal justice system.

TSYT voyages offer young people a unique, physically and mentally challenging residential environment. By participating in these voyages, these young people are helped to fulfil their life potential through experiences at sea. Everyone sets off on a level playing field with no preconceived ideas regarding backgrounds or abilities. Participants work as part of a team, putting their trust in each other and the adult crew, thereby breaking down barriers and creating positive relationships with other young people and adults. It also gives them positive adult role models, something which is often lacking in their lives. 

Participants develop the life skills, social skills, confidence and self-esteem they need to realise their true potential and make positive life choices. Tasks include setting and stowing the sails, helming, rope work, navigation, meteorology, maintaining equipment and domestic duties such as cooking and cleaning. There are also scheduled activities such as rowing the dinghies, beach cleaning, manoeuvres, inter-watch competitions, and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) exercises which link their onboard duties to STEM learning. The highly professional and empathetic crew encourages the young people to focus on what they can do, not what they cannot do.


Having to live and work together as a small community at sea is an intense social experience, resulting in lasting friendships and an increased understanding of the need for patience, respect, and tolerance of others. The young people are valued and respected for their individual contributions providing a positive learning environment.


The experience has helped to build self-esteem and develop various skills, such as independent living, practical, work-based and social skills. More importantly, these skills are then transferred to their day-to-day lives, helping them overcome their problems and thrive. Feedback reported 97% of participants were now able to manage their feelings better, and 95% reported improved confidence and self-esteem. 96% believe they now work better in teams, and 100% said they enjoyed the experience and had fun!


Parents, carers and teachers found a number of indirect benefits at home and school: family life has become easier as young people become more independent, carry out chores more willingly and have better relationships with siblings; and students in schools are now more attentive, involved, and finding it easier to relate to their peers. 97% of those surveyed have now gone into or remained in employment, education or training, with the voyages seen as the catalyst for improving skills and attitudes.


Alastair Floyd, CEO of Tall Ships Youth Trust, says: "I am truly inspired by how young people of the UK rise to the challenge that our voyages offer. The development in their confidence and their self-esteem, as well as their communication and leadership skills, is transformational. Out on the ocean, we empower young people to realise their full potential, supporting them on their journey to adulthood and, for some, careers in the maritime sector and the blue economy. We are immensely grateful to the London Freemasons’ Charity for this grant which enables even more young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to benefit from our life-changing work. Thank you for your support."


For more information on Tall Ships Youth Trust, please visit https://www.tallships.org/


This article is part of the Arena Magazine, Issue 51 April 2023 edition.
Arena Magazine is the official magazine of the London Freemasons – Metropolitan Grand Lodge and Metropolitan Grand Chapter of London.

Read more articles in the Arena Issue 51 here.