Children overcome Force 8 storm in Channel sailing challenge

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TWELVE teenagers have sailed 250 miles along the English channel, tackling a Force 8 storm in the process.

The Year 8 and 9 pupils from Portsmouth Academy took part in the five-day voyage from Gunwharf Quays to Chatham in Kent as part of an initiative run by the Essex Sailing Trust. Not only were the youngsters responsible for sailing the 22 metre yacht but also had duties including cooking and cleaning.

Ben Mapes, 12,  'learns the ropes' during the sailing experience.

Ben Mapes, 12, 'learns the ropes' during the sailing experience.

Holly Manning, aged 12, said: ‘This was was the best experience I’ve had at school. I enjoyed helping others while on board and I really feel more independent than at the start of the trip.’

Fellow crew member, Andreea Robu, 13, added: ‘I was really proud when we completed the journey and the biggest thing I learnt was to have patience with other people. I really enjoyed doing the night watch when you had to make sure we didn’t collide with other vessels.’

The crew set off on September 23 into a Force 8 gale and the stormy conditions and high seas led to the youngsters having to deal with challenging conditions, including bouts of sea sickness. 

Adina Robu, 12, said: ‘It was scary at times and after two days I wanted to go home. However, I’m really glad I stayed as it was a brilliant feeling knowing we had battled through and completed the journey.’

Crew members, back left to right, Richard Oluwabiyi, 12 and Jonas Michael,13, (middle left to right) Ricky Jupe,13, Andreea Robu, 13, Holly Manning, 12, Adina Robu, 13, and Erin Hunt, 14 with (front left to right) Ben Mapes, 12, Jack Wicken, 12, Gabby Langford, 12, and Harry Childs, 12.''Picture: Sarah Standing

Crew members, back left to right, Richard Oluwabiyi, 12 and Jonas Michael,13, (middle left to right) Ricky Jupe,13, Andreea Robu, 13, Holly Manning, 12, Adina Robu, 13, and Erin Hunt, 14 with (front left to right) Ben Mapes, 12, Jack Wicken, 12, Gabby Langford, 12, and Harry Childs, 12.''Picture: Sarah Standing

The children were inspired to undertake the sailing adventure after tracking head of geography, Kirsty French, in her own maritime challenge.

Kirsty said: ‘The school gave me permission to take part in the ARC rally, a trans-Atlantic sailing race, and some of the students really enjoyed tracking my progress. It really ignited that little spark and when I returned to school they were keen to take part in an adventure of their own.’

The pupils had to go through a rigorous selection process including writing a letter of application and interview. For Kirsty, the experience was all about allowing students to develop as individuals.

‘There was a real change in some of the students during the the week. Those who were the most quiet at the start developed as real leaders by the end. Everyone on board the vessel stepped up to the mark; overcoming all challenges that came their way. I couldn’t be more proud of the students,’ she said.