How Portsmouth schoolchildren are getting a taste for sailing with the 1851 Trust

From left, Jessica Shillingford, Clara Scott-Joynt and Lili Sharpe, all 11. Children from Priory School, Southsea, take part in the Sailwise Project at the Andrew Simpson Watersports Centre Picture: Chris MoorhouseFrom left, Jessica Shillingford, Clara Scott-Joynt and Lili Sharpe, all 11. Children from Priory School, Southsea, take part in the Sailwise Project at the Andrew Simpson Watersports Centre Picture: Chris Moorhouse
From left, Jessica Shillingford, Clara Scott-Joynt and Lili Sharpe, all 11. Children from Priory School, Southsea, take part in the Sailwise Project at the Andrew Simpson Watersports Centre Picture: Chris Moorhouse
More than 250 children have already got out on the water this term through a new sailing programme '“ and the people behind it want to bring the sport to everyone in the city.Â

The 1851 Trust '“ which is an education charity connected to Ben Ainslie Racing's America's Cup team, based on The Camber in Old Portsmouth '“ has launched the Sailwise scheme to introduce more youngsters to sailing.

As well as focusing on Stem learning '“ science, technology, engineering and maths '“ this initiative uses sailing as a vehicle to help students to learn about the nutrition behind a professional sports team and the importance of healthy eating.

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Projects and events manager, Kate Mardel-Ferreira, said: '˜The workshop involves a morning session in which the children use the Tech Deck to learn about their physiology and nutrition. The students use a simulator of a grinder which is used to raise the sails on a boat. Students measure their change in pulse rate and learn to understand about the different muscles used and how their body works.' 

From left, Lili Sharpe, Clara Scott-Joynt and Jessica Shillingford, all 11. Children from Priory School, Southsea, take part in the Sailwise Project at the Andrew Simpson Watersports Centre.From left, Lili Sharpe, Clara Scott-Joynt and Jessica Shillingford, all 11. Children from Priory School, Southsea, take part in the Sailwise Project at the Andrew Simpson Watersports Centre.
From left, Lili Sharpe, Clara Scott-Joynt and Jessica Shillingford, all 11. Children from Priory School, Southsea, take part in the Sailwise Project at the Andrew Simpson Watersports Centre.

The charity decided to broaden their education programme after identifying childhood obesity and health as a particular area of concern.

Obesity and diet is an issue for children both here in Portsmouth and nationally. We wanted to address young people's fitness as it is a key area in which children need to be educated,' explained Kate. 

One of the key focuses of the initiative is to allow state school children to try the sport. Following on from the morning session the children have the opportunity to put into practice the knowledge they have gained with a sailing session.

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Many of the 250 children to have taken part in the programme are from Arundel Court Primary Academy and Priory School '“ both with children from some of the city's highest areas of social deprivation.

Teachers Anne-Marie Wood, left, and Hesta Dalton   Picture: Chris MoorhouseTeachers Anne-Marie Wood, left, and Hesta Dalton   Picture: Chris Moorhouse
Teachers Anne-Marie Wood, left, and Hesta Dalton Picture: Chris Moorhouse

'˜Portsmouth is an area with a high proportion of pupil premium students (children entitled to free school meals). Students who receive free school meals get to take part in the course for free with the remaining pupils being subsidised for the cost of the session. We live on a island and are surrounded by water. We want to make the sport as accessible to as many people as possible,' explained  Kate.

The afternoon sailing activities are run by The Andrew Simpson Watersports Centre.

Manager Nathan Staley believes the benefits the sessions bring extend far beyond supporting academic attainment.

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'˜It is an invaluable experience for the children. We are able to give children the knowledge and confidence to be safe on the water as well as teaching them the skills of sailing. It is also a chance for them to develop personal skills of teamwork, communication and co-ordination,' said Nathan.

Coming ashore. Children from Priory School, Southsea, take part in the Sailwise Project at the Andrew Simpson Watersports Centre Picture: Chris MoorhouseComing ashore. Children from Priory School, Southsea, take part in the Sailwise Project at the Andrew Simpson Watersports Centre Picture: Chris Moorhouse
Coming ashore. Children from Priory School, Southsea, take part in the Sailwise Project at the Andrew Simpson Watersports Centre Picture: Chris Moorhouse

'˜Unlike some other sports, once you are out at sea in a boat, even if you are out of your comfort zone, you can't simply get off or walk away. In challenging conditions you have to dig in and get on with it. It helps to develop a resilience and independence '“ characteristics needed in all aspects of life,' added Kate.

Maths teacher at Priory School, Anne-Marie-Wood, agrees.

'˜The majority of the children wouldn't ordinarily get access to this opportunity. Today was really windy and the children were very nervous. They had to show their mettle to dig in and work as a team,' explained Mrs Wood.

Teaching staff involved in the programme feel it supports students' learning as it allows them to see the application of knowledge and skills.

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Sidney Raeside, left, and Billy Carr, both 11.Sidney Raeside, left, and Billy Carr, both 11.
Sidney Raeside, left, and Billy Carr, both 11.

'˜In maths we are often asked about how a subject relates to real life. This morning the students were looking at navigation, boat design technology and the science behind hydrofoils '“ all of which involves maths,' said Mrs Wood.

'˜This programme has allowed the entire Year 7 the opportunity to experience sailing for free. It has been a really good opportunity for the students, many of whom didn't know each other at the start of term, to develop socially and get to know each other whilst working together,' added Hesta Dalton, also a teacher at Priory School.

The trust has run the course for about 350 city children and will start the sessions again in spring. Last year 2,000 young people from 30 Portsmouth schools got the opportunity to experience sailing as part of the charity's Go Sail programme. Many of the children followed up their initial interest by taking further courses run by the trust and attained their stages one and two Royal Yachting Association certificates.

WHAT THE CHILDREN THINK

The News spoke to the Year 7 children of Priory School to see how they enjoyed the experience. After a windy afternoon out at sea here is a selection of what the 11-year-olds said:

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Bill Barlow: '˜It was great fun. We have been learning the science about how the boat turns. It was really windy out there and we had to use teamwork and communication.'

Children from Priory School, Southsea, take part in the Sailwise Project at the Andrew Simpson Watersports Centre.Children from Priory School, Southsea, take part in the Sailwise Project at the Andrew Simpson Watersports Centre.
Children from Priory School, Southsea, take part in the Sailwise Project at the Andrew Simpson Watersports Centre.

Jasmine Brookes: '˜It was a bit scary and one team capsized four times. I was really apprehensive at first but now I am glad I did it. We really had to concentrate on what we were doing.'

Oliver Mitchell: '˜I learnt how to control the mast and the boat. We had to be co-ordinated and use a lot of teamwork. I would certainly like the chance to go sailing again.'

Tyler Moray: '˜I am really grateful for this opportunity as it is not something I would normally have got the chance to do. The first waves were really strong and I thought we were going to capsize. We really had to work together to get through it.'