Countess of Wessex joins girls on the Solent as part of Gosport sailing project

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YOUNG amateur sailors were given the chance to show off their skills to the Countess of Wessex.

Her Royal Highness Sophie was at Haslar Marina in Gosport yesterday to meet the girls taking part in the Rona Sailing Project and spend the day on the Solent with them.

HRH The Countess of Wessex (centre) and her daughter Lady Louise Mountbatten-Windsor behind, fourth from right) join ASTO General Manager Lucy Gross (front right) and trainees from across the UK and Ireland on Donald Searle for a day sail on the Solent as part of the teens six-day  Sail Training adventure. Picture: Max Mudie for ASTO

HRH The Countess of Wessex (centre) and her daughter Lady Louise Mountbatten-Windsor behind, fourth from right) join ASTO General Manager Lucy Gross (front right) and trainees from across the UK and Ireland on Donald Searle for a day sail on the Solent as part of the teens six-day Sail Training adventure. Picture: Max Mudie for ASTO

The project is part of the Association of Sail Training Organisations (Asto), based in the town’s Royal Clarence Yard, and takes young people from all social backgrounds on yachts to learn about sailing.

The countess is a patron of Asto and took her daughter Lady Louise along for the visit.

The pair met the girls, from across the UK who have spent the past few days learning how to sail the yacht Donald Searle, before getting onboard.

Rear Admiral John Lang, president of Asto, said: ‘It is a huge privilege for us and the girls to have the Countess of Wessex and her daughter join us.

‘She has been a patron for a number of years and has taken a huge interest in what we are doing.

‘This is a great day for us and for the girls too who were not aware of our royal visitor until just before she arrived.

‘It is great to see the countess getting involved and spending the day sailing.’

The Donald Searle, based at Haslar Marina, left the pontoon yesterday morning with the girls at the helm being supported by the trainers from Asto.

They sailed around the Solent until mid-afternoon and got to show the countess what they have learned since starting their training last week.

Many of them had never sailed before.

Mr Lang added: ‘In the UK there are 33 sail training organisations and they take people with no sailing background from all walks of life out on the water.

‘The girls taking part in the latest programme are from across the UK and there is one from Spain. Before last Thursday, they didn’t know anything about boats or sailing.

‘In a few days the shyness and uncertainties vanish to be replaced with self-confidence, team work and comradeship.

‘The countess and her daughter will see examples of that while on the water with the girls.’