SHE may only be 22 years old, but Lauren Harris is well on her way to becoming a top round-the-world sailor.
Lauren, from the Portsmouth-based Around and Around sailing charity, is celebrating after passing her yachtmaster exam.
It puts the charity on track to sail historic yacht Lively Lady around the world again with a new crew of disadvantaged youngsters.
Lauren, who studies at Chichester University, had to prove to examiners she was capable of dealing with all scenarios at sea.
She said: ‘I had never been so nervous before in my entire life.
‘Once I got out there it was okay because I was just doing what I always do. But the night before the exam I was a wreck.
‘I was so pleased when I found out I had passed – we had a little celebration on the boat!
‘I don’t think it’s quite sunk in yet.
‘Obviously it will be a big bonus when it comes round to sailing Lively Lady around the world again.’
To pass the exam, Lauren had to take a yacht from the marina at Gunwharf Quays to Wooton Creek, plotting courses and passages as she went. She was also tested her on her skippering skills, boat handling, navigation and safety awareness.
Lauren is a graduate of the Raymarine Lively Lady Project, which gave local youngsters the chance to sail in stages around the world.
A year ago a new campaign was launched to make Lively Lady seaworthy again.
The aim of Around and Around is to train people like Lauren who will then skipper the yacht on a new adventure around the globe.
Charity founder, veteran sailor and mentor Alan Priddy, who failed the yachtmaster exam twice himself, said: ‘I can’t believe she passed it first time – it took me three goes! She is ready to sail across oceans now. Everything about the work she does is outstanding.
‘It just goes to show what an amazing person she is. I saw something in her back in 2005 on the Lively Lady project and I still do. She will go to the top and she is living proof that training on the job is more important than university.’
The campaign to get Lively Lady back on the water was given a boost after Port Solent marina offered the charity a free berth for life.
Mr Priddy added: ‘In the last year we have taken around £10,000. It’s not as much as I had hoped but we’ve been helped a lot by Port Solent with the free berth and all the rest.
‘Everything is still on schedule and Lively Lady will be having her refit done next year but we just need to keep that fundraising going. Having Lauren is a huge help. She is a great ambassador for young people.’
Lauren and others from the charity spend weekends at Port Solent showing people around Sir Alec Rose’s legendary boat. To arrange a viewing, call 07917 786 763.