Young sailors recommend life on the high seas aboard tall ships

THREE young sailors who were aboard tall ships as trainees this summer have given the experience a “thumbs-up” and encouraged others to sign up for next year.

With fewer than nine months to go until Waterford hosts the Tall Ships Races 2011, preparations are in hand for dozens of Irish people aged from 16 to 25 to sail from Waterford to Scotland in early July.

Gavin Roche, age 19, from Cork Road in Waterford spent 11 days in the summer on board Dutch sail training vessel Eendracht, including a five-day sail from Kristiansand, Norway to Hartlepool, England.

While his only previous experience on water was travelling by car ferry to Britain, Gavin took the view that he “might as well go for it – see what it’s like”. He found the experience hugely positive.

“It was great. You get loads of responsibility and the professional crew are very trusting so we even got to steer a ship.”

Gavin said he’s still in touch with some of the other trainees on Facebook. “We saw dolphins, whales and North Sea oilfields during the journey. We quickly got used to life at sea.”

Aoife Ledwidge O’Brien, an 18-year-old UCD engineering student from Bray in Co Wicklow, sailed for 10 days on board Lord Nelson from Milford Haven, Wales to Whitehaven, England via Waterford.

“Sailing with Lord Nelson was the first time I’d ever sailed and it was probably the best thing I’ve ever done,” she said.

David Murray, a business information systems student at UCC and originally from Butlerstown in Waterford, is fast becoming a sail training veteran having first sailed in June 2009 on Tenacious from Waterford to Dublin and Kinsale.

This year David, 20, sailed as bosun’s mate on Lord Nelson from Southampton to Glasgow and on Eendracht from Kristiansand to Hartlepool. At Hartlepool, he joined Tenacious as bosun’s mate to sail from Hartlepool to London via Bruges, Belgium. Days later, he rejoined Lord Nelson to sail from Falmouth, England to Waterford via Milford Haven, Wales.

“It’s been a very busy but great couple of summers with tall ships and I’m really looking forward to next year – especially with Waterford again hosting the fleet and crews from around the world.

When they leave Waterford after the Parade of Sail along the Suir Estuary on July 3, the tall ships will race around Ireland’s south, west and north coasts to Greenock, Scotland.

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