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Accessible Sail Training for all: Transforming Lives Now and in the Future

February 13, 2020

Here at Sail Training International, our purpose is the development and education of young people through the sail training experience, regardless of nationality, culture, religion, gender or social background…

It is one of our core objectives to ensure Sail Training is accessible to all as a truly life enriching experience and never has this been more true than in the case of Neil Abrahams.

Neil Abrahams

Neil was first introduced to the world of Sail Training via the Ocean Youth Trust (formerly known as the Ocean Youth Club) in 1985 and it remains a large part of his life today. Neil’s first sail training voyage was onboard Scott Bader Commonwealth (UK). Having had no sailing experience, he was offered a last-minute opportunity to take part in a voyage.

Fast forward 34 years to September 2019, Neil took part in the final voyage on board tall ship Lord Nelson (UK). Following this final journey, he received a chance to bid goodbye as he attended her well documented decommissioning event.

Neil’s Sail Training voyages have spanned across four decades, and each voyage has certainly offered him a unique experience. Sailing on tall ships such as Tenacious (UK), Rona II (UK) and Lord Nelson (UK) has given him plenty to enjoy and learn. Indeed Neil’s sail training history includes an incredible 25 voyages, including an impressive five Tall Ships Races.

Neil Abrahams (left) meets Head of Race Directorate, Paul Bishop, onboard Tenacious in 2019.

These voyages have allowed Neil to feel a sense of freedom, become part of a team and helped foster immeasurable increase in self-confidence. Neil has struggled with learning difficulties throughout his life and he was very recently diagnosed with autism. Neil’s parents Peter and Sandra are delighted with the impact Sail Training has had on Neil and feel not enough people understand the value of these off-shore programmes and their longterm impact.

“It is something about a Tall Ships experience which allows Neil to really feel at home, out on the water, where he can help the crew and trainees alike. Neil can contribute and share the knowledge and skills he has amassed since 1985 and his self-sufficiency is something we are very proud of, it’s been incredibly rewarding and invaluable.

“We have been lucky enough to see Neil live independently on his own and hold down continued employment for over 20 years. It’s not something we ever thought we would see and we can really pin it down to the benefits of sail training.

“I am confident that this experience has the power to change the life trajectory for young people and allow them the opportunity to positively contribute to society via a positive transition to adult life – we’ve seen it happen!”

Peter Abrahams

When asking Neil what Sail Training has meant to him, it is clear how much of a positive impact it has had on his life.

“It makes me feel like I’m in the same boat as everyone else and part of something which is bigger, we feel like a family very quickly and help each other. I love it, I love seeing the wildlife, meeting all sorts of people from all over the world and helping to sail a ship. I can do something which I thought I would never have the chance to do.”

Neil Abrahams

This is not a unique story, Sail Training has been developing and adding value to young people’s lives across the world for decades. There are many stories similar to that of Neil’s and these experiences improve and transform young people’s lives, both now and in the future.

Changing Lives with the Tall Ships Races

The Tall Ships Races take place at various ports across the world during the summer each year and everyone is welcome. The event is open to young people aged 15-25, who have never sailed before, giving them an opportunity to get involved in a competitive event whilst also gaining skills in sailing, communication and building confidence. It is accessible and welcomes all.

Ships from a number of different nations will come together, engage with unique cultures and learn more about them throughout the whole race series.

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