Tall Ships call for trainee sailors

From left, Emily Runciman, Coun Val Tyler and Melissa Moodie.

From left, Emily Runciman, Coun Val Tyler and Melissa Moodie.

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Organisers are calling for would-be sailors to take part in the adventure of a lifetime this summer in the North Sea Tall Ships Regatta at Northumberland.

The ships will be in place in Blyth during the Bank Holiday weekend of August 26 to 29. They will then set off on the 500 nautical mile race leg to Gothenburg in Sweden complete with trainees, who will then travel back to the UK.

Between 30 and 40 are expected to take part in the regatta, with most welcoming trainees. No sailing experience is required and although the training does cost, some sponsored funding is available.

Trainees can get involved in almost every activity, including taking the helm, setting sails and even climbing the rigging.

One of the first trainees to apply is Melissa Moodie. The marine engineering student from Whitley Bay, who turns 20 this week, is studying and training at the Blyth Tall Ship project.

She passed her Level One engineering last year and has now progressed to a NVQ Level 2 course learning welding, woodwork and metal work skills.

She has made bench hooks, seats, trims, hatches and even a rocking horse for her eight-month-old daughter Monica-Jaye.

Melissa said: “I was looking around for something to do part-time and I came across the courses at the Blyth Tall Ship project online.

“With my background with the Sea Cadets and the Merchant Navy, it was something that appealed to me as the work is hands-on and I gain useful qualifications.

“I’m really enjoying it so far and when I heard about the Tall Ships Regatta, I had no hesitation in applying for it as I’ve never sailed before and I really want to give it a go.

“You don’t have to have any experience to join a Tall Ship and I would encourage anyone who wants to sail from Blyth to Sweden to register their interest.”

Emily Runciman, from Ashington, has been appointed as Northumberland County Council’s Tall Ships ambassador.

Last year, she sailed on a Tall Ship yacht from Hartlepool to Belfast, sailing via the Caledonian Canal and Loch Ness. She was sponsored by Active Northumberland and the Port of Blyth.

As well as the regatta covering late August and early September, the 18-year-old will be part of a tall ship team earlier in the summer that will go from the southern coast of Spain to a port on the northern coast of the country.

Emily, a student at Kirkley Hall’s Military Academy (Northumberland College), said: “The Tall Ships experience last year was very demanding at times, but it was a lot of fun and as well as getting time to relax and play games on the ship, I got to enjoy some great scenery and see whales and dolphins.

“I can’t wait for the two Tall Ships journeys this year and I would say to people thinking about applying for the Blyth regatta that if you give it a go, you might really enjoy the experience.

“I was told that I might have to keep taking tablets and take it easy on some days, but I didn’t feel sick at all on board the ship.”

The county council, in partnership with the Port of Blyth and Sail Training International, is hosting the prestigious regatta. It will be one of the largest events ever held in the county and the only regatta in the UK this year.

Fergusons Transport of Blyth has been confirmed as the principal sponsor for the event.

Coun Val Tyler, cabinet member for arts, leisure and culture at the county council, said: “Seeing young people like Melissa and Emily gain these skills and hearing them talk about working in a ship’s crew and preparing to sail to Sweden is a joy.

“The regatta offers a chance for people across the county to get involved and if you think you might like to try it, please get in touch and apply for a place on one of the Tall Ships.”

More than 150,000 visitors a day are expected to attend the Blyth Regatta, which also requires a range of volunteers and many of whom will receive a formal qualification as part of their role.

Trainees for the Tall Ships places must be aged 15 or over. One of the ships, the Lord Nelson, can be sailed by a crew with widely varied physical abilities with every aspect of shipboard life available to all – 10 places on this ship are being fully funded by the county council.

Port of Blyth chief executive Martin Lawlor said: “We are absolutely delighted to be hosting the only Tall Ships regatta in the country in 2016. It promises to be a spectacular event and a great day out.

“We are keen for people to get involved, either as a trainee or as a volunteer, to show the world what an amazing event the North Sea Tall Ships Regatta Blyth 2016 is and how spectacular Northumberland is – we want everyone to put the date in their calendar now for what will be a fabulous weekend.”

Anyone who would like to know more about becoming a trainee or a volunteer, and bursary opportunities, or apply for a regatta place through an online form need to visit www.tallshipsblyth2016.com

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