Our charitable work

Giving young people the skills to succeed in life

Making a lasting difference

Who can sail with us
History and record of success
Voyages for young people aged 12-25
An award-winning charity
Sailing qualifications and why they matter
Measuring outcomes, providing evidence
Case studies
Client comments and testimonials
How you can help
Video - made for us by young people from the Prince's Trust to show what a voyage is like

Making a lasting difference

A voyage with OYT South really can transform a young person's life. This video tells JP's story:

Some voyages are built around a specific project: for example in May 2018 the Leadling Lights project put girls from Ormiston Academies on board Prolific for voyages alongside adult mentors, in order to inspire them and raise their aspirations. You can find more information here as well as in this video:

This message was received in 2016 from a man in his fifties about a voyage he did with us as a teenager in 1979::

"For me, not coming from any sort of nautical background, it provided a complete change from my normal environment, which was exactly what I needed following my mum’s death whilst I was only just 17. I found I had time to reflect especially when I was on the night watch and each of the adult crew was approachable. Not like teachers, more like much older siblings. I had a little tearful moment one morning, it was only a few weeks after she had gone so emotions were raw. One of the crew members noticed. Quietly went and made a couple of cups of tea. And didn't say anything directly but just stayed with me for a while drinking his tea. And I got through that moment and felt better. It was the year of the Fastnet disaster when a massive storm cost several lives and we were outside the harbour unable to enter until the waves died down a bit. And for a lad who was even a little uncomfortable on a cross channel ferry, I have to say I was one of the only crew that wasn't sick that night. Everything seemed safe - we had lines to secure us in the event of being swept overboard, and I seem to remember I was positioned as a lookout at the front of the boat being hit by the spray from the waves, and I found it exhilarating. I've never had a problem with nervousness since that experience. Now you're going to think I'm being a bit over dramatic, but I remember thinking I have survived the death of my parent which also meant losing my home and even my dog was given away, that I could deal with any troubles in life. The boat going up and down all over the place became a positive exciting experience, as I was able to rationalise that I'd taken all the safety precautions and our boat was if I remember 75' long and not some little dinghy. I went home feeling I’d grown up just that little bit more. Truthfully was the best experience at just the right time."

A voyage with Ocean Youth Trust South is not just about learning to sail, but about developing qualities which matter in everyday life.

A voyage can focus on:

  • Confidence John Laing
  • Working in a team
  • Coping with unfamiliar experiences
  • Communication
  • Taking responsibility
  • Learning new skills
  • Perseverance in the face of challenges
  • Getting on with people
  • Making lasting friendships

These are all skills and qualities which employers, families and communities need.

Here's what someone working in a school, who has been sending people to sail over the last ten years, thinks about the impact of our voyages:

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Who can sail with us
We work with other charities, mainstream and special schools, local authorities, social workers and youth workers, who refer young people to sail with us. Especially in school holidays, these may be mainstream groups from families who can afford a voyage (including young people doing the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Gold Residential); but we also work with young people who are disadvantaged or vulnerable in some way, particularly for term-time voyages. This includes young carers, siblings of life-limited children, young offenders, young people not in education, training or employment, children who have been bullied, abused or neglected, homeless teenagers, victims of crime, young people with physical and/or learning difficulties, children in care and many more.


Some young people and their families pay for their own places; other places are funded by the schools, clubs or charities which arrange the voyage. But OYT South also maintains a bursaries fund for disadvantaged or vulnerable young people who cannot afford even the basic subsidised voyage cost: in 2018, 132 young people received some funding from us to a total of £35,850 - ranging from people who had raised most of the money for themselves and just needed a little help, through to some exceptionally disadvantaged young people who received full funding.

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History and record of success

Ocean Youth Trust South is a registered charity (no. 1079959) which grew out of the Ocean Youth Club, founded in 1960. Ocean Youth Trust South has existed as an independent charity since 2000.

CrewWe work with around 450 young people each year, taking them to sea as active crew members in a purpose-built sail training vessel. We have come to be recognised as one of the leaders in the field of sail training, and in recent years our vessel has almost always been filled to capacity – and with a waiting list for sailing volunteers.

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Voyages for young people aged 12-25

Ocean Youth Trust South is a registered charity (no. 1079959) which offers residential sailing opportunities to young people aged 12-25 on board our 30-metre sailing vessel, Prolific.

CrewVoyages can last from two days to two weeks but in general will include four or five nights on board. This allows time for young people to develop familiarity and confidence in sailing the boat; make friends; work as a team; learn new skills; earn recognised qualifications; face new challenges; have a lot of fun; and go home with a real sense of achievement.

We sail with up to 12 young people at a time, as well as up to eight adult staff and volunteers. The young people may come as small groups or individuals prepared to mix with others, or they may come with a full group booking of 12, which can include adult leaders such as teachers or youth workers. This is not always necessary, but many groups bring two leaders and 10 young people; and some - particularly when the young people have complex special needs - bring six young people and six adults for one-to-one support.

CrewYoung people take part in all activities on board – sail handling, steering, navigation, cooking, keeping watch (including night watches) etc. We don’t even decide in advance where the boat will go: there will be a start and finish port, but what happens in between depends partly on the weather but also on what the young people want to do.

Wherever possible, we aim to explain, listen and offer choices. Some crews will consist of young people who are ready for a challenge, with long passages that will really push them to their limits. Other voyages may involve less confident young people who need a gentler introduction to sailing, or a break from problems at home or at school.

We don’t usually sail all day, every day - voyages include time ashore, a chance to explore a new place, have a shower, play games, have a beach BBQ or buy souvenirs.

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QAVS logo
An award-winning charity

OYT South is the first sail training charity to have won The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service.

Our Chief Executive, Mark Todd, was the inaugural winner of the Maritime & Coastguard Agency’s Award for Command Commitment to Sail Training, the highest professional recognition available in sail training.

In January 2016, our previous vessel John Laing was named Sail Training Vessel of the Year by the Maritime & Coastguard Agency and the Association of Sail Training Organisations.

In December 2018, Ocean Youth Trust South’s Staff Skipper, Peta Koczy, won the title of Young Sail Trainer of the Year 2018. This is a worldwide award for a young professional sail trainer under the age of 25, to encourage and recognise high-performing individuals who deliver sail training to young people at sea.

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Sailing qualifications and why they matter

Ocean Youth Trust South offers sailing qualifications through the Royal Yachting Association: the RYA Start Yachting certificate or, the RYA Competent Crew certificate. These qualifications are ideal for keen young sailors who wish to go on Crewand develop their skills; but they can also be valuable for young people who struggle in school and may not get many academic qualifications. As well as showing that a young person has mastered some basic sailing skills, an RYA certificate also demonstrates that they listened, concentrated, worked with others, joined in with the routine activities as well as the exciting ones, took responsibility when asked, got out of bed on time, practised things they initially found difficult or challenging, without giving up, and much more.

All of this helps provide the evidence they need to move on in life.

Young people who do really well on a voyage may be invited back to train as volunteers (which can mean years of free sailing): those over 16 can sail as bosuns, responsible for basic maintenance and safety checks; those over 18 can train as watch leaders.

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Measuring outcomes, providing evidence

Those who arrange voyages for young people are given a report afterwards including comments from the skipper and watchleaders; details of certificates and qualifications earned; comments from young people themselves; and the results of a self-evaluation exercise which asks young people to give themselves marks in a range of areas at the start of the voyage and again at the end, so we can see how they feel they have changed. Results from 304 participants in 2017 included:Crew

  • Feeling confident:  +22%
  • Working in a team: +16%
  • Learning new skills: +15%
  • Coping with new experiences: +18%
  • Getting on with people: +11%
  • Dealing with setbacks: +20%
  • Learning from experience: +11%
  • Communication (speaking and listening): +14%
  • Compromise and negotiation when living with others: +15%

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Case studies (names have been changed)
Lucy first sailed with us aged 14 on a voyage arranged through Hampshire County Council’s Adoption Team. She was adopted after a traumatic early life and had since been bullied; she had very low self-esteem, and was withdrawn and nervous.

John LaingDespite this, she did her best on the voyage, helping others who were younger or less physically able, and at the end was told she had been an excellent crew member. She was overwhelmed and said she wasn’t used to doing anything well or having other young people look up to her!

Her social worker felt the voyage had made a dramatic difference to her confidence. She has since sailed twice more with us and though she still struggles at times, the voyages seem to have kick-started a lasting change, in particular making her much more willing to try new things.

She is now volunteering in a residential care home for the elderly, and has a place at college. A couple of years ago it was hard to imagine a happy and settled future for Lucy; now that seems more likely than not.

Adam, aged 17, was referred to us by his school, who said he was at risk of becoming NEET (not in education, employment or training) due to difficulties in social interaction and a lack of confidence.

He earned his first-ever real qualification on the voyage and the school reported afterwards: “He absolutely loved it; didn’t want to leave! He also says (unprompted) that he feels more confident too. Overall great stuff.

“He has since secured a job interview for a McDonalds training scheme and we have been working on talking about the voyage as a way to present himself in a positive light to prospective employers.

“I feel that we couldn’t have found him a better experience to bring him on a bit."

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Client comments and testimonials

For some years OYT South has been working with young people excluded from mainstream schools in Hampshire. DAVID HARVEY, AREA STRATEGIC MANAGER - ALTERNATIVE PROVISION, says: “The opportunities for sailing, being part of a team, taking responsibility, learning real life Crewskills have been invaluable and instrumental in re-engaging some challenging young people with education, leading to pathways being established. There are seven Pupil Referral Units in Hampshire and if dedicated sailing time could be provided for each centre and thereby engaging more children this would be hugely beneficial. Additionally schools have benefitted from sending young people at risk of exclusion on voyages. Feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.” Everyone who took part in this programme in 2014 earned a Royal Yachting Association certificate – in many cases their first real qualification.

HACKNEY’S VIRTUAL SCHOOL FOR CHILDREN IN CARE sailed for the first time in 2015.  L, aged 16, said: “This has been a phenomenal trip and I’m so glad and thankful I got picked to come. I appreciate all that the staff have done including taking up their time to spend it with us. I would recommend it to others. It also helps with confidence and people’s self-esteem. I think this trip helped me find friends and I met some good friends that I will stay in touch with.” S, aged 15, wrote: “I liked this trip a lot. When I first came I didn’t know anybody but I like how we all got along. I also enjoyed sailing especially in the night and learning how to sail. The staff were also very nice, friendly and it was all amazing and I have made some very good friends I will keep in touch with.” The adult leaders who sailed with the group were equally positive: Hannah said “Thank you to everyone who made ALL the effort to make the trip fun and safe. Thank you for treating each young person as an individual and bringing out the best in them – that is a real special quality.”

THE SAINTS FOUNDATION from Southampton Football Club brought two groups to sail in 2014 – one group of young people with disabilities or learning difficulties, the other mainly young people not in education, employment or training. Their group leader wrote afterwards: “I just wanted to email to say how much all of our group enjoyed being on the boat with your staff. All the staff were absolutely superb with all members of the group and were extremely understanding of all the young people’s needs. Before the group were extremely anxious of what to expect but were greeted by the staff and made to feel at home on board, to the point where all of the group were extremely sad to be leaving. To see the young people come out of their shells and grow in confidence over the five days was excellent and that would not have been possible without the fantastic work of your staff and volunteers. “

CrewSURREY YOUNG CARERS arranged voyages for four young people in 2014. One mum wrote to us: “I wanted to pass on a huge thanks to all the team there from myself and my son, who had a really great week sailing with you. He was unbelievably tired when I collected him on the Friday afternoon but he had such a good time. He had lots to tell us about and was very proud of his certificates. It was an experience that we could not have afforded to give him and we are most grateful to you for giving him the opportunity.”

THE VYNE SCHOOL, Basingstoke brought ten young people who qualified for the Pupil Premium to sail in 2014, plus two staff, who told us: “The trip was an amazing success. The staff on board were truly inspirational. They smiled from start to finish, even when we were sailing in the Force 6 with thunder and lightning! They kept us all busy and entertained. They were so patient, encouraging and enthusiastic, which rubbed off on the students. Our students really excelled in everything they did, gained confidence and learned to deal with adversity. We cannot express how beneficial this trip was. The new-found confidence in some of our students is so clear to see now that they have returned to school.” Since then the school has really impressed us with their dedication in integrating the voyage experience with their long-term goals for individual young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. Following another voyage in 2015, their teacher, Mary Pavey, wrote: “All the students had a great experience on the voyage and I have managed to implement some of what they have learned during their time on the trip during their school days. If/when they were stepping out of line or behaving in a silly way, I just reminded them of how we would behave on the boat and what is acceptable. They would stop in their tracks and make the right decision. Every one of our students took their responsibilities on board seriously. They worked really well as a group and individually. It was lovely to see how respectful and polite they were towards the members of staff on board and to each other.  Being in a confined space was not easy for all of them but they managed to work through their issues and sea sickness without any complaints. We, as a school, cannot thank OYT South enough for all these amazing opportunities you have given our students. These are children that would never have the chance to do something like this. This is the sort of thing that can change their perspective and aspirations. They know that doing something like this will play an important part in their future.”

JACK DIGNAN, aged 18, was born unable to see out of his left eye and sailed first with a group from MACS, the charity for children born without eyes or with underdeveloped eyes. He was later chosen to give a speech in front of an audience of dignitaries - including HRH the Countess of Wessex - during the Tall Ships festival in Greenwich. Here’s an extract: “As we were pulling into Plymouth to mark the end of our week-long voyage, the sea was still with the August sun gently sinking into the horizon, Freddie Mercury was belting out a ballad, and the entire crew were reminding nearby residents that we were in fact the champions. I soon realised I was experiencing one of those magical moments. Turning around to see 15 friends…friends that only 7 days ago, 148 miles and an obscene amount of fish finger sandwiches earlier were complete strangers, and yet, after spending a mere week working and living together it felt like we had always known each other...

As I took a step back to reflect afterwards, I found it difficult to believe the transformation that had occurred to those of us onboard the John Laing, it is truly staggering. Although the sailing backdrop itself undoubtedly does create some amazing moments, it brings out the adventurous spirit in people, and it almost forces them together as a group...As far as I’m concerned, the uniqueness of sail training is what really sets it aside from existing services aiming to provide similar outcomes... Never before have I had a clearer indication of the things in life that truly matter. Going away and realising that over the course of the trip I never reached for my phone…I never wanted my laptop, I never wanted to take a sepia photo of my coffee and show it off to the world, was - to say the least - refreshing, as well as unprecedented...Given the common perception of youth in the country today combined with the associated stereotypes, making the decision to come on such a voyage can be difficult. Making this decision, and playing a part in the team on board completely dissolves these untrue assumptions. Making such a decision proves that, when given the challenge and when given the opportunity…and even when pushed beyond their comfort zone, the compassion, the determination and the support offered from one friend to another is something really quite special.” Jack has now qualified as a watchleader and is sailing regularly as a volunteer with OYT South. In November 2015 he was elected as OYT South's Youth Trustee - a full member of the Board.

THE WHEATSHEAF TRUST works with a wide variety of people in Southampton, including young people not in education, training or employment. Sail Training is one of the most powerful tools we have found for teaching people self-confidence, teamwork, trust and the ability to take responsibility – which are exactly the qualities employers look for.” Jonathan Cheshire, Chief Executive, the Wheatsheaf Trust.

Crew “Sail Training voyages are an inspirational way of engaging disaffected or out of touch young people. They offer a structured environment enabling young people to remain focused on given activities which give positive outcomes. When young people, removed from their immediate environment, have a positive and enjoyable experience and are able to achieve tangible and real targets it allows confidence and self-esteem to grow and gives them a platform to build on and to raise their aspirations. Sail Training voyages are able to make a very positive and often life changing difference to young people disengaged and in danger of becoming NEET.” Zandra Ranger, Coordinator for the Gosport Local Children's Partnership.

“A voyage with OYT South takes young people outside their normal environment and gives them the opportunity to change their perception of themselves. Having shared in the job of sailing the boat, cooking, cleaning and looking after one another they come away with a great sense of achievement and improved self-confidence and social skills. It can have a profound effect on those who have had negative experiences at school: most of the tasks are practical and physical and a history of failure can be transformed into an experience of 'I can' “. Lucinda Neall, author of About Our Boys and How to Talk to Teenagers. She runs workshops for parents, teachers and youth workers on bringing the best out in young people. Lucinda also leads a week-long self-realisation course, Building a Better Future, for ex-offenders and recovering addicts, and self-development workshops for troubled teenagers.

“I wasn’t too sure what the crew was going to be like, or the boat. I was so worried that everything would go wrong and it would be my fault and everyone would shout at me. But I truly can’t put into words how much I enjoyed myself, I will never forget it. The crew were amazing, Crewthey were so welcoming and they didn’t shout they explained and it was quite easy once they explained. I learnt so much about sailing and about myself. I feel so much happier since I came off the boat, my confidence is so much better and I don’t worry as much as I used to about doing activities outside of school with people I hardly know. When I left it was hard I just wanted to stay. I would love to come back and do another trip but for next time longer, time goes quickly when you’re enjoying yourself. I couldn’t thank everyone enough for giving me such a brilliant memory, I will always remember.” Ellesha, aged 14

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How you can help
1) Finding groups of young people or individuals to sail with OYT South.
There are places suitable both for disadvantaged and mainstream young people, and there are also voyages for adults. Up-to-date availability here

Crew2) Making a donation. OYT South is always looking for funds in the following areas:

  • Bursary funding for young people who cannot afford to sail
  • Vessel maintenance and equipment
  • Salaries, office costs etc.

Details here for how to make a donation

3) The skills acquired on our voyages are vital to the success of any business. Please contact us about corporate or teambuilding experiences for adults. We can offer your team a really effecvtive day on the water, and the money you pay for it will help us continue our work with young people. We also run occasional longer adult vioyages.

4) Volunteer for us: we need sailing volunteers to join our voyages, help with boat maintenance, local support groups, help with fundraising and more - please contact us for more information.

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“I have learnt and seen loads of new things and I will remember for the rest of my life! ” Jemima, aged 12