OYT South crew members

How to sail with us

What previous crew members said

Cami sailed from Ipswich to Southampton in August - September 2008. Read her voyage diary here.

Ben Martin
first sailed in John Laing as a young crew member in 2005, and then went on to complete third mate and later second mate qualifications. In 2008, as one of OYT South's outstanding young watch leaders, we nominated him for an international sail training exchange programme. Read Ben's story here (pdf).

Hazel took part in a challenging and windy voyage from Gosport to Falmouth in July 2008. Read her account of her voyage here.

Toynbee Hall
is a charity which organised four voyages with OYT South in 2008. On one voyage, group leader Dawn wrote: "I never thought that being on board a boat with 10 kids would be fun but you know what, it was brilliant. OYT was an experience of a lifetime." Saif wrote: "OYT rules. Great time sailing and blissful joy all the way." And Emily, aged 15, wrote: "It was a whole new life experience and inspiring to us youths that get called yobs."

Acorns childrens hospice brought a crew of siblings to sail in June 2008. Group leader David wrote: "Amazing week made possible by a fantastic staff, crew and skipper, great balance of work, rest and play." Amber (15) wrote: "I've never actually been sailing before and this has been an amazing experience. The staff were really helpful and friendly and and I learnt so much thanks to them." Grant (16) said: "I had so much fun, I never thought that I would like sailing so much." And Hamish (14) wrote: "Very very fun, but so tired at the end."

See here for diaries and pictures (pdf) from their voyage by members of TS Swiftsure.

David Fox, aged 15, recently did his FIFTH voyage in John Laing! He wrote: "Hey, I've always loved the John Laing every time I have been with you guys but this time topped all of the others, mainly because we've been on this trip for longer and we've done more, e.g. longer sail time, more times moored up and fun activities, plus we're helping to teach the newcomers that haven't been on the John Laing before."

One of those newcomers was 12-year old Alice: "I've never been before and everything is better than I imagined and can't wait till next time to learn more and challenge myself further. The boat and life skills that you learn make a BIG difference."

Savas recently completed his second voyage with us and wrote: "I have enjoyed this trip to an amazing extent and if anyone asks me about the voyage I will tell them that it is an amazing and mind-blowing experience...At some times it's tiring and exhausting but all worth the late nights, it is an amazing experience and meeting all different people and getting so close and just making the bond with everyone."

See here for a superb account of a voyage in April 2008 by crew member Victoria Botting, aged 13.

David Baker sailed with the Ocean Youth Club several times in the 1960s. Forty years later he came back for an adult voyage. Read David's account of his latest voyage, and his reflections on how things have changed.

Katrina Hollis sailed in John Laing in July 2005, and wrote the following article for her sailing club newsletter:

The Tall Ships Race 2005

I have just returned from one of the best and inspiring two weeks of my life. When I signed up to take part in the Tall Ships Race, with the Ocean Youth Trust, I had no idea what I had let myself in for. I had previously spent week on a yacht, but nothing that could prepare me for the initial 4 day non-stop crossing: a turbulent combination of seasickness, battling waves, and beautiful cold star lit nights, topped off with a sunset encounter with dolphins swimming along side us.

We arrived exhausted after our crossing, from Portsmouth to Waterford (Ireland), to be greeted by thousands of spectators. We were later joined by over a hundred other boats, from the Indonesian and Russian 5 masted square riggers (complete with sailors on the yards!) to small yachts. The atmosphere was alive and for 4 days we enjoyed live music, street festivals, parades, fireworks and crew activities with young people from around the world.

The Tall Ships Race set sail on the Saturday 9th July. Despite the lack of wind it was a breathtaking event, seeing hundreds of tall ships, sails filled, in every direction gliding across the turquoise sea towards the start line.  After three frustrating sun baked days the race was cancelled; however, like everyone else I was stunned when that night I was thrown out of my bunk as the wind suddenly picked up and we streamed into Cherbourg-completing the first leg of the race.

Every bit of this trip was memorable; from the night we dressed up in oilskins to go to the fun fair; the parades of sail and the crew parties and foremost the race and meeting the diversity of people from all nationalities and backgrounds, united together by sailing, at this amazing event, one I definitely want to be a part of again! Katrina Hollis, 16

Liz and Skye sailed in John Laing for part of the 2005 Tall Ships Race series as part of a group of four crew members who came over from Canada to represent their local sail training organisation. Here’s what they said about their John Laing experience:

“I just got home from sailing on our tall ship in Canada (check out the website, www.brigantine.ca!)...I just want to say that we thoroughly enjoyed our trip on John Laing, it was definitely the highlight of my summer! We keep talking about it, so much so that our crew mates here in Canada are sick of hearing about it! I’m really grateful that I was given the privilege of sailing in the race this summer, and I definitely want to come back and sail with OYT again in the future, if not for next summer’s race to Spain and Portugal. This trip has made me fall even more in love with sailing than I was before! Anyway, I miss all the crew so much, since the trip I have become addicted to tea and have started using British terminology (wellies, oilskins, courgettes, snogging)! And I definitely want to come back to the UK to visit on land! Thanks again for everything, have a great end of summer and I hope to see you again soon!” Liz, 19, Canada

“Ever since I have been back, I haven’t gone an hour without thinking of John Laing, I would come back in a second. I just got back from sailing on our boat for a week – Liz and Veronica and I have had plenty of John Laing sessions where we bring up tons of stories and laugh and reminisce cause we miss it so much. I don’t think I could ever thank the sea staff enough for being some of the most amazing people and sharing some of the most amazing times, seriously. Especially coming from so far, it was really nice to feel at home. I hope you’re all doing awesome!...I’ll never be able to match this experience ever, and it really was because of you guys. I’m saving up all year so I can go to Tall Ships 2006. I think I’ll die if I can’t go on John Laing….!” Skye, 15, Canada

Jodi took part in the Tall Ships races as part of our bursary scheme to involve young people who would never normally have an opportunity to do anything like this. This is what she wrote:

“I can honestly say that it’s been one of the most challenging experiences yet; however, I have taken so much from this trip and I will never forget it. The things that I’ve seen and done are way beyond anything I could have ever thought possible. I always as a child dreamt of doing things just like normal people did, but never thought it would happen. This was way beyond anything I could imagine and has touched my life in so many different aspects; and for that I cannot thank you enough. I feel that this is the start to many endless opportunities for my future. You are all very special people who have more than likely touched the lives of many more people such as myself.” Jodi, 22

Crystal was also part of our 2005 Tall Ships bursary scheme, sailing from Newcastle to Norway. This is an extract from the report sent after the voyage by her youth worker:

“The trip was a new experience for Crystal as she had never travelled independently before so even the first leg of the journey to Newcastle was an achievement.

The main benefit that Crystal had from the trip was learning to trust other people – Crystal was nervous about being on a sailing boat in the middle of the ocean and this voyage being successful relied on everyone learning to work together, trust each other and learning to get along. Crystal finds it difficult to instantly connect with others but after a few days once she had relaxed she started bonding with the other people on the boat and found they were great people and she made some good friends.

There were 18 people on the boat from the ages 18-25 all of which came from different backgrounds and with different experiences. They spent a total of 7 days aboard and travelled 752 miles.

The boat was split into three teams who would do a 24-hour watch on a three-hour rota basis, and would also take it in turns to cook breakfast, lunch and dinner and do the cleaning. Crystal was homesick for the first four days but once she had started bonding with her crewmembers she started really enjoying the whole experience.

Once they arrived in Fredrikstad she completed the Crew parade and attended the prize giving ceremony. There were over 100 ships who took part in the race and 49 had to pull out so Crystal and her crew felt a great sense on achievement that they had completed the trip.

All of the crew and the skipper said they would gladly have Crystal accompany them on another trip. These comments were a huge confidence booster for Crystal who often puts herself down and does not think people like her. Crystal conquered many fears from the trip like travelling on her own and making some good friends with people with whom at first she felt intimidated by. This voyage is a wonderful experience for young people and it’s an opportunity that Crystal will most likely never experience again and she would like to thank Ocean Youth Trust South for providing her with this once in a life time trip.”

If you have enjoyed a voyage in John Laing and have comments or photographs which you would like to see included on this page, please contact the webmaster.


“It’s really made me think about what I want to do with the rest of my life.” Kirsty