Giving young people the skills to succeed in life

Ocean Youth Trust South introduces our sail training vessel!

Ocean Youth Trust South's latest sail training vessel, Prolific, started sailing with young people in April 2017.

Prolific is a stunning vessel with real beauty and genuine character. She was built in 2005, as a tribute to the herring-fishing vessels in operation along the Norwegian coast during the 19th century.

The ship is a hybrid of historic design and modern-day construction. Most recently she has been used for sail training with young people in Norway.

OYT South is thrilled to have been able to bring this unique boat to the UK, where she can play a major part for many years to come in helping young people to develop the skills to succeed in life.


See here for a 360-degree tour of Prolific shot by Bournemouth360Photos during the Poole Harbour Boat Show in May 2017.

We look forward to sailing with you in Prolific!

See here for details of OYT South's charitable work

description, dimensions and video tours
Prolific Appeal
Replacing John Laing
Prolific bookings
Project background
Prolific's history

Prolific description, dimensions and video tours

length on the waterline is 23.4 metres, length on deck 26 metres and with bowsprit 30 metres. Her draught is 3.2 metres. She comes under the Small Commercial Vessels Code, exactly the same as our previous vessel, John Laing, which crucially meant that Prolific could be sailed by the charity's existing staff and volunteers.

She has the potential for up to 26 berths but, fitting in with coding requirements, we tend to sail with 12-15 young people (and group leaders where appropriate) plus 6 or 7 adult staff and volunteers.

When a team from OYT South went to look at Prolific in Norway prior to purchase in 2015, we made two quick videos for those members of our team who couldn't be there with us, just showing what she looks like as you walk round, both outside and in. (It is worth noting that she was not in full commission at the time - and we have done a lot of work since these videos were made!)

Exterior video:

Interior video, starting from the bow:

On deck, she is a Bermudan ketch with a bowsprit, and high bulwarks which provide a very safe area for young people and novice sailors to move around.

Prolific’s accommodation includes 6 staff berths towards the stern (two pairs and two single cabins); 10 berths in the saloon; 6 in the fore cabin; and a small cabin in the bows, which can be used for group leaders if they prefer separate accommodation. She also has a huge saloon with room for everyone for meals, briefings, games and more; a good navigation area with lots of space for young people to get involved; plenty of galley space including separate cooking and washing-up areas; a great workshop; and a utility room with a washing machine.

She’s fast and she’ll be an incredible passage-making vessel. She will allow us to deliver voyages in new and exciting ways; but she also has a huge amount to offer our regular, longstanding clients. We look forward to the input of our staff, volunteers and clients as we work together to realise the true potential of a fantastic sail training vessel.

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Ocean Youth Trust South would like to give very special thanks to the following donors who made the purchase and refit of Prolific possible:

ProlificThe Baily Thomas Charitable Fund
The Bernard Sunley Charitable Foundation
David Blogg
Mark Boggis
Stephen Bond
Bonhomie United
Eric and Penny Burrows
Robert Camping
Fred Cole
Cory Brothers
The D C R Allen Charitable Trust
James Dyson
The Ellis Campbell Charitable Foundation
Helena Frost
Neil "Sharkee" Gardiner
The Geoff & Fiona Squire Foundation
C Gibbs
The Gosling Foundation
Mr and Mrs Gosnell
The Greendale Foundation
Guildford Coastal Cruising Club
Val Hague
Abbey Heffer
Holman Fenwick Willan
The Joan Braithwaite Sailing Trust
Jonny Holman
D Jones
J Leon
ProlificMarina Developments Limited
Giles Nicklin
Fraser Old
Jeremy Ouvry
OYT South's Isle of Wight Support Group
Parkside School
The Patrick and Helena Frost Foundation
The Peter Dixon Trust
RE Pilkington
Kit Power
The Quilter Cheviot Foundation
Andrew Ritchie
Jamie Sheldon
Celia Smith
Sir Hugh Stevenson
Trinity House
J M Tyler
Wates Family Enterprise Trust
Andrew Wilkes
Charles Wylie

Plus other generous donors who prefer to remain anonymous.

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Ocean Youth Trust South would like to extend our warmest thanks to a number of our major sponsors, without whom this project would not be possible:

MDL"MDL Marinas is absolutely thrilled that Ocean Youth Trust South has succeeded in their acquisition of the new sail training vessel,
Prolific. OYT South has such a huge influence on young people’s lives, providing a valuable experience for them at a crucial age. Over the years MDL has seen many young people grow into outstanding adults and many of them cite their experience afloat as their turning point. The acquisition of Prolific will allow OYT South to continue their good work for many years to come and MDL Marinas looks forward to looking after the boat whilst she’s in the Solent."

IP"International Paint heartily congratulates Ocean Youth Trust South on its acquisition of the sail training vessel
Prolific. Prolific will inject a new dynamic into Ocean Youth Trust South and create even more opportunities for young people to benefit from the life-changing experience of training at sea. International Paint and the whole of the AkzoNobel Community look forward to continuing our longstanding support for Ocean Youth Trust and the superb work it does for children and young people."

"Raymarine is delighted to hear the news that Ocean Youth Trust South has purchased the sail training vessel Prolific;in the belief that the ‘new’ boat can only enhance the charity’s work with young people.  Raymarine has supported OYT South for many years and, now as part of the wider FLIR family, is proud to continue that support in what promises to be a new era  for OYT South and the extraordinary results it achieves."

HFW"HFW are delighted to support OYT South. We are inspired by the work OYT South does, offering young people the opportunity to sail and to benefit from a challenging team-work and bonding experience. From HFW volunteers, sanding and repainting the deck and redecorating the crew's quarters in John Laing, assisting with fund-raising, to organising the legal transaction for the new purchase, we will do all we can to support. We are particularly pleased to see all of the hard work that OYT South has put in to obtain the new boat coming together. It is fantastic news that present and future generations of young people will get to benefit from the vital life skills they learn from sailing with OYT South in their great new boat."  

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Replacing John Laing

John Laing’s
programme continued to the end of the 2016 season and in December 2016 she was sold. We were very sorry to see her go but sadly we are unable to maintain and operate two boats. In the week of John Laing's retirement, we circulated the following to our supporters:

"For the last 26 years, John Laing has been a brilliant sail training vessel, introducing many thousands of young people to sailing and making a tremendous difference not just to the lives of the young people and to our clients but also to our staff and volunteers. She has sailed round the world, taken part in an expedition to Antarctica, joined Tall Ships races in ports as far afield as Russia and the United States, Portugal and Norway. But just as importantly, she has completed many hundreds of local voyages in the Solent and the Channel, involving young people from the widest possible variety of backgrounds, helping them to develop the skills needed to succeed in life. John Laing is the current holder of the Sail Training Vessel of the Year Award, given by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) and the Association of Sail Training Organisations (ASTO). Sir Alan Massey KCB, the Chief Executive of the MCA, presented the trophy at the start of the year “in recognition of … outstanding service to sail training, reflecting also the great care that OYT South has taken over the years in ensuring the highest standards of safety and quality in what they do for sail training.”

John Laing has been a safe, strong, utterly dependable vessel, delivering all that we could ever have asked of her. If it were possible to calculate the value of all the life-changing experiences that have occurred on board, it’s safe to say that she has repaid every penny ever spent on her, thousands of times over. She has been a platform for the most exciting adventures, a foundation for lasting friendships, a creator of challenges that prove to people they can achieve more than they ever dreamed, a refuge, an inspiration, a home.

We are all excited about moving into the future with our new boat, Prolific, but in the week of John Laing’s last voyage with OYT South, we just want to say a heartfelt thank-you to a much loved boat, and to wish her safe sailing and fair winds wherever she travels."

We had a fantastic response to this post, and some of the tributes to John Laing can be seen on Facebook.

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Prolific bookings

We look forward to seeing as many people as possible on board Prolific. See here for our 2022 sailing programme. New sailing programmes tend to be published in the early summer each year for the following year, which means we start looking at the next year's plans in around May each year. If you are involved with a group which would like to book one or more voyages in Prolific, please contact to discuss your requirements.

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Project background

OYT South had been considering the long-term need to replace John Laing for almost ten years, and in all that time no second-hand vessel meeting our requirements had been identified until Prolific. We therefore went down the route of having a new boat designed especially for us by Owen Clarke Design and we were working hard to raise the funds to build this brand-new boat. However, when Prolific came on the market in 2015, it was clearly an opportunity that the charity could not afford to miss, even though it took us down a different route to the Owen Clarke design. We would like to place on record our gratitude to Merf Owen and Allen Clarke for all their efforts on behalf of the charity. They have played a huge part in getting the charity to a position where we were able to buy Prolific, and we were pleased that Merf and Allen were involved in helping us make some modifications to Prolific.

ProlificThe purchase of Prolific not merely allows us to plan the charity’s future well beyond what would have been John Laing’s life expectancy; it means we can move forward with all our attention focussed on what really matters: running great voyages, attracting clients, continually improving how we work and what we offer, raising funds to allow more disadvantaged and vulnerable individuals to sail with us, and above all, making a real and lasting difference to young people. That’s why OYT South exists and Prolific will help us to do that for many years to come.

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The current Prolific, built in 2005, is a successor to the original Prolific, built in 1891 as a Grimsby sailing trawler - a 69-foot cutter-rigged ketch.

In 1898 she was sold to Sweden and moved to the village of Halleviksstrand on the west coast, on the island of Orust (home to Hallberg Rassey,  Najad and Malo Yachts). From there she spent the next half-century fishing in the North Sea, from Halleviksstrand to Utsire in Norway, to Shetland and Peterhead, to Skagen in Denmark.

In 1948 she was sold to Estonian refugees not wanting to be repatriated to Russia after WWll, and in July she set off for the USA with 69 men, women and at least 10 children on board. She put into Dover, crossed Biscay in a storm and suffered damage; was saved by a Spanish three-masted ship and escorted into Pontevedra, north of Vigo. The fishing village helped the vessel to be repaired and the crew to recover. Next, she put into Madeira; she suffered more damage in a storm near the Bahamas; and finally on 20th September 1948 was escorted into Wilmington, North Carolina. The crew had no papers and the story goes that after their harrowing Atlantic crossing they pleaded for one night's rest on board before being interviewed and possibly turned away. That night, Prolific sank in Wilmington Bay - readers can speculate as to the cause but it did mean that the Americans had no choice but to let them stay! The crew were then taken to Ellis Island to be processed as immigrants.

Ants Lepson, who was a teenager on the trip to America, eventually returned to live in Norway, as a marine artist, painting many pictures of Prolific's adventure. Ants also became the skipper of the Norwegian sail training tall ship Sorlandet and also skippered Christian Radich. Ants is still alive and has visited the modern Prolific on at least two occasions.

Family descendants of the original owners and crews of the first Prolific still live in and around Halleviksstrand and Orust. In 2002 interested people in the community formed a group called Navigare Necesse  Est (NNE) (some of whom were 1970's Swedish ex-Admirals Cup sailors) to raise funds to recreate a new Prolific for sail training to keep alive traditional seafaring skills on the west coast of Sweden.

The modern Prolific was launched at Lysekil in 2005, and made her maiden voyage to Lowestoft. For five years she undertook passages around northern Europe and as far south as the Azores, before being sold to Stavanger to work as a part of the Pobel Project (Community Project for young adults needing support in education and employment). She sailed widely from 2010 to 2014, including Tall Ships races and a Russian National Geographic Expedition to Svalbard.

Finally in 2015 she was bought by Ocean Youth Trust South...and a new chapter begins!

An OYT South team brought her back from Norway - here's a picture of her arriving in the Solent:

Jack Dignan, then OYT South's newest watchleader, aged 18, and Kit Power, governor of the charity in the 1960s, aged 81, were among those who got together to welcome Prolific as she arrived in the UK - linking the charity's history and our future, as a new generation carries forward an idea that was first developed well over 50 years ago.

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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