Tall Ships Sail Trainees Swap Schoolbooks to Sail Away

A London teenager is set to swap her schoolbooks for the rigours of the open sea, when she joins a crew for leg one of a transatlantic journey that begins on the Thames at Greenwich.

Sixth form student Drusilla Barnes, 16, from Erith in Kent, won the chance to take part in Rendez-Vous 2017 Tall Ships Regatta after being among winners in an essay-writing competition.

She’s being sponsored by the Port of London Authority (PLA) and will be at sea for the 14-day voyage on board one of the Tall Ships, destined for Sines in Portugal. Her duties will include rigging the sails, navigating and steering at the helm.

Drusilla, who’s currently studying English literature, sociology and health and social care at the John Roan School in Greenwich, said:

“When I finish studying, I want to work abroad and travel to different countries and I thought this might be a great way to get started, while learning new skills and making friends.”

The race, organised by Sail Training International, will see Drusilla, and 50 other sponsored trainees from Greenwich depart the Port of London in the grand Parade of Sail that marks the end of the Royal Greenwich Tall Ships Festival.

After a recent visit to the PLA headquarters in Gravesend to meet the team and learn about their work, Drusilla said: “I had a tour of Port Control, which is like air traffic control for the river.

“Simon Malins, one of the duty port controllers told me that he would be helping all the tall ships travel up and down the river during the Tall Ship Regatta. He said he would call me on the VHF radio to check up on me as I passed by, on my way to Portugal.

“At school we were taught about imports and exports, but I didn’t realise the number of cars that were shipped to the UK via the Thames.”

With 95% of UK imports arriving by sea, the PLA is encouraging young people from all backgrounds to consider a career in maritime and ports.

The Greenwich Tall Ships Festival takes place between April 13 and 16 this year.