Isle of Wight teenager to take to the high seas0
9 February 2009
An Isle of Wight teenager is preparing to cross the Atlantic on a 20.6m ketch, as part of the Tall Ships Atlantic Challenge this summer. Imelda McGrath, 18 and currently at Carisbrooke High School, will be going to Tenerife in May to join the vessel Rona II to sail some 2,600 nautical miles west across the Atlantic to Bermuda.
“Living on the Isle of Wight I have learned to love the sea,” says Imelda. “I’ve tried out loads of different water sports from aqua skipping to surfing but have always wanted to improve my sailing. After a recommendation from a friend I decided to do a sail training voyage with the Rona Sailing Project and through that I won an Amory award which qualified me to attend a selection weekend for the Tall Ships Atlantic Challenge.”
Imelda will be joining 17 other young women under 25 on the race across the Atlantic, together with five crew members. An all-boy Atlantic crossing will take place when Rona II does the return race from Halifax to Belfast in August. “All the trainee crews will need to work hard to get the best out of Rona II, with four hour watches day and night for the entire four week race,” says skipper Chris Wolley, for whom this Atlantic crossing will also be a first. “It will be hard work for everyone but we are also sure it will be great fun and something that all the young men and women will remember for the rest of their lives.”
The cost of taking part in the event is £1400 but all the trainees selected have been asked to fundraise half that amount through a series of activities. So far they have taken part in a London-Brighton bike ride, organised a concert and undertook a 24 hour rowing marathon at Tesco in Southampton. Before Easter they will be doing a round the Isle of Wight bike ride and then over the Easter weekend they will be sailing around the island.
Imelda has to delay taking her final A2 exams until January 2010 because she will miss them over the summer. “But I wasn’t about to give up a once in a lifetime opportunity to take part in the Tall Ships Atlantic Challenge because of exams,” commented Imelda, who has been awarded a RAF sixth form scholarship and hopes to pursue a career as an Engineer Officer in the RAF after studying aeronautical engineering at university.
“I’m really looking forward to doing some proper sailing, it’s hard to imagine how awesome it will be to race with a full spinnaker across the Atlantic,” says Imelda. “I know I’ll be very homesick being away from everyone for such a long time but then again I’m already looking forward to ringing home when I arrive in Bermuda. I guess after five week of being together with other girls on Rona II we will become very close, so I expect it will be strange not to have them around every second of the day when I get home!”
The Tall Ships Atlantic Challenge will involve some 50 Tall Ships racing across the Atlantic, including the second largest Tall Ship in the world, Kruzenshtern. The Russian ship is 114.5m long and takes 257 crew members, making her an awesome sight. The competition for the race will be strong, with all the ships vying to be first across the finish line.
“This kind of challenge may not be for everyone but I’m definitely going to be giving my all to try and win. That’s a very important part of the trip for me,” says Imelda. “I will push myself as hard as I can over the course of the race, otherwise there’s no point in taking part. It’s a race after all, not a holiday and I want to win.”
More information on the race and the vessels taking part can be found on www.tallshipsraces.org.
The Tall Ships Atlantic Challenge is open to anyone from 15 years of age upwards regardless of sailing experience. Trainees can take part in any part of the race and berths are still available on a number of the vessels.
For further information contact Corinne Hitching, Media Manager for Sail Training International.
Tel: 077641 83866
Tags: Atlantic, Atlantic crossing, half that amount, Kruzenshtern, london brighton bike ride, Rona II, sailing, selection weekend