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HRH The Countess of Wessex in Gosport sailing with teenagers

ASTO Patron HRH The Countess of Wessex and her daughter Lady Louise Mountbatten-Windsor joined one of the Gosport-based charity’s member vessels, Donald Searle for a day sail in the Solent on Monday (6 August).

The Association of Sail Training Organisations (ASTO) is a registered charity with a membership made up of more than 30 not-for-profit bodies that operate more than 50 vessels around the UK offering Sail Training opportunities for young people from all backgrounds.

The Countess of Wessex and Lady Louise, 14, teamed up with a group of teenage girls from across the UK and Ireland who are currently embarked on a six-day sailing adventure on the 75-ft ketch operated by the Rona Sailing Project, which runs programmes from Easter to October each year.

ASTO President Rear Admiral John Lang, who welcomed the Royal party at Haslar Marina this morning, said: “We’re delighted that our Patron HRH The Countess of Wessex and her daughter Lady Louise could join one of our member vessels today to see first hand the great work done by one of the many Sail Training organisations that offer programmes across the UK. The Rona Sailing Project is one amongst many vessel operators who work tirelessly to widen the horizons and self confidence of young people from all backgrounds and abilities through their Sail Training activities.”

Donald Searle set sail from Haslar Marina in Gosport on Monday morning and everybody on board, including the Royal crew mates, got involved in hauling the sails and helming during their day sail in light airs under glorious August sunshine.

Amongst the crew on board today were seven girls aged between 16 and 19 from across the UK and Ireland who are taking part in a six-day trip starting and finishing at the Rona Sailing Project’s base in Hamble, Hampshire.

One of the trainees sailing on board Donald Searle was Hannah McKenzie, 19, from Glasgow who is sailing with the Rona Sailing Project for the third time.

“It’s been a really great day and having our special guests on board reinforced the amazing experience we’ve been having over the last days. The great thing about Sail Training is working together with people from all different backgrounds and bonding together as a team.

“I didn’t used to cope well in large groups and kept to myself, but Sail Training has given me so much more confidence and social skills, which has really helped for interviews and at university.”

For Donald Searle’s skipper Bill Jermey, 69, today’s visit was particularly special as this is his final voyage with the Rona Sailing Project after first sailing with the organisation as a trainee aged 15. Since 1989 he has volunteered with the charity and has sailed as skipper for the last 25 years.

For further information about ASTO, its member organisations and opportunities for young people from all backgrounds to get involved in Sail Training across the UK visit: www.uksailtraining.org