Every year, many of the sail training ships in the world gather together for a series of sailing races. These races have been going on since 1956. They are among the largest sporting events in the world. In 2013, there were 9,000 individual participants and over 6,000,000 spectators visited the ships at the ports, which they raced to.
Wing Nin Chan is the General Secretary of China Sail Training Association. He first went on a sail training ship in 1979, at the age of 16 and was asked back to be one of the volunteer crew, spending over 400 days working on sailing ships, leading other young adults.
Wing Nin Chan said: “I know that the leadership opportunity that I had at a young age was a very important life skill. Also, it was one of the items on my CV, which stood out. It was probably one of the reasons that I got my place at King’s College, Cambridge University, since many of the other applicants for my course (Economics) had also passed the academic requirements.
I eventually ended up as an accountant, but I am now spending most of my time giving others the opportunities I had when I was younger. Fortunately, I have the support of many old sailing friends, some of whom I have known for over 30 years.”
Nee Hao puts a few questions to Wing
What is Sail Training?
Sail training is not the same as learning to sail. It is a character building experience, whereby the young adults involved (usually called trainees) learn hard work, team work and leadership. Everything is for real. The crew must pull together to raise the sails. The ships are not cruise liners. The trainees have to keep the ship clean, help with the cooking and steer her to the destinations. The ships will sail through the night, so the crew have to take turns at being on deck, in the dark, and in all weathers.
What is China Sail Training Association (China STA)?
We are based in Portsmouth, UK. Our mission is to promote sail training to Chinese and China. We also welcome trainees from all nations, because a sail training vessel is ideal for learning about other peoples’ cultures in a close environment.
What races are China STA in?
We have entered a small yacht in the 2014 Tall Ships Regatta between Falmouth, Cornwall and Greenwich, London. There are over 50 other vessels involved. We are the smallest vessel, but we have to start somehow. This is the largest event in London since the 2012 Olympics. The race starts in Falmouth on 31st August and all the vessels will be in London by 5th September. There is a parade of sail leaving the Thames on Tuesday 9th September. We have a stall near the Cutty Sark. Do come and meet the crew.
How will you bring the race experience to a wider audeince?
We are producing a documentary about the first Chinese Team in a Tall Ships’ Race. It will follow the experiences of our young crew, many of whom have never been to sea before. The yacht will only have 10 crew at any time, but we have a couple of changeovers of crew. We have 9 Chinese students taking part, some of whom are flying in from China.
Here is a link about the documentary: Kickstarter
What’s in the pipeline?
We will be entering the 2015 Tall Ships Races from Belfast to Norway and Denmark.
We are also helping the Jubilee Sailing Trust to send the largest British Tall Ship to China by 2016.
Donations to our kickstarter project would be gratefully received.
Please come and visit us in Greenwich. We have a stand near the Cutty Sark between 5th and 9th of September.