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ASTO and are delighted to announce that competitors will be able to take part in the virtual Small Ships Race next Saturday, 3rd October 2020.

The ASTO Small Ships Race is the annual end-of-season event for UK Sail Training vessels, who take young people from all backgrounds to sea for challenge and adventure. The event usually sees around 25 vessels, crewed by school and youth groups, sail around the cans in the Solent. 250 young people, most of whom have not sailed before, compete against each other in a race that involves not only sailing but lots of singing, dancing, water fights, and general good fun. Prizes for the Small Ships Race include not only those for the fastest boat but also for youngest aged crew and the highly coveted Richard Langhorn trophy for the vessel that best represents the Spirit of the Race. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, very few vessels are able to sail this year, which has prompted ASTO to enlist the help of virtual sailing experts

Lucy Grodie, General Manager of ASTO says: ‘I am delighted at the enthusiasm with which Sailonline have embraced our race. UK Sail Training is a tightly knit community, and we did not want those Skippers and Crews who can’t be on the water due to social distancing restrictions, to feel left out. The virtual Small Ships Race from Sailonline will enable them to compete alongside the real vessels and be part of the atmosphere in what is usually a highlight of the Sail Training season.’
Taking part in the virtual Small Ships Race is free, and a chat function allows you to replicate some of the camaraderie from the real event. Practice racing will open in the next few days.

UK Sail Training vessels, most of whom are run by charities, have been unable to sail this summer due to coronavirus restrictions. However, all the organisations are putting in place appropriate measures and are looking forward to taking thousands of young people to sea again in 2021, to teach them about resilience, self-confidence, and the value of teamwork. For more about Sail Training and how your young people can get involved, go to

Sailonline is a non-profit, non-commercial sail-racing navigation simulation run entirely by volunteers. All races are free and each SOLer (one who sails on Sailonline) gets exactly the same boat. The challenge is navigating through the weather. Sailonline uses almost real-time weather downloaded from NOAA and the boat physics are considered to be the most life-like of any online simulation. For more details and to take part in races go to

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As of today (14th September), the government is banning social gatherings of six or more people to help combat the spread of COVID-19. This new ban on gatherings will apply both indoors and outdoors and includes all ages in England.

The government say: “From 14 September there will be a legal limit on the number of people you don’t live with you are able to meet. When meeting with people you don’t live with you can socialise in groups of up to 6. You should continue to maintain social distancing with anyone you do not live with.”

However, the rules are slightly different for those living in Scotland and Wales:

  • In Scotland, no more than six people from two households will be able to meet from today, however, children under the age of 12 from those two households will NOT be included.
  • In Wales, it will be illegal for more than six people from an extended household to meet indoors. This does not include children aged 11-years-old and under. Up to 30 people from different homes can still meet outside as long as they remain 2m apart.

There are exceptions to this new legislation, whereby groups can be larger than six people. These include:

  • for work, or the provision of voluntary or charitable services
  • registered childcare, education or training
  • supervised activities provided for children, including wraparound care, youth groups and activities, and children’s playgroups
  • organised sport or exercise classes or licensed outdoor physical activity.

This means that as long as social distancing and existing guidance is observed, these new measures should not affect the limited amount of Sail Training currently taking place in the UK. For the RYA’s official COVID-19 guidance click here.

For further information about the new Rule of Six measures visit:



Alexander Fairey at the 2019 Cowes Small Ships Race

The Discovery Sailing Projects have been the lucky recipients of the funds remaining after the Little Brig Sailing Trust closed down last year.
Around £2500 remained after the closure of the Little Brig Sailing Trust, based in Gosport. After a competitive process in which ASTO members could apply for the funding, the LBST Trustees awarded the Discovery Sailing Project for upgrades to their smaller yacht Alexander Fairey.

Alexander Fairey is owned by the Alexander Fairey Memorial Fund and is operated by the Discovery Sailing Project. DSP make Alex available for members of all ASTO organisations to charter at very reasonable rates. Over the past 2 years she has been used by members of the Rona Sailing Project, Ocean Youth Trust South and Adventures Offshore. She is an excellent yacht for those who have gained their Day Skipper qualification to get experience of being in command, without a more experienced and qualified sailor needing to be on board. Alex was also chartered by ASTO to run a Yachtmaster Instructor course in March 2019.

The funding from the Little Brig Sailing Trust will pay for some much needed upgrades on Alex this year. These include a new Genoa, new running rigging and new bunk cushions.

The LBST Trustees chose the DSP project in particular because the vessel is available to be used by other ASTO members.

To find out more and discuss chartering Alex, take a look at or contact Andy Broadbent, Project Organiser, on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Do you love Sail Training but wish more people knew about it?  Now's your chance to help us spread the word!  ASTO is recruiting a full-time social media and marketing person to make sure more people know about the fantastic opportunities Sail Training brings. The role is aimed at a young graduate in the age range of typical trainees who 'gets' Sail Training and has expertise in using social media to promote a cause. Of course we'll also consider older candidates with suitable experience. Full details of what we are looking for is on the Jobs page. So go on, apply today! 

A new project hopes to give more than 350 disadvantaged children in Plymouth the chance to enjoy hands-on adventures aboard traditional wooden sailing ships.

This unique ‘Spirit of Adventure’ project will be part of the Mayflower Ocean Festival, which takes place 4-10 May 2020, and a crowdfunding page has been launched to help make it a reality.

Spirit of Adventure aims to connect young people with the Mayflower story and with the ocean. The project is aimed at disadvantaged children, including children who are living in poverty, children in care and young carers, who have not had the chance to go sailing before.

Sarah Gibson, Chief Executive of the Plymouth Waterfront Partnership BID (PWP), the organisation running the crowd funder, says: “Even though Plymouth boasts an enviable waterfront location as Britain’s Ocean City, many of our children and young people are disconnected with the ocean. We know that some of the city’s children have never been to Plymouth Hoe or visited the Barbican, let alone been on a wooden sailing boat. The schools we’re working with are located in some of the most deprived areas of the city. These children deserve to feel their own spirit of adventure, to test their skills as team players, as sailors and citizens of Britain’s Ocean City.”

PWP has teamed up with ASTO members The Island Trust and Sailing Tectona, as well as the Lynher Barge and the Bounty Project to run the adventurous sailing sessions. The four organisations have seven vessels between them which will undertake daily voyages in Plymouth Sound during the Mayflower Ocean Festival.

Each day, groups of children will work together as a team, hoisting the sails and sailing the boats themselves with support from expert staff. They will build communication, social and cooperation skills, and feel a sense of responsibility and achievement, giving a much-needed confidence boost and memories to last a lifetime.

“We’re thrilled to be working on this project – and when better to do it than during this extra special Mayflower 400 commemorative year. We’re asking local people and businesses to support Plymouth children and get behind this project to help make it happen,” continues Sarah.

In order to make the project a reality, PWP and its partners need to raise £50,000. This will pay for all safety and boat costs, as well as transport, refreshments and resources for the young people.

You can support this project by donating online

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