Tall Ships

While a pupil at Rugby School, Henry Scutt was interviewed by Peter Attenborough as a potential recipient for the Rank Leadership Award. He could not have guessed that one of the results of this meeting would be an opportunity to sail on some of the most remarkable Tall Ships on the ocean.

The Rank Foundation had supported the Sail Training Association (STA) for a number of years, and when it learnt of Henry's interest in sailing, Henry was invited to take part in a two-week voyage on the Tall Ship Sir Winston Churchill in March 1986.

Henry loved the experience. On that first voyage, Henry was one of 38 able-bodied 16-25 yr olds. Some had been sent on a team-building exercise by their employers, some were A-level students and others were completing their Duke of Edinburgh Award.

The following year, Henry was invited back as a "watch leader'. On the Tall Ships, there are three watches, each with thirteen novices and a watch leader in charge. Next in command is the deck officer. Each group rotates on four-hour watches during which time they effectively run the ship everything on the ship is done by trainees.

As Henry says, "sailing a 150-foot schooner is not a pleasure trip! You are expected to do the sail changes and trimming, and all the training takes place on the ship."

The charity was founded in 1955 to let people experience sailing. The idea was that by putting people in the deep end you set off personal voyages of discovery in the participants, broaden their horizons and raise expectations of what they can achieve in the rest of their lives.

"As a young person you don't realise what these trips do for you" they bring out the best in you. When you're experiencing bad weather across English channel en route to Dieppe it tests your teamwork and communication skills," says Henry.

any people will have sat in a sailing dinghy, but sailing a square-rig ship is a rare and unusually difficult challenge. Unlike, say, an outward-bound camping or walking trip, everyone on the ship is on an even footing.

After school, Henry sailed professionally in Caribbean for four years, ran a day charter business, returned to the UK and headed for a career in the police. The pull of the sea was such that he returned to STA in his holidays, becoming a watch leader on three consecutive voyages on trot in 1991 alone. "I enjoyed giving my time and showing more young people how to do it," says Henry.

His fate was sealed when he met his wife-to-be (a fellow watch leader) on board. He continued to sail, although the arrival of young kids meant it was becoming harder to commit the time to go to sea.

The Tall Ships charity has a number of regional branches run by volunteer helpers who find people to go on the ships. Henry is now heavily involved as chair of the Coventry & Warwickshire branch leading five hard-pressed committee members who raise funds and publicise the work of the charity.

Two years on, after extensive fundraising, the branch has identified and sent 20 people on ships. 60 have gone in the last five years. Some are from inner-city areas, have few resources and are fully funded.

Today, the charity now owns two £6m 200 ft brigantine square riggers, five yards on each mast. Over the years, a total of 70,000 people have sailed on the Tall Ships. Each April the Royal Navy charters the ships, putting its officer cadets and young ratings on board.

Henry has now found a way of mixing his professional and charity work. As a police officer he works with youth offending teams as part of the "Youth Justice" set-up. At end of the programme, some young people have the chance to go sailing on a Tall Ship as much of a life-changing experience for them as it was for Henry.

For more information, visit www.tallships.org

Postcript: Following on from the inspirational talk given by Emma Watson-Mack at the Rank Fellowship dinner at the Dorchester in November 2003, various people pledged their support to good causes and this included offers to help the Tall Ships Youth Trust.

One such offer came from Issy Gross, a student at Southampton University, who wanted to help in any way she could whilst living in the city. After contact with Henry Scutt plans are in place for Issy to become a point of contact for the Tall Ships in Southampton as she has twice sailed with the Trust and Southampton had no regional contact point.

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