6 images

UK Sailing Academy spotlights importance of maritime career development in youths

15 December 2023 • Written by Dea Jusufi

For over 35 years, the UK Sailing Academy (UKSA) has been inspiring the next generation of the superyacht industry. The Cowes-based charity offers on-the-water education and professional maritime training to their 11,000-strong students, including initiatives such as UKSA’s flagship Superyacht Cadetship.

"I hope that in due course we can widen this initiative and help young people forge careers in the wider yachting industry," said Jamie Edmiston, one of UKSA's major partners. "[Whether that's] as designers, engineers, yacht brokers or senior officers on board yachts."

Next year, the charity needs to raise over one and a half million to be able to carry on their work. BOAT International recently sat down with UKSA's Amy Sweeting to discuss...

What's the story behind UKSA?

Inspired by the impact sailing had had on their own lives, Sylvia and Noel Lister founded UKSA with the aim of introducing as many young people as possible to the inspiration and challenge of sailing. Noel was a bold adventurer who had raced in Cowes for many years, as well as competing in top national and international competitions. When the opportunity arose to buy a waterfront centre from the Sports Council in 1987, he knew it would be perfect and invested £4 million to create UKSA.

Sylvia Lister added: “We were inspired by the impact that sailing had on our own lives, from competing in international competitions to sailing around the world on our yacht, the 31.4-metre Whirlwind XII. We knew we had to pass our passion on to the next generation."

What does "water-based learning" offer that conventional methods do not?

Many of us know the impact that being on the water has on us, from quick thinking when the wind changes to working as a team when it’s time to change tack. For many, the most important thing we take away from being on the water is a boost in our self-esteem, helping us to reduce stress and anxiety. In the same way, UKSA is using the water to build these life skills in young people.

The last two years have created a generation of young people who face considerable mental health challenges, coupled with worrying about a bleak future regarding their employment opportunities. UKSA programmes counteract these challenges by offering young people support and freedom to be themselves on the water, while providing inspiration for a career in the maritime sector.

Do you think sailing is an elitist industry? How does this charity work to destigmatise that?

Sailing is widely perceived as an elitist sport, with access to the sport often costing more than many can afford. UKSA recognises this and aims to remove both financial and social barriers to empower students from any background to be able to access our watersports and sailing programmes.  We do this by providing funding for those who need it, whether that’s for the course cost, travel expenses or even basic items such as swimming costumes. We want our beneficiaries to achieve their best and gain life-changing experiences, qualifications and progress along a pathway into a maritime career.

Why should UKSA be considered an important cause for those in the superyacht industry? What can they do to help?

UKSA is the only charity in the world offering structured pathways from a child’s first time on the water through to professional training in the superyacht industry. As a charity, UKSA are offering a solution, both to the inequality and lack of opportunity experienced by children and young people who face barriers, and the talent shortage, lack of diversity and accessibility in the maritime industry. They also work hard to create a better industry for those working in it, including through leading an industry wide group to support crew welfare. That’s something that the whole industry can and should get behind.

You can support the charity through funding, skill sharing and strategic partnerships. To find out more, please contact Amy on amy.sweeting@uksa.org.

Sponsored listings