The Tenacious and the Lord Nelson are two tall ships with a difference, reports Jilly Bennett
Moored a few yards from the luxury yachts in Monaco's Port Hercule is Tenacious, a pioneering tall ship - but a tall ship with a big difference. Tenacious, along with her sister ship, Lord Nelson, is owned and operated by the Jubilee Sailing Trust (JST), a registered charity in the UK. They are the only two Class A square-rigged tall ships in the world to be purpose-designed and -built to enable people of all physical abilities to sail side-by-side on equal terms.
The JST was established in 1978 with a donation from the Queen's Silver Jubilee Appeal Fund. The founder of the charity, Christopher Rudd, was a teacher who had been involved in dinghy sailing with physically disabled people. Hating the thought of leaving his disabled friends behind when he went offshore sailing, he came up with the idea for JST.
In 1995, the National Lottery awarded the trust 65% of the estimated cost of building Tenacious. Shortly sfterwards the build of the 65-metre ship got fully underway, and she was launched in 2000.
She is the largest wooden hulled tall ship of her type to be made since the end of the 19th century. As the designer of Tenacious, naval architect Tony Castro says, "In this age of satellites and global communications we are proud to be part of a project that opens the oceans to a new age of exploration. The Golden Age of Sail may be gone, but the Millennium Age of Sail is about to begin."
Photo (c) Jilly Bennett
Although the term 'tall ship' may evoke an image of a ship from a bygone era, both Lord Nelson and Tenacious are equipped with modern communication systems and navigational aids, as well as a host of additional features such as flat, wide decks which facilitate access for wheelchair users, lifts between decks for those with limited mobility and a speaking compass to enable blind and visually impaired crew to take the helm. Eight wheelchair users are welcomed on each voyage. These ships are a reminder of how important simple design changes can be to making an environment inclusive.
Captain Simon Catterson's team of highly skilled professional merchant seafarers includes a Master, First Mate, Second Mate, Bosun, Chief Engineer, Second Engineer, Medical Purser and Cook, along with several volunteers. The rest of the crew is made up of forty people from all walks of life. There are no passengers: everyone sails as a member of the voyage crew, even though for many, their first voyage with the Tenacious is the first time they have set foot on a tall ship.
This inclusiveness is crucial, explains Captain Catterson. '50% of the crew may be physically disabled, but100% are actively involved.'
While legislation has forced changes since the charity started in 1978, positive role-models such as Dame Tanni Grey Thompson and other paralympic athletes have helped to show everyone - regardless of physical status - what can be achieved with determination and some adaptations in equipment. Since 1978, over 36,000 people have sailed with the Jubilee Sailing Trust. Over 24,000 of those have been on Lord Nelson, which was launched in 1986 and 12,000 have sailed on Tenacious.
The trust subsidizes 30% of the costs on every voyage to make their adventures as affordable and inclusive as possible. By providing this subsidy to all who sail on the two ships, the trust has to raise in excess of £1.4 million a year through fund raising. They also offer extra bursary funding for those individuals who might struggle to afford the full voyage cost.
Further information, whether to take part or to donate, is available by clicking here: www.jst.org.uk