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Young people from Sail Training organisations around the UK have travelled to Scotland this week to take part in the Small Ships Race organised by ASTO and RYA Scotland. Three of the vessels are later participating in a major Tall Ships Regatta at the end of August.

A total of nine vessels started the race on Tuesday with around 120 young people aged between 12 and 25 on board from a wide range of backgrounds.

Challenge Wales, Maybe and Swan will all be honing their racing skills this week ahead of taking part in the Falmouth to Royal Greenwich Tall Ships Regatta from 28 August, organised by Sail Training International. Each has space for 12 young people on board and have travelled from Cardiff (Challenge Wales), Shetland (Swan) and the east coast of Yorkshire (Maybe) to take part.

They are each very different vessels with their own interesting history but now with Sail Training in common.

Swan is a traditional herring drifter, built in Lerwick, Shetland Isles in 1900. In 2011 Swan was the flagship of the UK's National Historic Ships and also was awarded Sail Training International's trophy for Sail Training Organisation of the Year.

Challenge Wales, Wales' Tall Ship and largest Sail Training vessel in the principality, is a 72-ft Challenge class yacht that successfully took part in two round the world races. It is one of the newest Sail Training organisations on the block having just celebrated their fifth birthday and up until recently was run entirely by volunteers.

Maybe is a traditional Dutch sailing ketch, launched in 1933 and was designed for round the world cruising. Maybe took part in the first ever Tall Ships Race in 1956. She made a successful return to the Tall Ships Races in 2009 in the Baltics and completed a full schedule of Tall Ships Races and Regattas during 2010.

Rhiannon and Sophie are both trainees sailing with Challenge Wales, they are both 17-years-old and from Cardiff. "We both started Sail Training on a one day trip with Challenge Wales and keep coming back, this is our fourth time on board. It's not just the sailing, you learn about teamwork and even cooking for 18 people! When I talk to friends about it I explain that you might be nervous to start with but once on board there is so much to do you won't have time to be scared," said Sophie.

"On board you meet new people, you learn so much and it is different every time. Before I came on board I was very quiet and I learnt I had to talk to people. You realise that your actions are important, if you get something wrong it has an impact on lots of people," added Rhiannon.

Lucy Gross, general manager of ASTO, said: "It's fantastic that we have vessels taking part in the Small Ships Race this week who will also be on the start line in Falmouth. The trainees taking part will find out first hand what they can achieve when they push themselves beyond their comfort zone. It is an experience they will remember for the rest of their lives and will give them invaluable skills and experience.

"We know that Sail Training can make an important difference to young people's lives when they return ashore. The message that comes back week in and week out from our ASTO members is that the Sail Training experience increases their confidence, communication skills and ability to work as a team, which can have a huge impact on all areas of their lives."

The Small Ships Race is a regular event that sees young people aged from 12 to 25 compete against other Sail Training vessels. The fleet consists of everything from a 35-ft Bermudan sloop to a 90-ft gaff rigged schooner. The common factor is that most of the young crew on board have never sailed before. Together they will experience teamwork, tolerance and responsibility all while having an exciting adventure.

The Clyde Small Ships Race 2014 will bring Sail Training to the Clyde in the lead up to the Commonwealth Games and will join with the RYA Scotland Homecoming Muster and Cruise in Company. Most of the vessels will then join the spectacular Commonwealth Flotilla that will see 250 vessels sail into the heart of Glasgow.

The race started from Greenock at 1400 on Tuesday 22 July, raced around Arran and up to Portavadie to watch the opening ceremony of the Commonwealth Games on a big screen. From there they cruise in company with other boats through the Kyles of Bute and will finish in Greenock on Friday 25 July with a party and prize giving.

ASTO, the Association of Sail Training Organisations, is a registered charity with a membership made up of more than 30 not-for-profit bodies that operate more than 50 vessels around the UK. ASTO members offer year round Sail Training opportunities all over the UK, around Europe and also further afield in locations such as the Canaries and the Caribbean.

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