Grace O'Malley: Cross-border project aims to bring young people together at sea

A tall ship has sailed into Belfast with the aim of bringing young people together at sea as part of a cross-border project.

The Atlantic Youth Trust charity bought the Grace O'Malley to offer an incredible taste of life onboard when it sets off on its first trip next spring.

The AYT was founded in 2013 and is a registered charity. When they lost two previous vessels, the ‘Lord Rank’ and ‘Asgard II’, a unique community of business, sporting and cultural figures came together to find a suitable all-island replacement, with a goal of fostering youth development and cultural integration through the medium of sail training.

Having sailed from Sweden, she is a triple-masted schooner and an excellent sailor. At 54.4m, she has a top speed of approximately 17-18 knot and is being refitted as a sail training vessel.

From next spring, 20 boys and 20 girls, none of whom have ever met before will take part in a youth programme on board.

During the voyage they have no means to communicate with the outside world. The aim is to put around 1000 young people, aged 15-22 through the project each year.

Peter Cooke, President of the Atlantic Youth Trust said: “This is targeted at all backgrounds, all abilities from across Ireland. The intention is to take the group of 40 young people to sea every 10 days and change their lives. It’s about personal development, youth development and cultural integration.

“We expose every one of them to every job on the ship, from the Captain to the cook. Then on the 9 th day they vote who is going to be the Captain and they operate the ship alone on the last day.”

Chief Engineer on board is Eoin O’Malley from Clare Island where Grace O’Malley is said to be buried.

He said: “We are hoping to get young people on board to learn the life lessons that come with sailing a ship like this, like team work.. It takes a team and effort to make the ship run.”

The project is included in the Programme for Government in the Republic of Ireland and in the Stormont Fresh Start Agreement in Northern Ireland.

Mooring at the SSE Arena she will be visited by community groups, politicians and business groups before heading for Dublin via a short stay at Warrenpoint in mid August. She will then visit Cork and Galway and then prepare for the first youth trips in Spring 2023.

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