IRELAND’S national sail training vessel, Spirit of Oysterhaven has been named a joint recipient, along with Safe Haven Ireland, of the STI (Sail Training International) Small Vessel Operator award of the year for 2016.
The award specifically recognises ‘excellence and innovation’ demonstrated by organisations delivering sail training programmes around the world.
Previous recipients of the award include the UK, Spain, the USA, Portugal, the Netherlands, Finland and Bermuda. It is the first time the award has been given to an Irish organisation.
Since the sinking of the Asgard 2 in the Bay of Biscay in 2008, Ireland was left without a national sail training vessel until the 70ft schooner, Spirit of Oysterhaven, was put into service in 2014 by its current owners, Oliver and Kate Hart, who also run the Oysterhaven activity centre near Kinsale.
Safe Haven Ireland, set up by Dublin-based human rights lawyer, Shauna Gillan, organises integration voyages for refugees and asylum seekers.
In the three seasons since the summer of 2014, the vessel has had over 500 trainees between the ages of 15 and 30, who would have been onboard for five days and received a great insight into life at sea, as well as having gained experiences that enhanced their own personal development and their ability to work as a team onboard a large yacht.
In 2015, a successful 10-week circumnavigation of Ireland was undertaken and in 2016 its cruising ground would have included coasts between Dursey island at the outer end of Bantry Bay in West Cork, Londonderry and the Isle of Man.
Representatives of both the Spirit of Oysterhaven Trust and Safe Haven Ireland are due to attend a ceremony at the Mansion House later this month where the Lord Mayor of Dublin will present the award on behalf of STI.
The Spirit, as she is fondly known, is currently undertaking a circumnavigation of the North Atlantic and is due to arrive into Barbados this coming weekend (Saturday 21st January) after leaving the Cape Verde archipelago off the coast of Senegal earlier in January.
Crewing opportunities are available on a number of passages, including in the French West Indies in March and April, and those interested are encouraged to contact Sinead at The Oysterhaven Centre.
In late April, the vessel will depart Antigua on a homeward bound course taking in Bermuda, the Azores and then finally back to West Cork where another sail training season will kick off for the 2017 season.
See Spirit of Oysterhaven on Facebook.