Sailing to Success

In July 2023 a crew of Gordonstoun students set out on a three week adventure, racing across the North Sea from Lerwick, Shetland, to Arendal, Norway, aboard the school’s tall-ship ‘Ocean Spirit of Moray’. Here, one of the crew Sophia S. shares her incredible experience.

Sailing from Inverness

On Monday 24th July we departed Inverness Marina and headed for Shetland. While we were sailing we saw dolphins, rainbows, and puffins, and survived seasickness! I did my first night shift when we were just off the island of Stonybreck at midnight. We finally arrived at Lerwick in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

Festivities in Lerwick

Wednesday morning we were putting up the flags and later on had the opportunity to take our first proper look around Lerwick. In the afternoon, we all changed into our crew uniforms and gathered together with the other ships, preparing for the crew parade. We saw the crew members from the other ships dressed up, huge flags being swung around, music, banners, and the streets full of people. Later on that day the crew parties began, where there was a lot of good music and fun dance moves!

The next day we explored the island and got to take part in various activities; we ate local cake, saw goats and Shetland ponies, and visited the famous elephant arch. That evening we also had a dinner party with another boat ‘Swan’, where we made new friends and played music.

Friday was the day I met Princess Anne. We laughed when she asked where I live and I explained that I had meant Dallas Scotland, not Dallas Texas!

The Race

The race was delayed due to thick fog, so we finally left Bressay to head for the Start Line on Sunday morning. Before leaving, we rowed in the rib, practised knots, and learnt about points of sail, all for the certification of Competent Crew. That night the sky was clear due to no light pollution and we saw so many stars, and the moon was very large and bright! That day I also learnt how to fill in the log, which became my new hobby and duty.

We crossed the Start Line at 1605 UTC on Monday! ‘Spaniel’, also in our class, crossed very early, so she was miles ahead - she does well in light winds as she is a racing boat - sleeker, lighter, smaller crew. By Tuesday we were in 1st place for speed, with ‘Spaniel’ looking to be 1st in class for endurance, given her early start! The race ended after only around 10 hours and it was an amazing day for sailing: calm seas, warm weather, and lots of wind!

As the day ended we took in the beautiful scenery and sunset as we headed due east to hit the Norwegian coastline for our route to Arendal.

Post Race

On Thursday we cruised through islands, taking in the scenery before finally arriving in Arendal and having a much needed shower! The day after was the crew parade and prize giving. ‘Ocean Spirit’ was awarded the prize for speed/sprint in Class C. Afterwards there was a crew party, which had fantastic live and DJ music. The next day we took part in the Viking games which was a lot of fun.

Storm Hans

After the race we sailed to Kristiansand where we stayed for several days to allow Storm Hans to pass through before crossing the North Sea back to Inverness. While there, we went on a tour of Tenacious which is a large square-rigger that helps a lot of people with disabilities (great ship). I helped to make pizza dough for the pizza party that night with the two other boats ‘Swan’ and ‘James Cook’. I made friends that I will stay in contact with after our adventure is over.

The Journey Home

Bright and early on Friday 11th August we weighed anchor to set course for Inverness. That night was so clear and the next couple of days we experienced a meteor shower and saw the Andromeda galaxy. In a moderate to fresh breeze we made good time and in just 24 hours we were passing the midway point! We saw a lot of Gannets and Fulmars, as well as something spectacular: white-beaked dolphins bow riding with us for almost 2 hours! Also we could see land!

We finally berthed back at Inverness on Sunday 13th August and had one last, massive deep clean!

Inspired to try something new? To find out more about learning opportunities at Gordonstoun inside - and outside - the classroom, enquire online here, or join us for a Virtual Taste of Gordonstoun Webinar.