Gravesend Grammar School

Last year Chris Jesson, head of Geography at Gravesend Grammar School, in Kent, was crowned School Trip Champion at the School Travel Awards 2016/17. He won for his dedication to taking pupils on school trips. Those who nominated Mr Jesson described him as a great inspiration and an incredibly dedicated Duke of Edinburgh award organiser.

He won £1,000 to be spent on a school trip. His colleague, Simon Turvey, a Physical Education teacher at the school in Kent, has reported back about how it went. 

For a number of years Gravesend Grammar School has had the privilege of being allowed to exclusively take pupils on a Sail Training Voyage with the RONA Sailing Project (RSP). The project has been operating for over 50 years with the aim of providing “opportunities for young people to acquire those attributes of a seaman, namely being a sense of responsibility, resourcefulness, and teamwork, which will help them throughout their lives”. 

We have been attending these trips for eight years. I set the trip up as I am personally heavily involved in the project and have experienced first-hand the benefits of sailing as a crew member, initially in 1998. 


Reasons for choosing the trip

We chose this trip as I wanted the students to have the opportunities that were afforded to me; not only of having an amazing experience offshore sailing but also to have the time to develop skills such as teamwork, leadership, reliance, responsibility and resourcefulness as well as developing self-esteem and confidence. 

It is clear that sailing trains people to live together, work together and rely on each other as the students are responsible for crewing the boat. They have to steer it, do all the sail changes, all the cooking and cleaning. They are taught the RYA competent crew certificate in which they learn how to handle sails, tie knots, keep a lookout, row a dinghy and assist in all the day to day duties on board. On top of this, they may have to persevere through seasickness, homesickness and tiredness as the trip is seven days and nights on board, many of which are spent at sea in all but severest conditions.

The trip

It started from the Hamble River in Southampton where we joined the boat. The nine pupils from Year 9 were aboard Merrilyn for seven days and covered 124 nautical miles. The logbook entry of the places we visited read Hamble – East Cowes – Poole – Lulworth Cove – Weymouth – Worbarrow Bay – Yarmouth – West Cowes – Hamble.  

The strong winds and the accompanying waves were a test for the crew and provided some exciting sail changes on the foredeck with water crashing over the bow. However the rest of the trip was bathed in sunshine with light winds, so the crew experienced both sides of what offshore sailing has to offer.

The light winds offered opportunities of swimming in Lulworth Cove; we experienced dolphins playing in our bow wave and had time to stop over in Worbarrow Bay. In Weymouth there was time to relax on the beach and we even managed to catch the Armed Forces Day parade.

Students of Gravesend Grammar School

The outcomes 

Reflecting on the trip it’s easy to remember the exciting experiences and opportunities that the pupils had but they were also thrown into a situation that was out of their comfort zone and asked to live and work together as well, staying positive in cramped and at times in a wet, hot, and nauseating environment. It is trips like these that are most valuable to pupils as it helps them grow into responsible young men. They also gain self-esteem and confidence as they have succeeded in an ‘adventure’ they will possibly remember for the rest of their lives.