Bristol children prepare to set sail for the wettest classroom on Earth

A Bristol Special School is leading a project to sail two yachts around the UK and off to Sweden, involving more than 100 children in the ‘Wettest Classroom on Earth’.

An innovative and inclusive initiative, the Wettest Classroom will involve students from across the country, representing mainstream and special schools, sailing around the British coast and across the North Sea and the Baltic to Stockholm.

The voyages are scheduled to take place from 23 June to 5 August 2019, setting sail from Liverpool. Students will take part in four-day legs, averaging 200 miles each, meaning that in total 108 ‘shipmates’ will be involved.

The project is a collaboration between the Bristol-based Venturers Trust and three other organisations: Whole Education, Extreme Classrooms, and Kunskapsskolan, and is being led by the principal of Venturers’ Academy, Trystan Williams, and Bristol-based polar explorer Alan Chambers.

Mr Williams has previously been involved in similar education-based challenges including the Highest Classroom on Earth in the Himalayas in 2014 and he is passionate about the power of such expeditions to inspire and engage young people. “New experiences on this scale, managed and delivered by professionals to ensure the safety of everyone involved, can quite literally be life changing for young people,” he said. “Our motto at Venturers’ Academy is ‘Where Everything’s Possible’ and when young people can experience this for themselves, their day-to-day goals, as well as their aspirations for the future, are transformed.”

21 secondary school pupils from Venturers’ Academy, a school in south Bristol for children with a primary diagnosis of autism, and five ten-year-olds from a mainstream primary, The Dolphin School in Montpelier, both part of Venturers Trust, took part in a selection camp in Snowdonia during July for the expedition, alongside other students from around the country. 166 children were involved in the selection camp, sleeping under canvas and tackling a mountain scramble, orienteering, a coastal walk, swimming, kayaking and stand-up paddle-boarding on one of the deepest lakes in the country. “Everyone who took part in the selection has the potential to make it to the next stage,” said Mr Williams. Those selected will take part in sailing and other training activities.

The Venturers Trust students who participated in the selection camp were funded by the Trust’s Endowment Fund. Venturers Trust is sponsored by the Society of Merchant Venturers (SMV) and the University of Bristol. Simon Cooper, a member of SMV and a governor of Venturers’ Academy, joined the trip for two days. “The depth of commitment required to bring together an event like this is extraordinary,” said Mr Cooper. “Students embraced every challenge with such enthusiasm, encouraged every step of the way by their peers and the highly experienced staff team. The expedition next year will be incredible.”

Mr Williams added: “We are extremely grateful to all our supporters and we welcome input from any other businesses or individuals who would like to get involved with this project.”
You can find out more about The Wettest Classroom here: https://bit.ly/2LmnVWY