Tall Ships Races 2023: Nathan’s Story

Nathan and fellow crew mates pose on Alba Explorer for a photograph. In the background, you can see a 3-mast tall ship.

I’m Nathan. I joined my first OYT Scotland voyage in Autumn 2019 and had the best time. Since then, I have volunteered on three more OYT Scotland voyages and plan to work up to my Watch Leader soon.  

I’ve always wondered what it would be like to push an offshore yacht to its limits. When I found out OYT Scotland were entering their ex-racing yacht into the Tall Ships Race 2023, I knew I wanted to be on board to push the boat and see what it was capable of.  

Nathan helms the vessel with his crew mate, who is enjoying a well-earned cup of tea!
Nathan helms the vessel with his crew mate, who is enjoying a well-earned cup of tea!

The crew I sailed with were amazing. When I joined in Hartlepool, I was slightly nervous to see what everyone was like and whether or not we would get along. By the end of the first night sailing, I felt like I’d known them for ages. Everyone was so different yet worked together so brilliantly. Stories were told about anything you could think of and not one person took themselves too seriously.   

As we were about to start, all of the sea staff went into game mode and it really felt like we were racing. Minutes before the start, they then decided to change the headsail, and the adrenaline that came with doing that was unreal!  

The last day of the race was the most memorable. We spent a couple of hours at 0.0kn when the wind completely died; 500 miles then came down to 5 miles as we gave it our all to catch closest competitor, Esprit. The camaraderie between the crew as we tried everything from rigging up storm sails between shrouds to tying bedsheets between aerials to catch them was fabulous (even if they still crossed the line before us).   

Once the wind finally filled in, it really filled in. We were seeing gusts of up to 30kn, and my whole watch were huddled in the aft cockpit looking at the ginormous waves that towered over the aft of the boat. I was on the helm for most of that shift and managed to top 12.5kn boat speed which felt amazing.  

Two young people turn the winch aboard Alba Explorer, with the sun set upon them.
Nathan and crew member work together to turn the winch!

I loved every second of the trip, although the watch system was a bit of a challenge – three hours on, three hours off. We tried to get as much sleep as we could but only ever got two hours at a time, so many of the crew were sleep deprived by the time we reached Norway.   

The hardest part of the trip, however, was saying goodbye to such an amazing group of people that I’d become so close to over the week. If you’re thinking about joining an OYT Scotland voyage, just go for it – you will not regret it. 

Learn more about Individual Voyages, and how you can get involved, here!

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