Sailing Charity Seeks 10th School

Horizons, a Devonport-based charity that improves the lives of disadvantaged and disabled youngsters by introducing them to sailing activities, celebrates its 21st anniversary this year with news that it has received support of £13,000 a year for three years from Drake Circus, and that it is to run a competition to find the 10th school to use its facilities. 

The charity was set up in 1991 and provides learning and educational opportunities through water-based activities, in order to build self-confidence and improve social and practical skills. Based in Devonport it primarily supports youngsters from Plymouth but has expanded to include young people from wider Devon and Cornwall. It has a number of boats, including Picos and its signature craft, “Friendship”. 

Horizons helps to combat some of the worst characteristics of life in communities that exist among the most deprived areas in the country. Low income, poor health and substandard housing bring with them real issues for residents and in particular for the young people as they struggle to make their way in life. Opportunities for socialisation are restricted, cheap junk food is common, exercise is viewed as an unnecessary expense and a waste of time, aspiration for a different way of life is discouraged: instead the status quo prevails. However the work and opportunities provided by Horizons are challenging this ‘social norm’ for young people by providing a place where they can escape and forget about day-to-day pressures and have fun. 

Over 21 years Horizons has changed the lives of hundreds of youngsters, and examples of success are numerous. James joined Horizons in 2000 at the age of nine: he was very shy and self-conscious which made for an unhappy time at school. Through sailing with Horizons his levels of skill and confidence grew and he became a mentor for younger club members. He has become a RYA instructor and now works for an outdoor activity centre. 

Meanwhile Charlie, who has cerebral palsy, was presented with the Mayflower Marina Prize at the end of last year: this is awarded to “the instructor or cadet who has embodied the spirit of the Horizons Trust”. In other examples, youngsters with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism and other conditions have all benefited from working with Horizons. 

The charity runs successful programmes with schools, where pupils work with Horizons volunteers on a number of projects. Trips on the water can include sessions on history, fishing and biology, art, geography, science or creative writing. One teacher whose pupils’ session included the history and geography of Plymouth Sound were so enthused that they asked if they could have a tour of the Napoleonic forts the following week. Back at school they were eager to work on war history in class and one pupil became interested in GCSE history as a result. 

John Lynch is head teacher at High Street Primary School. His pupils have been benefiting from Horizons’ activities for over 10 years. He said: “The skills our pupils learn at Horizons are transferrable: if they can succeed at sailing then why not maths, English, homework? Thanks to more funds available from the Drake Circus partnership Horizons can now accommodate our years four, five and six: so far this year 60 of our pupils have enjoyed a Horizons experience, and we have more sessions booked through to September. The benefit to our pupils is incredible – after a session with Horizons they almost physically grow in stature.” 

He added: “Horizons helps our pupils to build relationships with each other, to work collaboratively and collectively and the effect is long lasting – our pupils end up with more self-confidence and resilience.” 

With the extra support from Drake Circus Horizons is able to accommodate a 10th school, and it is working with the Herald to run a competition to find a worthy candidate. 

Horizons, Drake Circus and the Herald are asking teachers and parents to encourage their pupils and youngsters to write a letter saying why their school should be chosen as the 10th Horizons school. Schools that enter will also be asked to collect tokens from the Herald throughout the school holidays.

The closing date for the competition is 17th September with the winning school being announced soon after. Details about how to enter the competition are available by logging on at and

Annette Molloy from Horizons said: “It is hard to believe that we have reached our 21st anniversary, and it is great that we can celebrate it with news of generous support from Drake Circus and the chance to recruit our 10th school. Looking back over the years it is good to see that we have made a difference – to individual youngsters, their schools and the wider community. We are looking forward to continuing that success over the coming years.”

Greg Lumley, Centre Director at Drake Circus, added: “We are delighted to be able to support Horizons, and our involvement is about so much more  than simply donating money. We will be working with the charity to ensure that it benefits from the skills and expertise available within Drake Circus – from our own staff and those of our tenants – and to provide space within the centre for Horizons to promote its services and successes.”

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