For most teenagers, their 16th birthday is an occasion for a party, but Annabel, Year 11 chose to go to sea on her big day.
Her birthday, Saturday 15th September, was the first date on which she could undertake the final part of the prestigious Day Skipper sailing qualification for which the minimum age is 16. Annabel couldn’t wait to get stuck in to her three days of sailing, travelling between Brighton Marina and Eastbourne, which included a night at sea. She completed the Day Skipper qualification at the age of just 16 years and two days, making her one of the youngest candidates to achieve such a feat.
Annabel had already undertaken 60 hours of online lessons and sat two written exams on topics including preparation for sea, navigation, pilotage, meteorology, maintenance and repair work, engines, victualling and emergency situations.
Annabel wasn’t allowed to forget that the first day of the three-day sail was her big day. ‘When I walked on to the boat there was a birthday cake there; it was so nice,’ she says.
She says the night sail, on the second of the three days, was an ‘amazing experience’ despite one member of the crew being violently sick!
‘You turn all the lights off,’ says Annabel. ‘You have to be able to feel the wind on your face and adjust your sails to that. You can’t rely on the technology so it feels very old fashioned. All you can see is the lights of the other boats and on shore.’
And what happens if disaster strikes? ‘Things go wrong very quickly at sea,’ she says. ‘You have to obey whoever is in charge and argue about it later.’
Annabel told us all the teachers and girls here at school made a huge fuss of her when she returned after achieving her qualification. ‘Every single teacher congratulated me and lots of people said things like “Aye Aye, Skipper” whenever I walked into a room!’