Teenager will swap books for the open sea as she joins transatlantic sailing crew

PUBLISHED: 10:07 10 March 2017 | UPDATED: 11:51 13 March 2017

Drusilla and Simon Malins

Drusilla and Simon Malins

© Andy Wallace 2016

Drusilla Barnes, 16, won the chance to take part in Rendez-Vous 2017 Tall Ships Regatta

Gulden Leeuw Bridge Gulden Leeuw Bridge

A London teenager is set to swap school books for the open sea, when she joins a crew for leg one of a transatlantic journey that begins on the Thames at Greenwich.

Sixth form student Drusilla Barnes, 16, from Erith, won the chance to take part in Rendez-Vous 2017 Tall Ships Regatta after being among winners in an essay-writing competition.

She’s being sponsored by the Port of London Authority (PLA) and will be at sea for the 14-day voyage on board one of the Tall Ships, destined for Sines in Portugal. Her duties will include rigging the sails, navigating and steering at the helm.

Miss Barnes, who’s currently studying English literature, sociology and health and social care at the John Roan School in Greenwich, said: “When I finish studying, I want to work abroad and travel to different countries and I thought this might be a great way to get started, while learning new skills and making friends.”

The race, organised by Sail Training International, will see Miss Barnes, and 50 other sponsored trainees from Greenwich depart the Port of London in the grand Parade of Sail that marks the end of the Royal Greenwich Tall Ships Festival.

After a recent visit to the PLA headquarters in Gravesend to meet the team and learn about their work, Miss Barnes said: “I had a tour of port control, which is like air traffic control for the river.

“Simon Malins, one of the duty port controllers told me that he would be helping all the tall ships travel up and down the river during the Tall Ship Regatta. He said he would call me on the VHF radio to check up on me as I passed by, on my way to Portugal.

“At school we were taught about imports and exports, but I didn’t realise the number of cars that were shipped to the UK via the Thames.”

With 95 per cent of UK imports arriving by sea, the PLA is encouraging young people from all backgrounds to consider a career in maritime and ports.

Glenn Witham, PLA director of human resources said: “We are delighted to be sponsoring Drusilla. She will be doing everything from steering at the helm, to climbing the rigging and charting the ship’s progress.

“As Drusilla builds valuable new life skills, I hope that she and the other trainees might consider taking up a maritime career.”

Denise Scott-McDonald, Greenwich councillor said: “We are delighted that the Royal Borough, working in partnership with the Port of London Authority, are able to support young people from our borough going on the adventure of a lifetime.

“We are really proud of Drusilla and all of the other young Sail Trainees from the borough for having the courage to follow their dreams and explore new horizons.”

The Greenwich Tall Ships Festival takes place between April 13 and 16. For more information visit:

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