Australian sail training ship arrives in Mother City


The Australian Sail Training Ship (STS) Young Endeavour arrived in Cape Town on Wednesday morning, having completed its penultimate leg of its circumnavigation of the world.

Under the command of Royal Australian Navy (RAN) Lieutenant Commander Gavin Dawe, the sailing ship presented a magnificent view arriving in Table Bay Harbour under sail in front of Table Mountain. Having spent 26 days at sea since they departed Rio de Janeiro en route to Cape Town, the 24 cadets and 12 Royal Australian Navy crew were keen to see land again.

The square-rigged tall ship – 44 metres in length with a 32 metre mainmast and ten sails – was the gift given by the United Kingdom to Australia, on the occasion of the Bicentenary in 1988 (commemorating 200 years since the arrival of the first fleet of British ships in Sydney). This is the second time that Young Endeavour has visited Cape Town, the first being on her delivery voyage.

Although operated by the Royal Australian Navy, Young Endeavour is primarily used to provide sail training to Australian youth through the Young Endeavour Youth Scheme. Under this scheme, the tall ship does eleven day voyages for young Australians aged 16 to 23.

Speaking to defenceWeb aboard the vessel after her arrival, Dawe says that it is about taking young persons outside of their comfort zones. “We take them to sea, teach them how to sail the vessel a bit, navigation, etc.,” Dawe explained, “But more so, we teach them how to live together, working as a team and a bit of leadership as well.”

No experience is required, with the 12 male and 12 female cadet crew chosen by ballot. Although the majority pay for the experience, berths are also allocated via a scholarship programme. The professional RAN crew aboard provide the required training, safety and oversight.

Dawe noted that none of the cadets are allowed access to laptops, mobile phones or other social media tools whilst aboard. “It’s like cutting off their right arm,” Dawe laughs, “but they go for eleven days without any of that.”

Young Endeavour is home-based in Sydney, but works in the southern states of Australia during the summer months and then heads north for the winter.
“We take them to places they don’t normally get an opportunity to go to, like unique islands,” Dawe says.

Leaving Sydney in December 2014, the current round-the-world voyage included the ship’s participation in Anzac Centenary Commemorations in Gallipoli, Turkey, in April 2015 and representing Australia during the 2015 International Tall Ship Races in the North Sea.

The vessel experienced some “strong” weather during its voyage across the Atlantic, but it was mostly favourable. Dawe mentioned that they had received approval to stop at the remote volcanic island of Tristan da Cunha, a British overseas territory.

Unfortunately, to the great disappointment of the crew (and the Islanders themselves), rough weather prevented the Young Endeavour from anchoring.
“This was the second time it’s happened to the ship,” Dawe says, “They tried it on the delivery voyage as well.”

For 22 year old old Kate Newman, a Health Science student, this is not her first time aboard the tall ship as she had her first experience of life aboard the Young Endeavour whilst completing an eleven day voyage when she was 17.

For the circumnavigation voyage, the ballot system was opened up to those who had previous experience, with up to 50% of the chosen cadets coming back a second time.

Dawe explained that they wanted to open up the ballot to those who had done it as 16 or 17 year olds, to come back and see what they’ve done in their life and to give them another experience.
“It’s great to compare how I’ve changed in myself,” Newman explained. “It was an amazing month, you’re tired, you’re working hard, but at the same time you’re just so happy to be where you are. You wouldn’t wish to be anywhere else!”

When she gets home, Newman says that she wants to get together with her sister, who has also previously been aboard the Young Endeavour, and perhaps join a sailing club.

After the welcome respite of a few days “rest” in the Mother City, Young Endeavour will set sail for Fremantle in West Australia on the final leg of its journey on 24 November, arriving back in Australia by 22 December.

Over the twelve months they were away, eight separate crews were embarked, with almost 200 young Australians, a few New Zealanders (due to Anzac) and one Maltese having experienced life aboard a tall ship. With the RAN crew changing over at longer intervals, Dawe, as Officer Commanding, is the only one to have been aboard for the entire twelve month voyage. The ship would have sailed over 40 000 nautical miles and visited 17 countries.

For Dawe, who has a sailing background, this is his third posting to the ship. He initially volunteered for a two-and-half year stint in 1992 as the Bosun, responsible for all sails and rigging.

On Thursday 19 November, the cadets participated in a development clinic hosted by the Cricket School of Excellence (CSE) at the Khayelitsha Cricket Club.

Young Endeavour will host an Open Day from 10am to 3pm on Saturday 21 November (at its berth at Jetty No. 2 at the V&A Waterfront), when members of the public are encouraged to take advantage of the opportunity to view this vessel.

Having undergoing further promotions and officer training, Dawe returned to the Young Endeavour as the Captain in January 2008 until July 2010. Although tasked on other RAN tasks, he would return for relief Captain duties. He thereafter returned for another stint as Captain in June 2014.