In 1937, the first of seventeen “Menai Strait One-Design” yachts was built, designed to be capable of being raced and sailed within the Menai Strait, the famous stream of water separating the Isle of Anglesey from the Welsh mainland. All seventeen remain where they were built in Beaumaris today.
This not-for-profit project is centred around securing the future of this old fleet of boats at the same time as creating education and work opportunities, and also offering services and support to the most vulnerable in the local society.
Whilst many of the yachts are locally owned, well cared for and sailing regularly, three have been purchased by the organisation for refurbishment. To help with this they have teamed up with an experienced local boat builder to offer a Marine Engineering apprenticeship for a young student currently in her first year. This is helping not only to secure a career for their apprentice, but also retain the traditional skills that needed to repair and maintain these types of yachts.
The yachts that are in good sailing condition are being used as part of an NHS Social Prescribing Project, which helps a wide range of people with long term or mental health conditions, suffering from isolation or with complex needs. So far they have provided valuable sailing experiences for older people with depression, people with early stages of Alzheimers and dementia, and a carer. They have also worked with teenagers from two Ukrainian refugee families.
Run completely by volunteers, they rely on donations keep up with the ongoing costs of running the project including training and DBS checks, rebuilding costs and insurance so that they can keep providing their services free of charge. Having secured some of this already, they now plan to increase their impact by securing a project base base in which to restore the boats while providing a community service to the people that they support. A Matthew Good Foundation grant would go towards helping them secure the shed they are about to move into until 2026.
The four trustees who run the project are all very experienced not only in sailing and engineering, but also in other areas valuable to the project including law, disability services and drug/alcohol support services. Particularly valuable are the experiences of Chairman, Henry Chesterton, a career Occupational Therapist who managed Disability Services for working aged adults for 25 years for his local authority.
“To be deemed worthy of short listing really helps us to know that our efforts are in the right direction and that those who we are servicing are valued. We are very thankful that our project can continue to move forward in a timely manner to assist the Social, Health and Heritage initiatives that we believe improve our society.”
“Menai Straits Heritage Sailing is a unique project in North West Wales. Completely volunteer led, the project was created when its founder saw an opportunity to combine maritime heritage and sailing with health and wellbeing of the wider community by reducing social exclusion and improving mental health. At the same time, the project is preserving skills in Marine Engineering to support the future of local boatbuilding, and their first apprentice, who has completed her first year of a three year apprentice is making excellent progress.”