Youth sail training

Developing our young people, and teaching them about our heritage, is at the heart of the Trust and we work with local organisations to offer youth opportunities and sail training experiences. This includes a partnership with Sail Training Shetland, to offer an annual sail training experience to 15-25 year olds; Zetland Educational Trust, to offer half day charters to schools, and creating links with various youth and community groups to look at other opportunities to work with Swan such as volunteering opportunities or youth projects involving Swan. By crewing the Swan, young people discover the excitement and reward that comes with relying on themselves and each other, and learn some of the most important skills in life. It is heartening to see some of these young people returning to become regular volunteers and crew members on board Swan, as well as several going onto various careers at sea.

Perhaps the greatest contribution the Swan has made to contemporary Shetland culture is the many hundreds of young people who have sailed on her. This includes day outings for primary school children, lengthy trips across the North Sea for secondary pupils and sail trainees, aged 15-25 years, taking part in the annual Tall Ships Races - this was especially prominent when Lerwick hosted the Tall Ships Races in 2023 and Swan participated in all four legs, providing sail training experiences to forty young people in one summer. During this race series, Swan was crewed entirely by past trainees which is an excellent acheivement and testement to the dedication of the young people who sail aboard her.

Swan has enabled the skills of sailing a traditional fishing boat to be passed on to the next generation, highlighted Swan's heritage and built the skills, confidence and wellbeing of those who have sailed on her - especially on longer trips.

Swan has also been one of the best teachers of history Shetland has ever had.


We are always delighted to receive such positive feedback from schools who benefit from trips aboard Swan. In 2023, Cunningsburgh and Dunrossness shools took trips on board as did North Isles Schools.

See some of the thank you letters received from Lerwick primary school pupils following their trips in 2022, as well as feedback on trips undertaken with Unst and Yell School pupils. Read more about our 2021 school trips with pupils from the Whalsay, Baltasound, Cullivoe, Mid Yell, Burravoe and Sandwick schools.

Comments from schools following trips include:

A hands on experience like this will create memories that will last a lifetime, and that is priceless.

Thank you so much for allowing our pupils the opportunity to experience the history, culture and heritage of Shetland life. What you do in a couple of hours to engage our pupils in our heritage could never be recreated in the classroom. Later in the week I did an assembly where we were speaking about possible careers - A P6 pupil said that when she was older she wanted to work on the Swan.

Our pupils had a brilliant time, learned a lot about the history of The Swan and new skills. It was also brilliant to develop teamworking skills, especially as the class have been split this year.

The Swan trip was fantastic. Most had never been on a sailing boat before and were really enthusiastic about going again. It even made some think about a career at sea! The crew were really knowledgeable and got the bairns involved with everything.

It was fantastic to see so many pupils overcome fears such as climbing down ladders and being at sea. All pupils were elated after the experience and have many positive memories.

What an AWESOME experience all our young people had on The Swan! It exceeded all our expectations, and was an informative, exciting and a truly wonderful day spent out at sea!

A short trip on the Swan is an ideal way of getting a hands-on experience of a traditional sailing vessel, and learning about our heritage, without being overwhelmed. It was great to see the pupils working as a team to hoist the sails and undertake manoeuvres. There was a buzz of excitement as one of the pupils spotted a large fin a short distance from the boat. It turned out to be a large basking shark swimming just below the surface and there was great delight when it swam right past the bow of the boat as we were looking over the side. Overall, an incredible experience for our pupils.

Sail Training Shetland

The Swan Trust's partnership with Sail Training Shetland provides annual sail training placements for young people to participate in annual Sail Training Taster Days, and on longer voyages to take part in maritime events and festivals, such as the Tall Ships Races. The hands-on taster days allow trainees to experience what it takes to operate a tall ship like Swan, while the longer placements are typically at least 2 weeks and are often international. Open to those aged 15-25 years old, advertising for opportunities to participate opens each Spring. Click here for testimonials from Sail Training Shetland Trainees and their parents.

We developed Sail Training Taster Days in 2021 to build excitement for the Tall Ships Races returning to Shetland in 2023. These were so popular, in 2022 as well as delivering these days in Shetland, we also accommodated young people in Orkney, Ullapool and Stornoway, with all sessions a great success. Learn more here.

Learn more about the Tall Ships Races 2022 placements.

Vevoe Trophy

The Trust awards the Vevoe Trophy annually to their Sail Trainee of the year, and has also won awards itself for its sail training work. Find out more here.

Trips are tailored to suit the age group.

Primary schools normally take out one group for a full school day, around 5 hours, or two groups within the school day, around 2.5hrs per group.

Secondary classes can be anything from a few hours to a full day sail, or even a week long school trip to Norway and back.

Sail Training Shetland placements are typically longer up to two weeks or more, depending on the location and sea passages required. Some voyages require crossing the North Sea, which can mean a few days without seeing any land. Tall Ship placements also involve race legs between host ports and celebrations in port.

School/shorter trips: The trip is a 'hands on' outing, and under the crew’s guidance children assist with setting sails, deckwork and steering. They are introduced to the basic parts of a sailing boat, and the history of the Swan.

Longer Trips: Trainees are part of the crew and fully involved in the operation of the boat.

We can take a total of 12 passengers, including children and staff.

On longer voyages away from Shetland shores this is reduced to 10, which would include any chaperones or supervisors.

There are no age restrictions on youth sailing around Shetland, we can offer trips to any age tailored to suit.

For participation in Sail Training Shetland placements, the age limit is 15-25 years old.

Yes, we regularly do trips with special needs groups and would be pleased to discuss your requirements.

  • Warm clothing and sturdy footwear
  • Travel sickness pills (recommended if trip is outside harbour limits)

    Sail trainees undertaking longer sea passages will be provided with a kit list prior to departure.
  • Sailing Instruction
  • Lifejackets
  • Safety harnesses
  • Snacks/meals - shorter trips: usually a hot drink and biscuit; trips including overnight stays: all meals and snacks.

Although some sizes of waterproofs are available, it is advisable to take your own if possible.

For further information on what is required for longer trips, refer to our kit list

Costs vary depending on your needs, please contact us to discuss your requirements.



Want to get involved in maintaining and operating a traditional wooden sailing vessel? There are a number of different ways you can volunteer to safeguard, care for and sail this unique heritage asset.

Learn more

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