Youth charity’s annual sailing regatta to go ahead with new virtual elements

ASTO’s (Association of Sail Training Organisations) annual Cowes Small Ships Race is set to go ahead this Saturday, but due to Covid-19 restrictions it will not take place in its usual format.

Instead of the normal weekend-long event, this year will see a different kind of Small Ships Race as competing crews will be required to maintain a strict ‘bubble’ to ensure that social distancing guidelines are being followed.

Only the offshore portion of the event will be able to go ahead, with fewer vessels expected to take part, and there will be no pre-race water fight which has become a staple feature of the get-together in recent years.

ASTO will also be holding a virtual prize-giving ceremony after the race this year via Facebook Live. As well as this, all race briefings will be held via a Skipper’s group chat on WhatsApp to ensure that boat ‘bubbles’ are not being broken.

In addition to the Small Ships Race, this year ASTO is launching its first Virtual SSR in partnership with Sailonline, allowing more people to take part in the event from the comfort of their own homes. The Virtual SSR is free to enter and uses the same course as the real Small Ships Race. Special technology is being used to accurately map the weather forecast in real-time, which means competitors can use real conditions to navigate the course.

The on-water Small Ships Race sees young people aged between 12-25, known as Trainees, competing against fellow Sail Training vessels. Many of these Trainees have never sailed before.

Lucy Grodie, general manager of ASTO, says: “I am delighted that despite the current restrictions we are able to run a Small Ships Race this year. It’s been a really tough year for UK Sail Training, with most organisations unable to sail due to social distancing guidelines. The Small Ships Race, both on and off the water, will be a fun reminder that Sail Training is a brilliant way for young people to gain confidence.”

This year’s competitors include Greig City Academy’s Scaramouche who, for the first time, will be entering an all-girls crew (including Skipper) in a bid to promote women in sailing. Competing against Scaramouche will be Jolie Brise from Dauntsey’s School; High Spirit from Ballard School; and Tenacity of Bolton from Tall Ships Youth Trust, who will be crewed by pupils from HTP College on the Isle of Wight.

The Small Ships Race and Virtual SSR will both take place between 11:30-16:00 on October 3rd. For more information on the Small Ships Race visit

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This article was written and/or edited by the UK-based MIN team.

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