Sail Training International conference 2017: education, inspiration and international friendship.
Updated: Aug 26
For the fifth time in the past six years, I attended the Sail Training International conference, held at the Cité Mondiale. However, this year I was present for only day two of the conference. It provides an opportunity for everyone involved in the world of Sail Training to gather, converse and interact. Sharing professional guidance and support, as well as discussing with leading experts in specialist areas within and related to Sail Training and Youth Development.
There is always an extensive programme of sessions provided which are incredibly thought-provoking and inspiring. I often find it difficult to choose which sessions I am going to attend. This year, I selected:
Looking after the needs of the vessels and crew.
This took the form of a Q&A panel session. The topics discussed were:
Planning a successful event. Highlighting the needs of ships and their crew and understanding the needs from a port’s perspective.
Communications. It was identified that this is a critical component of a successful event, particularly with a Ship’s Liaison Officer. Pre-event communications was also considered, addressing concerns, lessons to be learnt and considerations for improvement.
Recreational activities including sports events for visiting crew. Reviewed the current methods of promoting participation to crew members, activities currently offered and if they were fit for purpose.
Crew parties. A critical element of the port event, promoting interaction, enjoyment and friendship building across vessel crews and the fleet. Main topics discussed were welfare and safety of the crew, location in relation to the berthed vessels and have they always been fit for purpose in previous events. Cultural considerations, obtaining local expert event management, provisions and entertainment options were also highlighted.
The vessels expectations of a Ship’s Liaison Officer were considered as well as vessel Technical support, Ships Captain’s Dinner, Open Ship visits and media coverage.
Group dynamics, teamwork and facilitation techniques
This session re-addressed the process of creating group dynamics, developing teamwork and what was required by the volunteer and professional crew to facilitate this. It covered what the difference is between a group and a team and the purpose of a team. It also addressed activities that strengthen positive feeling in a team setting that may not occurring in a group setting. In addition, Dr Belbin’s 9 team roles were identified and the well know team stages ‘Norming, Storming, Norming, Performing and Detachment’ explaining each stage in detail. Awareness of how the storming phase can also be intimidating to some individuals who once got on and how the volunteer and professional crew can assist to realign this. Lastly, styles of leadership and communication were discussed, along with SMART goals when activity planning for the voyage crew and how to implement this tool was explained.
International non-formal education projects and EU funding
As funding is an unknown area to me, I found this session incredibly insightful. It identified six projects that the speaker had arranged between 2012-2017. They explained step by step how they planned and funded the projects, providing an overview of what the focus and approach of Sail Training was, Addressed key elements such as active learning, ensuring a stimulating experience and the experiential learning cycle. They gave an overview of designing a non-formal education programme and what were critical considerations and requirements for their particular projects. Finally, they introduced the EURASMUS mobility tool and explained the ethos of a EURASUS+ Youth in Action programme as well as providing a synopsis of how to apply for EURASMUS+ funding.
These sessions were followed by the Closing Plenary and Awards Ceremony. An astonishing fact identified was the in the 2017 race season, the combined total of visitor numbers for the Tall Ship Races port events was 8.5 million – more than the 2016 Rio Olympics and the UEFA Cup combined! That is some accomplishment. A huge congratulations are deserved to all the team in Sail Training International for organising and facilitating such an incredible achievement. One that in my time as a volunteer crew member I never quite realised was so complex until today (session one of the day).
With all that it left only one more thing – the Gala Dinner. This year it was held at the Palais de la Bourse, what a stunning venue it was too. They never fail to be absolutely excellent. After a hectic conference packed with sessions, meetings, networking and professional engagement; the Gala Dinner provides the delegates with a chance to celebrate yet another incredible year in Sail Training, catch up with old shipmates and international friends made thorough attending such an incredible conference year after year.
I cannot wait for next year’s conference.
For the presentations, please go to http://www.sailtraininginternational.org/events/annual-conference/bordeaux-conference-2017/conference-information/speaker-presentations
2017 Award winners: http://www.sailtraininginternational.org/events/annual-trophies-and-awards