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First Spirit of Adventure Chatham Islands Voyage

First Spirit of Adventure Chatham Island’s Voyage First scheduled Ship alongside new Wharf

The Spirit of Adventure Trust is delighted to announce that its first Chatham Islands Voyage is ready. The Spirit of New Zealand departs from Napier on Sunday 29th October for 16 days of pure adventure, sailing the iconic tall ship in open blue water with 32 passengers plus crew on-board. In keeping with the Trusts philosophy that the ship represents all of New Zealand, it was decided that a long overdue visit to the Chatham Islands was time.

The Spirit of New Zealand is scheduled to be the first ship alongside the revamped wharf with its expected arrival date – Thursday 2nd November. The voyagers on-board come from all over New Zealand and are tremendously excited about what might be a trip of a lifetime.

The wharf project budget for the Chatham Islands earmarked up to $52 million to replace the corroding and increasingly unsafe wharf at Waitangi, the main centre on the Chatham Islands. The wharf has been replaced in a three-year construction project, with money sourced from the Future Investment Fund. The Waitangi Wharf Upgrade project will make shipping more reliable improve the health and safety and operations of the wharf.


The Spirit of Adventure Trust was established in 1972 with the generous support of Lou Fisher, to provide the youth of New Zealand with access to a character youth development programme conducted in a maritime environment.

The 1960s saw a revival of interest in square-rigged sailing ship but not in their traditional role as cargo ships, or for professional maritime training. They were seen as a unique environment for youth development, where the focus of learning for students is on team-work and developing skills of communication, self-reliance, self-discipline, self-esteem, resilience, confidence and leadership. Learning to sail a tall ship is a means to an end, rather than an end in itself.

Our mission is ‘To empower young New Zealanders to reach their full potential through the challenge of the sea’.

At the Spirit of Adventure Trust we develop youth (trainees) to be:




actively involved

life-long learners


Since the Trust’s inception, more than 75,000 young people from throughout New Zealand have benefited from participating in our youth development voyages.

The majority of participants on our voyages are selected from secondary schools. To ensure that students from all socio-economic backgrounds and academic ability are offered an opportunity to participate, the Spirit places emphasis on school partnerships. Students who are deemed to benefit most from programmes offered by the Spirit are supported through fees subsidies and scholarships.

Our youth voyages

Each 10-Day Development Voyage takes on board 40 ‘trainees’ (young people aged 15-18 years), from all around the country. Voyages have an equal mix of 20 females and 20 males, all total strangers when they first meet.

Our voyages are underpinned by experiential learning. For example, a trainee takes part in an activity such as hoisting the mainsail, looks at it critically, gains useful insight from it and puts the results to work. The insight is the process that goes into completing a challenge that can be reproduced as a leadership skill for the rest of the trainee’s life.

Voyage activities include a range of challenges and tasks that require problem solving, creative thinking and enterprising skills to achieve results (competence and mastery of transferable skills and behaviours relevant to aspects of their own lives).

Trainees are split into four groups (called watches) of ten for the duration of the voyage. All trainees have the challenge of being leader of their watch for a day. On day nine, the trainees bring together all the skills they have learned, elect their own crew and sail the ship to its final anchorage within a given time frame.

Activities vary according to location, the group mix and the weather. Friendship, fun and laughter run high, as trainees complete the many features of the programme - tramping trips ashore, learning to sail the luggers, beach cleaning (supporting environmental education and sustainability), hoisting and setting the very large and heavy sails, climbing the ratlines to loosen or stow sails 30 metres above the deck, not forgetting the famous dawn swim. The horseshoe-shaped Aft Cabin at the stern hosts evening activities such as public speaking, presentations, debates, movies and games.

Each voyage has a crew with appropriate nautical qualifications and training in experiential learning and youth development. While former Trainees are able to return as Leading Hands (free).

When the ship is ship-shape the real day starts. Anchors up, sails up and away.

Being a square rig means someone has to go up the mast and untie the sails – 30 something metres up. A real buzz is created after this first experience, which is experienced by all trainees before the end of the voyage.

Summary of research - Otago University and University of Edinburgh

In the last few years the Spirit of Adventure Trust has participated in two independent university research studies demonstrating the effectiveness of our youth development programmes. These were carried out at The University of Otago and The University of Edinburgh.

Ongoing Otago University research endorses the value of the outstanding programme the Spirit of Adventure Trust is running for the youth of New Zealand.

The data includes findings such as:

Self-esteem increases, remaining at least three months following the voyage. (Paper to appear in Social Psychology of Education)

Self-efficacy increases, remaining five months after the voyage. (Paper to appear in Child and Adolescent Mental Health)

Self-esteem increases, without any corresponding negative effects. (Under review for Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology).

Increased resilience – remaining evident five months after the voyage (Under review for Journal of Adolescence).

Further key findings were:

A ten-day voyage on the Spirit of New Zealand leads to many positive outcomes, with benefits that can have long lasting consequences for youth, particularly the trainees’ increase in self-esteem.

A further important outcome from the four questionnaires put to trainees over six months identifies increased resilience (the ability to react to adversity and challenge in an adaptive and productive way, considered crucial to healthy development in youth).

Other positive psychological outcomes to result from participation in a 10 day voyage on Spirit of New Zealand include active involvements, cooperative teamwork, leadership ability, open thinking, quality seeking, self-efficacy, social effectiveness, stress management and time efficacy.

Overall life effectiveness is enhanced as a consequence of participation in a developmental voyage board Spirit of New Zealand.

All the improvements that trainees experienced as a consequence of undertaking a 10-day voyage were maintained at their increased levels four to five months after the voyage ended.

Sail training voyages aboard the Spirit of New Zealand appear to make a lasting difference in the lives of trainees.

The ships

The topsail schooner Spirit of Adventure, gifted to the nation by Lou Fisher, was commissioned in 1973. She sailed a heavy schedule around the New Zealand coast until 1997, when she was sold for tourism work in Fiji.

The three-masted barquentine Spirit of New Zealand was commissioned in 1986, and since the retirement of the Adventure, has undertaken an annual programme of around 340 days at sea. She is believed to be probably the world’s busiest youth ship. Subject to stringent, on-going maintenance surveys, refits and audits, Spirit of New Zealand is expected to be able to continue operating youth voyages until around 2030.

Her programme has been conducted mostly out of her home port of Auckland into the Hauraki Gulf, but at the end of 2015 she departed Auckland starting her South Island tour over the summer. Visiting ports in Napier, Wellington, Nelson, Dunedin, Bluff, Lyttelton, and Tauranga, Spirit will return home to Auckland at the end of March.

For fund-raising purposes, the ship has also participated in major events such as the Olympic torch relay, two America’s Cup and Louis Vuitton regattas, the Millennium celebrations


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