Ireland's tradition of training teens to sail continues on the Brian Ború

Ireland's Tradition Of Training Teens To Sail Continues On The Brian Ború
The Brian Ború is making waves as it helps to change the lives of young people around Ireland
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Katie Mellett

Ireland’s long history with sail training began with the Asgard and now includes the Brian Ború.

The ship sails for five days around the Irish coast with teenagers aboard aged 14-18 and 18-25 while also offering the experience to people with disabilities and retirees.


Teenagers get the fun and experience of sailing but also the personal development as they navigate different jobs onboard such as the galley, engineers, navigator, cook and cleaner while living in close quarters.

Hugh Byrne is first mate and chief engineer onboard the Brian Ború. He describes the voyage as “remarkable” as it “brings shy kids out of their shell and by the end of the week they are all best friends”.

Many of the skippers who work aboard the Brian Ború went through sail training on the Asgard. Peter Scallan went on numerous voyages on the Asgard during the 1980s and 1990s. He saw how these sailing trips changed his life for the better, for the first time at 18.

He wanted to be a part of this “culture of empowerment” and joined the sailing team in 2017. Now, he is the skipper and trainee skipper on board. “Watching people’s lives change in five days is amazing”, he says.


Scallon sees incredible things on board with every day being different from the next. This week alone he saw an 18-year-old boy who had never cooked before prepare dinner for 25 people. He watches how the young people really connect and form great bonds while on the boat. “I absolutely love it”, he says.

He learned everything he knows from the “formidable sailor” Captain Eric Healy who he met onboard the Asgard. These days he passes on the knowledge of sailing to the next generation on board the Brian Ború.

After the Asgard sunk, a group got together to form Sail Training Ireland which is a charity that funds the development and the voyage for young people from all backgrounds and abilities across Ireland. Typically, the journey could cost €700 to €800 per person per week.

Sail Training Ireland use several vessels including the Brian Ború, The Leader and The Ilen. A typical voyage would begin or end in Cork, Waterford, Dublin or Belfast and would call into smaller harbours along the way such as Crosshaven, Wicklow, Arklow and Howth.


The Brian Ború's story first began outside of Belfast in a town called Portavogie, with the Warnock family, who used it as a fishing boat mainly catching herring.

Nylon nets were new at the time and many people didn't trust them but for the Warnock family, they proved successful. It was known locally as The Golden Goose.

Tony McLoughlin, the late shipwright, found the boat years later in disrepair but knew it was perfect as it was a solidly built Scottish boat. He undertook a three-year renovation project. McLoughlin attached masts to the boat and later decided to sell the boat before Byrne and his team took it over.

With the three sail training boats now operating in Ireland, Byrne believes sail training for young people is now “more alive than when the Asgard sailed”.


From a young age, Byrne had a passion for sailing and water sports. When he first stepped onto the Brian Ború he fell in love and didn’t question leaving his office job as a mechanical engineer. “When they’re leaving with smiles on their faces – that’s the passion that everyone has on the boat. It’s all about the kids.”

The Brian Ború will feature on RTÉ on August 20th.

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