In March 1998, I was a very lucky person, getting a bursary to sail on Sir Winston Churchill in the Canaries for 10 days. At the time I was doing a HND Leadership course when this opportunity arose, and through the fabulous hard work of my tutor I managed to get substantial funding to enable me to participate in this trip of a lifetime. It was this trip that lead to my love of tall ships.
Sir Winston Churchill is a three masted schooner, 37 metres in length, that was launched in 1966 by the Sail Training Association (now known as The Tall Ships Youth Trust). Her sister ship Malcom Miller was launched two years later – with the only real difference being that Sir Winston Churchill had round topped doors whereas Malcolm Miller had square topped. Sir Winston Churchill was built to take part in the Tall Ships Race at a time there was no other English vessel to enter the race. She was built using public funding with half being raised by the Sail Training Association. She has taken part in many races worldwide and won many awards.
Both ships, during their service with the Sail Training Association, have provided over 60,000 people, young and old, with the thrill and experience of sailing on a tall ship – giving them opportunities to develop skills such as team work, leadership, life, and citizen skills, all whilst increasing self-esteem and confidence. I was one of those 60,000 people and will never forget my experience on board Sir Winston Churchill.
She would sail with a crew of 55, who were split into 3 watches who had to work as a team to handle the ship 24/7 whether she was at sea or in port, taking part in watches where you were on watch for 4 hours and then had 8 hours off – this happened around the clock. The three watches were named after the three masts – Fore, Main and Mizzen – I was part of Fore Watch. The total crew was made up of –
- 5 qualified permanent crew – such as the Captain
- 11 volunteer afterguard that included watch leaders and officers
- 39 trainee/voyage crew (I was one of the 39)
The trainee/voyage crew had their living accommodation on the half-deck which is where we ate, slept, socialised and attended briefings. This was not divided into sections, it was a case of all in together – boys and girls, young and old, sleep and eat – all in the same room basically. There was no privacy on board apart from the male and female heads (toilets)!
The picture above shows the cramped conditions in the half deck with the table where we ate at in the foreground and then the bunks behind stacked three high throughout most of the half-deck. I was lucky my birth was right at the fore of the ship and was only stacked two high – certainly felt more spacious than further back on the vessel.
Her rigging consists of –
- Foremast – with one set of spreaders
- Mainmast – with one set of spreaders
- Mizzen mast – with two sets of spreaders
- Crows nest on main mast
To read about my experience of going aloft to the crows nest and taking part in the ‘up and over’ then click here
Until I was doing some research about Sir Winston Churchill, I never realised that she has had some accidents in her history of sailing the seas including one before she was even launched! Her accidents have included –
- Toppling over onto her starboard side whilst being fitted out – breaking all three masts 
- Sinking in January 1967 at Southampton 
- Running aground in July 1967 at Holyhead 
- and running aground again in July 1981 off Great Yarmouth  – at the time she had 60 female trainees on board! No female driving jokes please.
Sadly she was sold in 2000 to company based in the Isle of Man, when she was replaced by her owners, Sail Training Association, with the brig, Prince William. After she was sold she was refitted to create luxurious air-conditioned accommodation that had a capacity of 20 crew instead of the 55 she sailed with in the hands of the Sail Training Association.
Sir Winston Churchill Stats 
Built Hessle 1966 Official Number 308536 Call Sign GRZZ Max Draft 4.9 metres Overall Length 45.67 metres Overall Beam 8.31 metres Gross Tonnage 218 Nett Tonnage 61 Loaded Displacement 332.6 tonnes Air Draft With Topmast 35 metres Air draft Without Topmast 31.5 metres Total Sail Area 811.8 square metres Engines Ford Mermaid x2 202kw Radars Racal Decca Gyro Sperry Echo Sounder Kelvin Hughes Satcom C Thrane and Thrane MF / HF Radio Marconi Weatherfax Furuno VHF Sailor and Furuno Fire Detection Thorn Minerva
 Source – Wikipedia
 Source – Tall Ships Youth Trust History
Please let me know by leaving a comment if anything is incorrect or needs changing – or maybe you have some more information or photos that I can add.
Have you sailed on board Sir Winston Churchill – then why not share your story by commenting below, I would love to hear of your experiences.
At the request of Chris from Australia who sailed on Sir Winston Churchill in 1966 I tried tracking down some old footage and here are some fascinating old films of Sir Winston Churchill you may like to view