Chinese student wins coveted trophy for outstanding Sail Training achievement

02 September 2013

Chinese student wins coveted trophy for outstanding Sail Training achievement
A young Chinese student on her first-ever voyage on a sailing ship beat close to 10,000 other trainees to be awarded the coveted Torbay Cup.  

The award, a 100 year-old silver trophy and €500 towards her next sail training voyage, is awarded by Sail Training International for individual achievement and personal effort during the annual Tall Ships Races.

Twenty-three year old Yujun Xu is from the city of Wuxi in the Chinese province of Jiangsu and is a student at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. She was sailing on the Dutch tall ship Gulden Leeuw with 40 other trainees from 14 countries, in the final leg of The Tall Ships Races 2013 from Riga, Latvia to Szczecin, Poland. 

“I like adventure and doing things for the first time,” says Yujun (pronounced ‘June’) Xu. “But I would never have been brave enough to sail on a Tall Ship if it hadn’t been for friends persuading me to go. 

“It was a fantastic experience,” says Yujun. “I learnt so much, and not only about the sea and sailing. Learning about other cultures and having the opportunity to talk about Chinese culture, working as a happy team with the other trainees, the beauty of the sea and sky … it made memories that will stay with me for ever.”

Gulden Leeuw Captain Robert Postuma had no hesitation in nominating Yujun for the award: “This petite young lady came on board as a fairly insecure exchange student knowing nothing about the sea or sailing and joining a crew of other young trainees far stronger and more confident that she was. Within a few days she blossomed into a different person, a hard working and confident team player, who earned the respect and affection of us all. She made a huge contribution to the running of the ship and to the social life on board.

“While overcoming many difficulties she made a massive contribution to her crew members by fostering their desire to help the weakest become stronger. And as she transformed, she transformed her ship mates as well.”

Yujun Xu is studying Management of Training and Development at the University of Edinburgh and plans to go back to China to work after graduation. Her main hobbies are classical Chinese dancing and calligraphy, both the subject of much interest and discussion among the other trainees.

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For more information contact Sally Titmus, Communications and Marketing Manager, Sail Training International, Charles House, Gosport Marina, Mumby Road, Gosport, Hampshire, UK  PO12 1AH  
Tel: +44 (0) 23 9258 6367   Email:

Editor’s notes:

What is The Torbay Cup?
The Torbay Cup recognises and promotes one of the core values of The Tall Ships Races summer series in Europe – individual achievement and personal effort by young trainees taking part.

Torbay in the United Kingdom has a unique role in the history of the Tall Ships Races as the start port for the first ever Tall Ships Race in 1956 and it symbolises the birth of the unique ethos and culture of these Races that still endure today.

What is sail training?
Sail Training is an adventure activity, which includes far more than sailing instruction. Participants are required to confront demanding challenges, both physical and emotional. It is an activity that inspires self-confidence and personal responsibility. It promotes an acceptance of others, whatever their social or cultural backgrounds, and develops a willingness to take controlled risks. Those who undertake Sail Training on Tall Ships generally find it a positive life-changing experience.

A two-minute film can be seen here.

About Sail Training International (STI)
STI is the international voice of Sail Training, a registered charity (not-for-profit organisation), which has worldwide membership and activities. Its purpose is the development and education of young people through the Sail Training experience, regardless of nationality, culture, religion, gender or social background. It organises the annual Tall Ship Races and other international Tall Ship sailing events. STI members are 29 national Sail Training organisations around the world and STI’s head office is in Gosport, Hampshire, UK.

The organisation was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize 2007 for its work in promoting international understanding and friendship.

EXTRACTS from Yujun’s daily journal 

Torchlight roused me at 03:30, the time when the last watch team finished their duty. It is my first day as a trainee on Gulden Leeuw (Netherlands), I was assigned to work on look out on deck.

The sky was still dark at 04:00 but a rim of light lay on the edge of the sea. I stood in the breeze, propped myself against the side, concentrated on my work as well as waiting for the sun to rise on the sea for the first time in my life. During the period of dawn the sun's rays kindled the grey canopy of the sky. The whole world was just waiting for the body of the sun.  As it rose in the midst of the ocean every wave was golden. The sun slowly rose out of the ocean at 05:00 and heaven’s stage backdrop was coloured by this huge blazing ball. A golden wave connected to the side of ship and Apollo. I was profoundly affected by this picture of the birth of Apollo as I facing this calm and smooth ocean and thought, everyone deserves such a sailing experience.
Shortly after 0700, Arthur, our photographer, came on deck and asked whether we were tired or not. “More hungry than tired”, we exclaimed with one voice. 

Our watch time finished at 0800, as the wind blowed stronger and we have to adjust the sail. Laura said the weather was predicted to worsen in the next few days. All any of us can really do is pray that a heavy rainstorm and strong gale would not be too vehement. The legendary ‘seasick’ sounded formidable and awful. 

Our team held a sum-up meeting to discuss matters from our first watch.  Because it’s the first day everything seems so fun and fresh and our fighting spirit soar. 


You can imagine how dark the deck is at 0400 and I felt that Erebus would not give way to Apollo. For the last two hours my task was to control the sail with others in our team, whilst being attacked by a cold storm and strong humidity.  I had a sudden pain in my stomach and fainted several times. I didn’t want to trouble the others so drank some hot water and hoped it would improve my condition. At 0600 I felt better after sitting for a short time because my post has been changed to the navigation room. 

I talk to Charlie, a warm and friendly French guy, who has visited China and has an interesting Chinese name - Lei Jia (thunder add). We chat and he sang the Chinese song ‘Jasmine and Beijing welcomes you’ - I was amused by this funny man.

I went to bed when the watch finished and when I woke up, it was already noon. The vessel is rocking and I have to cling to the banisters and walls unless I fall.  The storm that greeted me nearly blew me off the deck. But I have to say, everyone on board looked humorous walking around tilting and over and over again.  The chair I was sitting on slid off to the side of the ship. 

The second watch time today is at 1800 and it’s a working look out on the bridge as waves keep coming and we cannot escape.  The wind was swooping down to tease the waves and the crazy ocean swallowed the white foam from its surface and seemed to develop thick white smoke from its depths. The white sails were trembling and the thunder rumbled, “Yes – ah - storm coming. This is the ocean; there is a terrible grace on its own way.” I had a deepening sense of heaven coming alive and the courage to enjoy the whole thing as it happens.

But I was beginning to feel wobbly and rough and suffered a sharp pain in my stomach once again. I have to apply for a break. In a dim part of my mind, on the shakiest bed in the world, dimly I heard the sound of seasick from the other girl; I hoped that things would be all right but couldn’t stop falling asleep.

Charlie took his guitar onto the bridge in the morning, by the rhythm of guitar and wind, the rising sun danced in the waves. 

Individuals on the deck tried their best to change the direction of sail singing “One-two-pull! One-two-pull”  it makes everyone laugh aloud. We’re beginning to get to know each other gradually, as if we’re a happy family, working together with each other, tired but joyful.

After lunch, I went to the cabin and took out my notebook, soft brush and absorbent rice-paper. I had promised to introduce calligraphy to my crew. A small group of people sat around me while I explained the difference between common paper and rice-paper and how to use a brush. Some were anxious to try; some had never been to China before and some had never seen calligraphy.  When I asked them if they wanted to have a Chinese name they said yes excitedly. I invited them to write down their names on the paper, and gave each of them a Chinese name based on the pronounciation of their Latin name, written on rice paper with the brush. They each took their Chinese rice paper name as if it was a valued treasure. 

I was so pleased that the western people loved the Chinese culture and wanted to understand China better.


There are many opportunities to take part in a sail training experience as part of a Tall Ships Race or Regatta visit

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