Calling all teenagers! 11 reasons to join a QBE yachting expedition in 2024 



Calling all teenagers! 11 reasons to join a QBE yachting expedition in 2024 

If you’re looking for the experience of a lifetime on a true European adventure, a summer spent with QBE European Sailing Expeditions for Teens, based in Saint-Malo, could be just the ticket…

1. Small is beautiful

QBE prides itself on using small groups (seven crew members maximum per boat, 14 per voyage) to sail its magnificent 46ft gaff-rig boats, which makes their yachting adventures the next best thing to private sailing lessons. When you only have a few weeks to learn the ropes, you need as much personal attention as possible – and that’s what QBE provides. Every expeditioner gets ample opportunity to spend time at the wheel and learn about trimming sails, navigation, and all the other nuts and bolts of blue-water, gaff-rig sailing and boating safety. Small crews also allow for rapid team bonding as everybody gets to know – and trust – each other quickly.


2. Nobody gets left on the bench 

Unlike many team sports, sailing allows everybody to play a significant role and contribute according to their abilities. While it requires some physical exertion, it doesn’t require the fitness of, say, mountaineering – so it’s a great way to get youngsters who spend much of their spare time in front of a gaming console out of their comfort zone and into nature. The result? A feeling of accomplishment that translates into improved self-confidence and a new sense of personal agency.

Crews are small, friendly and hands-on

3. The sky at night 

You will be amazed by the number of stars that are visible to the naked eye when out at sea. An unobstructed horizon, low haze and lack of urban light pollution all make for a spectacular show. Some crew members have said it’s an experience they’ll never forget – make it one of your everlasting memories too by lying out on the deck on a clear night to take it all in.

4. Learn old-school sailing 

Most new sailboats practically sail themselves – for example, they have electric winches that raise and lower sails. QBE boats are replicas of 19th-century, gaff-rigged French pilot cutters and crew members have to use good old-fashioned elbow grease to turn the manual winches and tug on all the ropes (lines) that ease and trim the sails, leading to a real sense of accomplishment.

5. Sail some pretty special historic boats 

QBE’s boats are hand-built pilot cutters based on a 19th-century French original, and they turn heads wherever they go. And as if their Instaworthy good looks weren’t enough, they’re also the perfect boats in which to teach teens how to sail – at 46ft they’re big enough to be extremely seaworthy, but small enough to allow crew members to take charge. After an initial sailing orientation, QBE’s skippers stand back and let the teenagers take control, only offering advice (and stepping in to prevent any accidents, of course). At QBE, it’s all about learning by doing.

Team bonding is a key part of the QBE experience

6. Explore places you’ve never heard of 

When you set out along the Breton and British coastlines on small boats you’ll see all sorts of sites, from centuries-old castles to pretty little seaside towns to incredible wildlife. Ever heard of Dinan? Or Lorient? Or Sark? You’re not alone. Obviously, famous cities like Paris, London and Florence are worth visiting too – but it’s the little out-of-the-way discoveries that will give you the real flavour of authentic Europe, far from the tourist throngs.

7. Sail with dolphins (hopefully) 

A lot of people associate dolphins with warmer water, but the English Channel is home to a large number of these gentle marine mammals. There is nothing more thrilling than looking over the side of your cutter and seeing several playful dolphins providing a ‘security detail’. And it’s not just dolphins you need to look out for – the area is home to seals, whales, white hedgehogs (native to Alderney) and a variety of seabirds. That’s something you won’t see from a train or on a coach trip!

8. QBE’s director is a legend in his field 

Will Sutherland founded QBE in 1992. Before that, he was a longtime expedition master and sailing coach at one of Europe’s most prestigious international schools. His J24 sailing teams competed at Cowes Week for seven years and won their class five times, coming in second on the other two occasions. Some outfits look to hire instructors where they can find them to man their growing fleets, looking for scale and profits. In QBE’s case, a few of Will’s former students helped a gifted teacher and mentor work his magic on a new generation as a way of ‘paying it forward’. And so from the outset, providing youngsters with world-class instruction and mentoring has been a QBE priority.

Raising the sails

9. Discover the wondrous Breton cuisine 

Brittany is famous for its crêpes, and you’ll be amazed at the things you can get in them; they serve up savoury crêpes (called galettes), sweet crêpes, even flaming crêpes. And they are delicious. Sitting down at a good Breton crêperie and having a meal is always a special treat. Oh, and the seafood is excellent, as well, not to mention the genuine French fries.

10. Let QBE help with your college applications 

There’s so much to see and experience, every expeditioner returns home with dozens of stories to tell and just as many great ideas for college admission essays that are sure to make them stand out from the crowd. QBE maritime expeditions really do alter the trajectory of many young lives. 

11. (Almost) no mosquitoes!

If you’ve ever been on any kind of outdoor adventure or expedition in the US, Caribbean, or… well, just about anywhere, insect repellent was probably right at the top of your packing list. But on QBE’s European sailing routes, mosquitoes are not so much of a problem – they do haunt the Channel, but generally in the autumn, so for most of the year QBE’s boats are swat-free zones.

Lead photo credit : The majestic sight of the cutters in Saint-Malo bay

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