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Tenacious was the first wooden tall ship in the world to be designed and built to enable people of all physical abilities to sail side by side on equal terms. Not only does she take a mixed ability crew, many disabled volunteers help in the building of 'Big Woody.' She is the biggest sail training ship in the UK tall ship fleet, and her thorough crew training is a great square rig introduction for beginners. With a repertoire of voyages from Southampton day sails to Southern Ocean roller coaster rides, Tenacious can fit the tall ship dreams of all ages and abilities.

Latest voyages
  • Length overall: 213ft (65 m)
  • Length on deck: 177ft /54.00m
  • Year built: 2000
  • Vessel type/rig: Barque 


  • Guest berths: 40
  • Crew berths: 7 plus experienced volunteers



OUR EXPERT VIEW: What Tenacious Does Best

Purpose Designed Ship to Allow All Abilities to Sail

Imagine trying to balance the adventurous spirits of a female soldier who has lost a leg, with a romantic 70 year old who has always wanted to sail a tall ship, but life got in the way. The Tenacious and her smaller sister ship Lord Nelson have taken over 37,000 mixed crews of able bodied and disabled crews on sailing voyages since they were built. The ship's design and the way the social and professional crew who run the ship, means the whole experience is very well thought out and inclusive.

This 65 metre wooden sailing ship has wide decks and lifts between floors for wheelchair users and flush flooring across watertight bulkheads. There is an audio compass, hydraulic assisted ships wheel, bunks with vibrating pads and brail signs for blind sailors, a bowsprit runway so all can enjoy the thrill of seeing dolphins dancing in the bow wave. 

Tenacious is a 65 metre barque - built to take disabled and able bodied crews
Photo by

Southern Hemisphere Ambassador

When she was launched in 2000, Tenacious was the largest wooden sailing ship to be built in the UK for 100 years, and what is even more remarkable is that disabled and able bodied volunteers helped to build her. Her huge frames are laminated wood and you can nestle between varnished timbers as you read a book in the ships bar.

Following in Lord Nelson's (fondly known as Nellie)successful footsteps, Tenacious has been carrying the message around the world that disabled crews can become square rig sailors. Based in Australia and exploring New Zealand and the South Pacific Tenacious is returning to Europe from New Zealand via Cape Horn, The Falklands, South Georgia, Cape Town and the Caribbean.

Tenacious is visiting the sub antarctic island of South Georgia in 2018
Tenacious is visiting the sub antarctic island of South Georgia in 2018


Voyages Giving Hope, Understanding and Inspiration

The Buddy system where an able bodied crew is teamed up with a 'disabled' crew member is only part of the story on Tenacious. It helps cut the ice when you all arrive as strangers, but it is not a 'forced marriage.' Quite often the crew member with the disability has sailed the ship several times and they might be looking after you. 

These are great voyages for disabled and able bodied alike. If you are in a rut or confidence crisis after an accident or limiting injury, then signing up to go sailing on a tall ship will take huge courage and will hopefully give you fresh hope and inspiration.  Or perhaps you are wishing to spend your holiday entitlement in doing something worthwhile coupled with experiencing a unique adventure yourself, then be prepared to be humbled by other peoples determination.

Tenacious Tall Ship has a specially adapted bowsprit so wheel chair users can commune with the dolphins
A bowsprit for everyone - a wheelchair ramp and conventional netting

What to Expect

wheelchair sailors in action on Lord Nelson

Sailing Style

The safety of everyone is top priority and so every activity is conducted at a pace comfortable for all. The forces of nature show no compromise and Tenacious is still a powerful square rigger so with main course, upper and lower topsails traditionally rigged so there is still considerable challenge in every voyage. Perhaps going aloft (climbing the rigging is optional) will be the biggest adrenalin buzz or simply the challenge and rewards of being part of a very special floating community.

Full Participation Sail Training Ship

To keep LORD NELSON and TENACIOUS manned 24 hours a day, voyage crew are divided into four watches. The Mate will explain the watch keeping system and the ship’s routine. Watch keeping means steering, keeping lookout, handling sails etc. under the supervision of your Watch leader and one of the ship’s Permanent Crew. When you are not “on watch” you may be asked to help the watch on deck with setting and trimming sails, if it needs more than one watch. There is usually a happy hour to clean the ship each morning. You may be asked to be a 'messman' for a day to help bring food to the saloon tables or help with the galley. It depends a bit on the length of the voyage how often this comes around on a rota. In port and at anchor there is still a duty watch, but generally only 2 people are needed per hour to check the ship is safe.

Life on Board

On Board Tenacious & Lord Nelson they operate a buddy system, which pairs able bodied and physically disabled people together. Everyone is there to help one another and share the experience, so the buddy system works both ways! You’ll get the chance to share skills and life experiences and, as many of our crew have found, make friendships that can last a lifetime. (On the booking form able bodied crew are asked if they are happy to buddy a mildly disabled crew member or a severely disabled crew member.)

Debbie in the Classic Sailing office has been a buddy for young wheelchair users and blind crew, as well as sailed on Tenacious as Watch Leader and Lord Nelson as a deck officer. Lord Nelson and Tenacious are run by a British Charity, Classic Sailing are an independent tall ship specialist so if you are apprehensive about your role on board as a buddy, or want to know if you can join other tall ships with a disability, then do give us a ring on 01872 580022.

Climbing the futtock shrouds on Tenacious


GAP Year Challenge or Career Break

If you are taking time out to re appraise your life or do something worthwhile for your fellow humans, then a voyage on Tenacious or Lord Nelson can be both re-affirm your faith in human nature and take you on some interesting paths.

All ages of sailor and newcomer to sailing try a tall ship voyage, but be warned you may be hooked for life. Injured members of the British Armed Forces often have to re build their lives in civillian street and an increasing number of disabled servicemen and women are sailing on Lord Nelson and Tenacious.

If you are aged 16-24 find out more about the ships Youth Leadership @ Sea programme - available on some voyages. There are bursaries available if you can't afford it.

A Lord Nelson voyage is also an accredited Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award residential programme.

The ocean can't tell the differenct between a disabled or able bodied person. Photo by Claire Cheskin in her wheelchair!
The ocean can't tell the differenct between a disabled or able bodied person. Photo by Claire Cheskin in her wheelchair!


Tenacious has a upper and lower deck.
The decks on Tenacious are wide and safe.

Tenacious’s Accommodation & Special Facilities

Tenacious has been built with many special facilities to enable physically disabled crew to work alongside their able-bodied shipmates, without taking away the element of challenge.

Below decks Tenacious has two decks, one called the upper and the second called the lower with lifts to take anyone down below.

Upper Deck

On the upper deck there is a large and comfortable messroom where you will all gather to eat, talk and socialise together. There is a large messroom, fully equipped galley, workshop, library and a well-stocked bar. As Tenacious is a very sociable ship and the bar is often a focal point for events in port. Alcoholic drinks are available at sea unless you are on watch or about to go and handle sails or climb the rigging! Only tea or coffee with the occasional cake will be available for those needed on deck.

The large mess room is where your meals will be served and for socialising with your fellow crewmates. Here you can catch up with news, regale stories or just chill out and read a book.

Lower Deck

On the lower deck you will find the sleeping accommodation where there are bunks in the fo’c’sle (area in front of the ship) for the majority of the crew, and eight cabins amidships (middle of the ship) for wheelchair users and their buddies. Bathrooms on board have specifically designed toilets and showers for those with more severe disabilities.

Accommodation below has heating and air conditioning. There are hot showers, points for electric shavers, toothbrushes and hair driers.

Specific built-in features include:

  • Wide, flat decks with lifts between them.
  • Fully adjustable helmsman’s seat, which is fitted with a seat belt.
  • For visually impaired voyage crew Tenacious is fitted with an audio compass, guidance track around most of the upper deck to keep you central and tactile strips at the tops of the companionways (stairs). There are also arrows on the handrails pointing toward the bow (front of the ship)>
  • Bright track radar screen.
  • For deaf and hearing impaired berths are fitted with vibrator pads connected to the alarm bells and alarm light circuit and induction loops.
Tenacious below deck
Tenacious below deck

On deck

Tenacious has been designed and built to enable people of all physical abilities to sail side by side on equal terms. In practical terms this means wide decks and large platforms. The bowsprit has a specially designed walkway so that everyone can enjoy that spell binding moment when the dolphins come to play in the bow wave or if you just want to get that classic shot of a square rigger under full sail.

So that everyone can go ashore for beach barbeque’s and explore remote locations Tenacious has small ships boats with metal floors so that everyone has a stable footing and wheelchairs are secure. In the larger ports the ships gangways can cope with most waterfronts but with the expert crew on board any problems with access with wheelchairs is overcome promptly and smoothly.

Tenacious is the biggest tall ship in the Classic Sailing fleet
Tenacious is the biggest tall ship in the Classic Sailing fleet


Tenacious Specifications
Tenacious Specifications

Tenacious Specifications

Length Overall: 213ft (65m)
Length on deck: 177ft 1986
Built: 2000
Beam 10.6 m
Sails: 1,217 m squ (13,100 sq ft)
714 tons
Vessel type/rig: Three masted Barque
Guest berths: 40
Crew berths: 7 plus volunteers
Sail area 1024 sq m
Maximum of 8 wheelchair users per voyage


Satellite phone (emergencies only)
Sat C
SSB and VHF readio


UK MCA Code of Practice for worldwide operations. 

Tenacious is a Unique British Design

Tenacious (and her smaller sister ship Lord Nelson) are the only two of their kind in the world that have been designed and built to enable people of all physical abilities to sail side by side on equal terms. 36 000 people have sailed on the two ships since they were built.

This impressive 65m (213ft) barque with square sails was launched in 2000 and was the largest wooden tall ship to be built in the UK for over 100 years. Her whole build process was amazing as disabled and able bodied volunteers helped to build her, so she is greatly loved by her guest crews and supporters.

With her unique design, wide decks, large platforms aloft, a wheelchair ‘runway’ out on the bowsprit and a whole host of design features enabling everyone to do their bit to sail an impressive 714 ton square rigger with 21 sails.

Tenacious’s only break with tradition are the t’gallant and royal sails which can be furled from the deck with the upper and lower topsails and courses stowed out on the foot ropes.

When, for example, a topsail is handed, the yard is lowered until it is hanging in its lifts, which will then be taut. The clewlines and buntlines haul the sail up to the yard and the sheets, which pull in the opposite direction, must be released. Then to stow the sail it is fastened tightly along the top of the yard by short ropes called gaskets.

To set the sail, the gaskets are cast off, the sail pushed off the yard and all clewlines and buntlines released. The sheets are then hauled, bringing the clews down to the yard below. The halyard is then hauled, raising the yard up on the mast. The yard can also be swung from side to side by means of ropes called braces.

Tenacious Ships Specifications
Tenacious Ships Specifications


Tenacious - Meet the Captains

Captain Barbara Campbell on the bridge

A British Charity runs both Tenacious and Lord Nelson. Their vastly experienced Captains take it in turns to do a stint on either ship. The other professional crew on board are: First Mate, Second Mate, Bosun, Engineer, cook. They are ably assisted by volunteer watch leaders, deckhands, cooks mates, assistant engineers and medical purser.

Captain Barbara Campbell

Captain Barbara is lengendary. Both Adam and Debbie Purser in the Classic Sailing office have sailed many miles with her as watch leaders and voluntary watch officers and she has always encouraged our careers before and after we set up Classic Sailing. A tiny lady with a big personality and a kind heart, Barbera Campbell is also a tough cookie.  When I first met her she was the first female tall ship captain I have ever sailed with, and the first to eat healthy stuff like yoghurt, go snorkelling with the guest crew and keep fit ashore by running and mountain walking.  This might not sound like a big thing...but running a modern Class A sail training ship does not allow much down time ashore.  Barbera has threatened to retire many times but her crews love her, and she could'nt turn down the chance to sail around the world on Nellie or Tenacious.

Captain Chris Phillips

Chris became ships master on Lord Nelson in Jan 2012 after 6 years as first and second mate. He quickly scaled up to the 720 Tenacious as Captain, but still loves to sail Nellie and his own classic yacht. Previously he was a Warfare Officer in the Royal Navy for 6 years but has had a long involvement with sail training and working with young people and adults. He would be too modest to admit it but we know he speaks French, Russian, German and a bit of Spanish, so quite a handy Captain in tall ships races. Chris has his own yacht and loves hillwalking, reading and music. He has sailed with both Adam and Debbie from Classic Sailing and we are very pleased he is now Captain.

Captain Chris Phillips aloft
Captain Chris Phillips aloft

Captain Simon Catterson

Captain Simon Catterson has been with Tenacious since 2012. He has also sails Lord Nelson occasionally. Simon began sailing in the early 80s, in Morgan Giles 43s and a Robert Clark 72’ ketch before joining the RN. Whilst at BRNC, he spent most of his sailing time skippering Contessa 38s in the Channel. On leave, he could often be found in one of the Nic 55s from Joint Services at Gosport as Mate and then Skipper around the UK and northern Europe or in the Canaries. On leaving the RN, he took a year off before joining Arethusa as Master in 1996, sailing in the UK, Canaries, the Baltic and to Bermuda, the US and Canada during Tall Ships 2000. In Tenacious he has been to the Black Sea with the Historical Seas Regatta, the Caribbean for the winter and sailed Tenacious across the Pacific and around Australia.

Captain of Tenacious Simon Catterson
Captain of Tenacious Simon Catterson

Captain Darren Naggs

Probably the most piratical of the Captains on Lord Nelson and Tenacious, Darren has worked his way up to ships master from bosun.  A fierce participant at historical battle re-enactments, he is probably not the person to take on in a sword fight....or a fancy dress competition. Darren has also been Captain of tall ships Soren Larsen, Prince William, Stavros S Niarchos and Pelican of London. His early traditional sailing career was given a boost by Classic Boat Magazine who awarded him a sponsored place on at a professional boat building school.


Paralympic medalist and presenter Ade Adepitan with Captain Darren Naggs
Paralympic medalist and presenter Ade Adepitan with Captain Darren Naggs


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