Palma.—Take ten teenagers from some of the most disadvantaged backgrounds on the island, put them in a 40-year-old boat with three social workers, a deck hand and a captain – it doesn't sound like a great recipe for winning one of Spain's most prestigious and long-running yacht races, but the kids of Joves Navegants have once again pulled off a near miracle.

Seizing first place in their class and eleventh place overall was an almost unbelievable achievement against a fleet of 158 boats, many of which were honed racing machines operated by highly experienced crews.

Following a winter season in which Captain Raimon put 37 teenagers through their paces to discover who had the metal to compete in this grueling race, he picked his crew and sailed the charity's yacht, Galaxie, to Barcelona where the youngsters enjoyed some educational sight-seeing in between preparing Galaxie for the big day.

A few hours before the off, Captain Raimon confided to the organisation's patron, Captain Kevin O'Regan, “if these winds hold strong and we can keep them on the quarter we stand a good chance of winning,” he predicted.

Hoisting the yacht's mainsail, resplendent with its Rotary Club badge, Galaxie ploughed across the start line at the front of the fleet. Determined to retain their place throughout the night watches, the kids spared no energy as they undertook numerous sail changes and trims to keep the yacht on track to surf across the finish at Ibiza Town harbour, all hands exhausted but triumphant.

For almost 20 years Joves Navegants has dedicated itself to raising money with which to offer hundreds of the island's socially marginalised youngsters the chance to experience life afloat.

During that time many of the young people have found new purpose and direction in their lives from their experiences aboard, and some have gone on to qualify as fully-fledged captains in their own right. This is the second time that Captain Raimon has taken a group of teenagers, that many would pigeon-hole as ‘not big achievers' and led them to victory in the Ruta de la Sal regatta.

Last Friday local politicians and supporters of the sail training charity had the opportunity to talk to the young crew at Palma's Club de Mar.
Among the congratulations was a personal message to the kids from Joves Navegants' by the organisation's 85-year-old Patron, “when I was a young man I was a racing captain in some of the most renowned boats of my day,” Captain O'Regan began, “so I know all the difficulties you face in offshore racing. If Galaxie had been sailed by a full professional crew and had won this race, I would say ‘very well done indeed', but to win it with four adults and 10 children all of whom had very little experience of sailing, is absolutely marvellous!”