Hampshire & Isle of Wight

Sea Cadets' tall ship TS Royalist decommissioned

TS Royalist

A tall ship used to train thousands of sea cadets has been decommissioned after 43 years of service.

TS Royalist sailed into Portsmouth for the final time, escorted by tugs, on Thursday for a farewell ceremony.

More than 30,000 cadets have sailed with the Marine Society & Sea Cadets (MSSC) flagship since it was commissioned in 1971.

Its replacement, a £4.8m, 32-metre (105ft) brig, is being built in Spain and is due to be delivered in March.

Hundreds of sea cadets gathered at Petrol Pier in Gosport to say farewell to the outgoing ship.

TS Royalist was commissioned by the Princess Royal and built by Groves and Gutteridge in Cowes.

Since then it has sailed 212,850 nautical miles, taking Sea Cadets, Combined Cadet Forces and Air Cadets on offshore voyages around the UK and Europe.

MSSC chairman Capt Nigel Palmer said: "The spirit of adventure that our current flagship represents is hard to match but after 43 years it's time to move on.

"The new ship is an exciting development both technically and in the journey Sea Cadets, as a charity, is making - it's crucial as a youth-focused organisation that we continue to resonate with young people by staying as relevant and vital to the next generations of young people as we were to those that have already connected with us."

Image caption Groups of 24 cadets join the ship for a week at a time for offshore voyages around the UK and Europe

TS Royalist's service has not been without tragedy - in 2010, sea cadet Jonathan Martin died in hospital after falling from the ship's rigging.

An inquest found the 14-year-old, from Ashford in Kent, had unclipped his harness to help another cadet.

In 1996 the vessel ran aground in the River Severn. It also ran aground off Dorset in 2009.

The new ship, also to be named TS Royalist, is being built at the Astilleros Gondan shipyard.

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