Sam Hannaford was just seven when his grandfather first took him to Horizons, the children’s sailing charity near his Plymouth home. He loved sailing from the start, going first through OnBoard, then youth stages and national sailing modules with the help and support of the Horizons team.
Whilst still classed as a cadet, he was a very active volunteer, helping deliver training as an AI. “In the summer holidays they struggled to get rid of me!” he laughs. It’s no surprise he soon went on to get his DI ticket, through Camber, a training facility for marines, and powerboat qualification at Plymouth Powerboat School.
About four years ago, when Sam was 14, a Horizons winter youth group activity involved a visit to Princess Yachts, a luxury yacht manufacturer and major employer in Plymouth. The combination of yacht manufacturing and engineering appealed to him and the visit sowed a seed in his mind.
So, when he left school, he began a part-time engineering qualification at City College as well as completing his Day Skipper qualification with Simon Mace, his mentor at Horizons.
A careers event at the college gave him the opportunity to talk to people from Princess Yachts, and Simon helped him to fill out an application form for a four-year apprenticeship.
“I went through some basic tests, so Princess could see what I was capable of. I went for an interview in the middle of August 2015. It wasn’t long before I heard back, I started in the second week of September!”
Now 18, Sam is in the second year of his apprenticeship, and is currently working on the new S65 sport class boats, alongside his mentors in the engine room, fitting everything from hydraulics to fuel tanks. He says every day is a learning curve and a challenge and jokes, "The hours are something to get used to, I need my coffee!"
Sam will gain an NVQ level 3 in Marine Engineering then has to give one year back to the company.
"I’d like to stay with Princess, and maybe go into the test engineer / commercial skipper side of things. It’s being out on the water I love, being able to work with what you’ve been a part of building. The sense of pride really makes the job worthwhile.”
He still goes to college one day a week, studying for the next level of his NVQ. “There’s a lot more coursework involved and it’s a lot more demanding," he explains, "But I know a few third years doing stints in different areas of the company, in various sites around Plymouth, which I’ll be doing soon.”
Sam still volunteers at Horizons whenever he can too, teaching adults as well as children to sail, and sometimes even pops in during his lunch break.
“I’m not there as much as I’d like to be," he admits. "I don’t have summer holidays where they struggle to get rid of me anymore, but I do try my best to keep my hand in and help where possible.
“Coming from nothing to where I am now is a huge step. I’ve grown in confidence and skills I can use inside and outside watersports, thanks to the support from Horizons that helped me to get to my goals, aims and aspirations. Without them, I’d probably have got in with the wrong crowd or into trouble!”
Diane Ekland, Safety, Health, Environment & Training Manager at Princess Yachts, agrees Sam’s involvement with Horizons was very beneficial.
She said: "As part of our recruitment selection process for our apprentices, outside of school activities, memberships and hobbies are always taken into account. We would associate a link with the RYA being a very appropriate link to the marine industry. The candidate having a knowledge of the sea and boats goes a long way in giving us a picture of their interest in the marine sector."
Sam’s advice to fellow OB youngsters is to follow something they enjoy and have a passion for. For him it was finding something he enjoyed more than school and he gave every day possible to being on the water.
He concludes: “Help the community and other people, but invest in yourself as well.”