3rd April 2023, HRH The Princess Royal, as Royal Patron of the National Coastwatch Institution, visited NCI St Donat’s Bay which is situated at the seafront of UWC Atlantic College. 

HRH The Princess Royal was received by the Lord Lieutenant of the Vale of Glamorgan, Mrs Morfudd Meredith, who presented NCI Chairman Mr Clive Pouncey and Station Manager of NCI St Donat’s Bay, Mrs Jo Schup. HRH was accompanied to the station where she met the on-duty watchkeepers and NCI Cadets made up of students from UWC Atlantic and a local student completing her Welsh Baccalaureate. The Princess Royal received a comprehensive briefing on watchkeeping life at St Donat’s seafront and the NCI Cadet programme, which is unique in the NCI.  

 NCI St Donat’s Bay started with an initial intake of 12 watchkeepers in September 2020. Due to the pandemic, the station didn’t become operational until May 2021, the crew training was mainly completed via Zoom. Currently there are 27 volunteer watchkeepers drawn from the local community and UWC staff. It is operational 4 days/week plus Bank Holidays. To date, the station has been actively involved in seven incidents, the last one just two weeks ago while the cadets were on watch.  

 The NCI Cadet programme is part of the Creativity, Activity and Service (CAS) programme at UWC Atlantic. CAS is one of the three essential elements every student must complete as part of their International Baccalaureate Diploma. NCI Cadets undertake the same training as all NCI watchkeepers. This includes; watchkeeping skills, accurate logbook maintenance, incident response, tides, weather, VHF radio skills with specific emphasis on distress calls, chart and map work, familiarisation with the local sea and coastline including an understanding of the areas of particular hazard.    

 Mrs Jo Schup, St Donat’s Bay Station Manager said ”I am delighted how far the station has progressed since we started. We will be assessed for our Declared Facility Status in June 2023 and the crew should be very proud to have reached this state of readiness within two years, particularly with the restrictions and challenges Covid presented during the station set-up and crew training.” Jo added “NCI St Donat’s is unique in its close collaboration with students from UWC Atlantic. Through these young cadets, we are able to ensure the vital search and rescue skills are taught, maintained and developed. These students are inspiring to the NCI St Donat’s crew and we know when they graduate and return to their home countries, the skills they have learnt will be embedded and used across the world.”  

 Two NCI Cadets explained the history of search and rescue at UWC Atlantic College. Her Royal Highness viewed one of the original B-Class RIBs designed at UWC Atlantic college.   

 NCI Cadet, Miss Andrea Valeria Choque Coronel. explained “Being a cadet and working with the NCI is a very interesting experience because I am gaining knowledge about what it is to be a watchkeeper along the coast and how to use the proper tools such as maps and VHF radio. I am from Puno in Peru which has the highest lake in the world. I want to implement such a program back in my country and be the pioneer in my region to bring this helpful and amazing concept of NCI along the large Peruvian coasts.”  

 Aden Evans, a first year UWC Atlantic student from British Colombia, Canada explained why she enjoyed the CAS National Coastwatch programme.“Being a cadet with NCI has been intellectually and emotionally fulfilling. We are not just learning useful skills; we have the potential to have a direct, positive impact on a person’s life. After UWC, I hope to train in emergency medicine and work with an NGO like Médecins Sans Frontières in combat zones around the world.”  

 HRH The Princess Royal was then escorted to the Bradenstoke Hall in St Donat’s Castle by Chair of the Board of Governors, Mrs Jill Longson and UWC Atlantic College Principal Mr Naheed Bardai where she was introduced to the crew and Cadets of NCI St Donat’s Bay, plus representatives of flanking stations, UWC Atlantic College, other search and rescue organisations and supporting members of the local community.   To conclude her visit to NCI St Donat’s Bay, HRH The Princess Royal graciously unveiled a plaque commemorating the opening of the station and the Cadets formed a Guard of Honour as she left the castle.

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