‘Inspiring stories’...the editor's welcome to the latest issue of Yachting Monthly
One of my best days on the water last year wasn’t necessarily the most adventurous. I had been invited to go sailing with a school and we would be tacking up and down Southampton Water. As the sun sparkled on the water and the breeze lifted, it promised to be a pleasant enough day afloat.
No sooner did the crew start to make the boat ready for sailing than it become abundantly clear that this was no ordinary training-vessel daysail. The young crew moved to their positions around the deck and took command of the 45ft thoroughbred yacht Scaramouche with an assurance that belied their youth – they were all under 17 years old. Given that none of them had grown up around sailing, or even near the sea, their boat-handling competence was astounding.
The crew were, in fact, from an inner-city school in north- east London but over the last few years, under the quietly visionary direction of one teacher, they have learned to sail. A school project that first started with a single leaking Mirror dinghy has snowballed out of control in the most wonderful way, and they have now become the first state school to have completed the gruelling Fastnet Race. The boys I met have not just learned to sail; they have become sailors, and in the process they have also become young men. Needless to say, I found their story, and the enthusiasm with which they told it, inspiring.
It was also heartwarming to hear about the reception they received from the sailors they met along the way. While the stereotype might have suggested stuffy clubrooms and snooty looks, the sailing establishment has instead welcomed them with open arms. The students from London found people willing to listen and eager to lend support in any way they could. Financiers have given money, sailmakers have given sails and sailing legends have lent their time, expertise, boats and contacts to help these newcomers along the way out of sheer good will and passion for the sport (p60).
This generous response to novices and outsiders to the sailing world surely holds the key to encouraging the next generation of cruisers and ensuring the future of our yacht clubs.