Jon Holt, the founder of the Scaramouche Sailing Trust, has been named the YJA MS Amlin International Sailor of the Decade

Jon Holt,  founder of the Scaramouche Sailing Trust and head of outdoor education of the Greig City Academy in Hornsey, London, has been named the winner of the YJA MS Amlin International Sailor of the Decade Award.

He started the sailing programme at Greig City Academy in 2014, which has broken down barriers, providing opportunities for young people from all backgrounds to sail and race successfully.

When there wasn’t an obvious route into sailing, they bought an old 22ft yacht on eBay which was rotting in a field, spending the summer making it seaworthy and then sailing and racing the yacht.

Next, the young sailors looked towards a bigger goal – becoming the first state school to enter their own boat and complete the Rolex Fastnet Race.

They bought Scaramouche, a 45ft Admiral’s Cup yacht built in 1981, which they renovated before racing it to 14th in class in the 2016 Round the Island Race.

After qualifiers the crew then went on to race in the 2017 Rolex Fastnet Race, placing 144th out of the 362 starters.

A crew sailing

Jon founded the Scaramouche Sailing Trust to give everyone the chance to experience sailing. credit: Jon Holt

Following this achievement Scaramouche sailor, Montel Fagan-Jordan, won the YJA Young Sailor of the Year Award.

The Scaramouche Sailing Trust has since gone from strength to strength, with sailors competing regularly in Etchells, 420s.

Students competed in the 2019 Fastnet Race, and during the COVID-19 pandemic have refurbished more yachts and dinghies.

A quiet, unassuming driving force behind the trust, Jon Holt has brought on board partners from within the sailing industry and beyond, giving many young sailors the chance to enjoy sailing and even find careers in the industry.

Jon Holt was among the list of five sailors shortlisted which also included Dee Caffari, Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, Sir Ben Ainslie and Andrew ‘Bart’ Simpson – all of whom are well known for their outstanding sailing achievements and previous winners of the YJA Yachtsman of the Year Trophy.

The YJA MS Amlin International Sailor of the Decade award recognises the achievements of those who have had the greatest positive impact on sailing.

‘It feels absolutely extraordinary because I saw the list of who was on there, and I think that we all do different things within sailing, but they have achieved so much,’ said Jon Holt on winning the award.

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‘It’s quite a shock actually. Maybe it shows how big it is what we’re doing with sailing and the young people who we are taking out sailing at weekends.’

Of his fellow nominees, he said: ‘Well, they’re all my idols within sailing, so yes, that’s incredible. I’ve grown up watching documentaries about what they do in sailing! As time has gone on, with our project, it has felt more important; we are showing people what can be done, we’re showing that you can get into the sport, and join the existing structures which are there – if you just dare to try. And that is what we have done.’

The chairman of the Yachting Journalists’ Association, Clifford Webb, said while nominations are made by the public, the winner is picked by YJA members.

‘Voting was close and it may surprise some that the ‘big’ names nominated were not selected, but our well-informed members made their decision one by one, until Jon emerged as the outright winner, and what an achievement it is, absolutely brilliant,’ he said.

The MS Amlin Boat Insurance Business Development Manager, Paul Knox-Johnston, said: ‘Huge and heartfelt congratulations to Jon Holt from all at MS Amlin Boat Insurance on winning this, the inaugural YJA MS Amlin ‘International Sailor of the Decade’ Award.

‘The nominee list was a veritable who’s who of yachting talent and people who have inspired so many to get out on the water. I know that the Scaramouche Sailing Trust is a huge team effort and the work you all do in bringing new people from different backgrounds into our sport is fantastic but, behind every team there is a driving inspiration; it is your dedication and drive which has propelled the Trust to where it stands today,’ he added.

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