Sailing legend takes Hannah Jenner for race

Sir Robin Knox-Johnston has always sought to develop young British sailing talent since he first made history in 1969. His Clipper Race has been the training ground for well known solo stars such as Alex Thomson, creating a launch pad for aspiring individuals with talent and drive. On Saturday the sailing legend continued his commitment to try to groom future success for Britain in solo offshore racing when he gave female yachtswoman Hannah Jenner an enjoyable ride onboard his Open 60 Grey Power in the JP Morgan Asset Management Round the Island Race. Knox-Johnston was also joined by the Admiral of the Island Sailing Club, Robin Aisher, who won Bronze for Britain in the Mexico City Olympics in 1968.

At 28 years old, Hannah Jenner has already made a big impression on the sailing world. In July 2008, she became the first female skipper to complete a full circumnavigation in the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race, leading Glasgow: Scotland with Style to third place. Having completed a circumnavigation in charge of an amateur crew, her next major challenge will be the VELUX 5 OCEANS 2010-11, where she hopes to singlehandedly take on the world’s oceans in an Open 60. Sir Robin therefore offered Hannah the opportunity to build some hands on experience onboard these powerful machines, joining him for the Round the Island Race.

Grey Power made a good start to the Round the Island Race on Saturday but struggled in the lighter winds in the central Solent as the wind shifted to the West. Due to a large wind hole, Bembridge Ledge saw Grey Power round the mark with a large number of boats and luckily Knox-Johnston found a hole to squeeze through. Although Steve White picked up the new breeze in the Eastern Solent first, it was an exciting finish that saw Sir Robin beat his fellow British Open 60 skipper and take third in his class.

Speaking after the finish, Sir Robin concluded, “The Round the Island Race is always a fantastic event in the racing calendar and I was delighted that Hannah Jenner could join me onboard my Open 60 Grey Power. We backed Hannah in the Clipper Race in 2007 as we saw her potential to follow in the footsteps of the likes of Alex Thomson. Hannah has all the qualities and natural talent to grow into the future female star of British solo sailing, emulating the fantastic achievements of Dame Ellen MacArthur, Dee Caffari or Sam Davies. It was important to give her a real taste of competitive Open 60 racing and she looked completely at home all over the boat. I’m sure she will make the start line of the VELUX 5 OCEANS in October 2010 as she has the personality and skills to be a sailing star.”

Speaking after a successful first race onboard an Open 60, Hannah Jenner commented, “These boats are fantastic – so powerful at times, but a lot of fun to race. My ambition is to build my Open 60 experience throughout 2009 and 2010 with the ultimate goal of solo circumnavigating the planet in the VELUX 5 OCEANS. It was great to spend time with Sir Robin Knox-Johnston onboard an Open 60 in a competitive environment, learning how to make the boats achieve optimal performance and understand the sheer speed and dynamism of these ocean greyhounds. I loved every second of it. I will hopefully continue to build more experience this summer with events at Cowes Week and the Transat Jacques Vabre so that I might hopefully fulfil my lifelong ambition of taking on the world alone.”

“What a great race. Although the wind was light and in places non-existent, it was 10 hours and 40 minutes of challenging sailing. Whilst Steve White and his crew aboard Toe in the Water got past us around the south side of the island we played a tactical game of catch up beating up the eastern Solent.  In the final 10 minutes we squeezed past our rivals in what proved to be a very close and exiting finish.”