Regattas and corporate charters on the agenda

The new owners of Gipsy Moth IV have revealed their plans to keep Sir Francis Chichester’s round-the-world yacht available for disadvantaged youngsters.

Rob Thompson and Eileen Skinner, who own and manage the company that manufactures and markets Cambridge weight management programmes, enlisted an advisory group to decide on a programme for the boat after they bought her in October.

And the group, which includes Giles Chichester MEP, the son of Sir Francis Chichester, Jon Ely, the CEO of sailing school UKSA and David Orton, secretary of the British Classic Yacht Club, has met for the first time at the London Boat Show.

Ms Skinner said: ‘We want the boat to continue to be available to the public and are looking to have her sailing in five or six events each year.

‘These are likely to include the Round the Island Race, Cowes Week, British Classic Week and others both in the West Country and East Anglia.’

Mr Thompson is particularly keen to have the yacht visit their East Coast base.

He said: ‘Gipsy Moth IV is such an important part of Britain’s maritime heritage, I can remember Chichester returning to Plymouth in a blaze of media coverage in 1967. England had just won the World Cup. We were in the midst of the Swinging Sixties and there was a buzz about.

‘They were particularly good times and Chichester’s triumph was a part of this. When I read she was being sold, I picked up the phone to Eileen and she agreed with me that we should buy the yacht to maintain her for the nation.’

The advisory group is advising how best to utilise the yacht, including maximising public access to her, keeping her in the UK for future generations and raising enough money for young people to sail on the boat each year.

The 53ft yacht was rescued from rotting away by UKSA and Yachting Monthly after she sat in dry-dock at Greenwich for 39 years following Chichester’s solo circumnavigation, but last year UKSA decided it could no longer afford the yacht’s maintenance and would have to sell her.

Mr Thompson and Ms Skinner opted to step in to prevent the yacht being sold abroad and they have asked UKSA to continue managing her and providing sailing opportunities for young people.

The initial agreement runs for five years with Mr Thompson and Ms Skinner covering a proportion of the costs during this period.

Ms Skinner said: ‘We want to make this a self-sustaining project by combining the charitable work that the UKSA undertakes with some corporate sailing.

‘We are exploring ways to make her available for corporate use at high-profile events to help fund the UKSA’s charitable sailing work and to maintain the yacht so that she can continue sailing for another 50 years or more.’

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