Ahoy sailors! John here from the Sail Boat Project with the first in a series of blogs about our journey over the next 8 months towards one of the most famous offshore races – the Fastnet!
In this first blog I’ll be telling you a little about me, our crew, Sail Boat Project, the Fastnet, our training and, of course – Jalapeño, our boat.
I’ve been sailing nearly all my life (I’m 50 now), mostly in dinghies, catamarans and small keelboats, and then 4 years ago had the chance to cross the Atlantic and do a bit of cruising in the Caribbean. I got a real taste for offshore sailing and now I’m back in Brighton decided to get involved with the Sail Boat Project. Then, out of the blue a few weeks ago, an email popped up saying that Sail Boat Project is doing the Fastnet for the first time and would anyone like to join in? So, what is Sail Boat Project and what is the Fastnet?
The Sail Boat Project (SBP) is a Workers’ Co-operative (registered as a Community Interest Company) established in 2009, providing a range of learning activities based around sailing. SBP sees sailing as a means to improve life skills, knowledge and attitudes. It aims to widen access to the sea, offering sail training onboard, navigation training on land and using these activities to increase confidence and a sense of wellbeing in marginalised coastal communities.
SBP builds relationships with individuals and organisations who are, or who work with, disadvantaged people, helping them to get the most out of the activities and opportunities it provides. As part of its commitment to widening access, SBP raises funds to be able to offer subsidised training to people on very low incomes or from marginalised communities.
The Fastnet! Seems a bit of madness really – 608 nautical miles as the crow flies, from Cowes to the south-west tip of Ireland, round a bit of rock with a lighthouse on it and back to Plymouth! But it’s the stuff of legend. Following the daily TV updates on the tragic 1979 race as a 13 year old, I was left in no doubt about the need to have a healthy respect for, and be just a little bit scared of, the sea.
Our team – I’ve yet to meet most of them! But we’ve got lots of things organised to get us into a well-oiled machine before 6th August. A boat’s a very small space and in the pressure of racing you need to know you are with people you can trust. Although I don’t know them yet, their links with SBP make me feel confident that we’ll form a strong team. We have our 1st Aid and ISAF Offshore Safety courses in the next few weeks and our first on-the-water training weekend in April. There are 3 qualifying races, the Round-the-Island and a few shore-based activities and then it’s the real thing!
Our skipper is Jason, a man with decades of experience skippering tall ships to small keel boats. He will be helped by our first mate, Dhara – one of the founders of Sail Boat Project who has spent half is life on and around boats. Together these guys have put together a full package to help train us to become a cohesive team.
Saving the best till last … Jalapeño, our boat! Jalapeño is Dutch-built Standfast 43, a solid roomy boat that handles the sea well. She is of a similar design and quality to the classic Sparkman & Stevens Swan yachts. Over the past week we’ve started Jalapeño’s TLC – new mast and rigging, full mechanical service and a shiny new bottom! We’re taking off all the old antifoul and putting on a silicon hull wrap, a super-slippery, non-biocide alternative to traditional antifouls, that we hope will keep Jalapeño’s bottom clean while not harming marine life and simultaneously give us a few extra knots! I’ll keep you posted…