Picture the scene. You are a teacher at an inner London comprehensive school with teenage pupils facing the usual issues, temptations and dangers of modern society. The kids are stereotyped and labelled unfairly from the outset. It’s a hard place. Disadvantaged kids can be an unruly bunch and Britain can be a horrible place when you are forced to look upwards through no fault of your own. With so few life options, the path of least resistance can be compelling. Social injustice is brutal. You’re in the staff room and start to float an idea that is seemingly so mad, your fellow teachers are dumbstruck by your ambition. “Let’s get these kids sailing,” you propose.
Can you imagine the push-back and resistance? Can you withstand the naysayers, the ones that will put every obstacle in your path, and do this? Where the hell do you start? How do you sell sailing to those who have never even seen a boat let alone thought about doing it? And then, how do you get the cash together to get out there and don’t even start with the yachting establishment – they’ll never accept you…
Well this is what faced Jon Holt, the most inspiring teacher in the world today. He smashed down the barriers. He bought a boat on ebay, pulled it out of a hedge and set about the project. He got the kids inspired and boy oh boy did he start something. An old Admiral’s Cupper followed – he even thought about buying the Round the World ‘Rothmans’ at one point. He gatecrashed the elitist yachting fraternity in Cowes and said “we’re here, give us a go, it’s our turn.”
And against the odds, he did it. He put a boat on the start line in the Fastnet Race. He put brilliant sailors into the Etchells fleet and they started doing really, really well. He took a permanent slot at the London Docklands to get dinghy sailing and he continues to inspire dozens of school kids into doing something that they simply could never imagine doing. They sail all through the winter and at every opportunity when the weather plays ball. They are in dinghies, yachts, anything they can get their hands on and the great thing is that the British yachting industry and several high-profile, forward looking (and well known) backers are right behind the Scaramouche project for the Greig City Academy. It’s brilliant. Just brilliant.
Yesterday, our hero Jon Holt was put in a seemingly unfair competition against Sir Ben Ainslie, Dee Caffari, Bart Simpson (RIP) and Sir Robin Knox-Johnson for the Yachting Journalists’ Association MS Amlin International Sailor of the Decade and guess what? He only went and bloody won it.
You never forget a good teacher. They are the ones that believed in you when you didn’t believe in yourself. Jon Holt is responsible for a whole generation of school kids who now know that anything is possible if you put your mind and every ounce of effort and dedication to it. If this guy isn’t the next sailing knight of the realm, well there’s something seriously wrong with our honours system. Genius. Bloody genius. Well done Jon. Richly deserved.
I don’t usually do press releases but this is one exception and I thank my good friend Peta Stuart-Hunt for sending me the details. Read the full story here: https://yja.world/blog/