There are good people in sailing. It’s a sport with highly intelligent participants supported by an industry that puts its customers first and more often than not goes the extra mile, often at their own expense. The backbone of sailing is the small independents – be they chandlers, boatbuilders, sailmakers, spar crafters, clothing makers or widget spinners that build a niche and serve us sailors with innovation and quality.
So when the pandemic hit and the world collapsed like a pack of cards into enforced lockdown, many of those small businesses faced what your mother warned was coming – ‘a rainy day.’ Some sadly didn’t survive. Others thrived. And one in particular, that I know well, went the extra mile.
The eagle-eyed and generous among you will not only have noticed Suffolk Sails on this website but have also clicked through curiously on their advert and gone: “I’m going to contact them about that new jib” – I hope you do and I hope for those of you that haven’t or wouldn’t, that you would now consider doing so. For the following story is testament that good guys operate in our sport and don’t just take my word for it – they have a British Empire Medal to show for it. It’s a great story…
Le me introduce you to Simon Scammell, The Managing Director of Suffolk Sails and in his own words this is what happened when the pandemic hit:
“When the world was turning to ‘poop’ and our loft was looking terminal, a friend of mine I used to race 18’s with a long time ago, who is a surgeon in Cambridge, asked my Head Sailmaker Matt Read whether we could use our 3D printers to supply Ipswich Hospital with a few visors.”
“Matt produced 50 or so, and before we knew it the hospital was asking us for as many as we could produce. A few friends ‘bunged’ him a wad of cash to help pay for those and soon it was growing beyond his scope.”
“So I got in touch with Contender UK to cut and supply the ‘window / visor’ bit and helped scale up production so we were producing 300 – 400 a day. We got donations to help with supplies and printing costs and had donations from local companies to provide parts. The local community (quite a few members of Felixstowe Ferry Sailing Club) helped ‘build’ the visors and collect and deliver them. All free and all done to help the most needy – the NHS, Care Homes, Carers and Hospices.”
“They ended up going all over the country – Plymouth to Newcastle! Total produced is a smidge under 20,000. I also helped scale up a local group who were making scrubs, digitising and cutting patterns, so that they were ‘standard’ sewing kits for people with machines to just sew – no cutting, just like laser cut sails.”
Totally brilliant. And then came the call from the Cabinet Office saying that Her Majesty’s Government wished to recognise both Simon and Matt with the British Empire Medal which is awarded “for meritorious civil or military service worthy of recognition by the Crown” and dates back to 1917.
“I really did have to make the young lady from the Cabinet Office prove that it wasn’t a spoof!” Simon told me. And it wasn’t. It was thoroughly deserved recognition for two people with a can-do attitude, determined to face-down a problem and laterally think what they can do to help. It’s people like Simon and Matt and all those that supported them that shows sailing in such a good light. The British Empire Medal is fair recognition.
So look, here’s the deal. If you’ve got this far in this blog post and you’re a sailor thinking of treating yourself to a new suit of sails or you need a re-cut, maybe you need a new cover for your boat, whatever you need in the upstairs department, why don’t you click on the link below and get in touch with Simon at Suffolk Sails? Better still, email him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
Sailing is a terrific sport with outstanding people. We are lucky to participate and be a part of such a great community and I think we all believe that supporting those that are trying and those that give back is more important now than ever.
Congratulations to the Suffolk Sails heroes on their award and thank you, on behalf of the sailing community in the UK, for going the extra mile in the country’s darkest times. Heroes.