Levelling Up

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world” were the words of Mahatmar Ghandi and for so many of us we watch idly by theorising and ideating without the gumption to make a change or be a difference. It’s not a criticism, it’s just life. We spend so much of our time looking inwards and then framing our perception of the world in fleeting moments of opinion, occasionally with determination, that results in actionless words, commentary and chit-chat. I am no different to you but there are some people out there – let’s call them giants amongst men – that make a difference, recognise where need is most and change worlds.

Regular readers of this commentary will know of my admiration for Jon Holt, the visionary teacher of the Greig City Academy in Central London who determined to get his landlocked schoolchildren, largely from underprivileged backgrounds, out on the water and into the fabulous sailing scene on the South Coast. It caught fire with the culmination of the first wave of pupils completing the Fastnet Race in 2017 but since then it’s gone stratospheric on a shoestring.

On sheer enthusiasm alone, the school has been buying up boats of an older generation (mainly on eBay), doing them up, cadging sails and equipment and just getting out there whatever the weather. In Cowes you look out on to the Solent and it’s rare not to see a GCA boat sailing in some form every weekend – they are keen and they are present. They are shining lights of teenage vigour, eager to learn, desperate to be in the crews and determined to move heaven and earth to take part in everything from sanding the bottom to sitting on the rail in the rain. It’s magnificent to watch. And they are sailing dinghies to Youth Nationals standard and yachts to top Corinthian levels, taking part in every and all racing going on down on the South Coast. Inspirational.

But the big issue is that sailing, as we all know, is a sport where good equipment makes a difference and it’s here where Peter ‘Morty’ Morton, world-class yachtsman and businessman with equal amounts of ‘can-do’ as the GCA gang has stepped in.

Recognising the situation, Morty has gifted the Academy his fully-pimped Quarter-Tonner ‘Cote’ that was originally built back in 1990 for Prince Felipe of Spain and was pulled out of a yard in a sorry state and given the Morty-Gucci treatment. With his A Team onboard, Morty aced the fleet in Cote so it’s a sure-fire winner but not only has he gifted it to the Academy, he’s also convinced five other owners in the Quarter Ton fleet to fund them over the next few years. The Quarter Ton class is awash with generous benefactors riding the huge resurgence of the class and all credit to them for encouraging the next generation. Fabulous stuff.

In a text to the class, Morty said: “Just to let you know, I’ve given Cote to the Greig City Academy and they have committed to do a lot of sailing in the fleet and even hopefully Cowes Week. I met them on Friday and they are so enthusiastic as they’ve been sailing in some pretty average boats. Let’s make them welcome. A great addition to the class and thanks to those of you who have agreed to fund the running of the boat.”

In a private text to me, he further said: “I was taken aback by their enthusiasm. All they want to do is come here and sail.” And in Morty they’ve found a kindred spirit – someone who puts more back into the sport than he has ever taken out and it’s all done quietly, consistently and generously.

But here’s the deal…two of the boys are competing in the upcoming Youth National Championships in ILCA’s and they desperately need one boat of a reasonable standard in order to compete. Have you got a class-legal ILCA that you would lend or sell at a discount to the Academy? Are you a pro sailor with more boats than sense and have one at the back of the garage or are you of sufficient wealth that a small tax write-down could be beneficial and you’re willing to support the next generation?

If so, please get in touch and I can connect you to the Academy. It would be awesome if someone from the Rule69blog community stepped up on this one…I know some of you that read this and I know the depth of your pockets and believe in your generosity. This is a cause worth contributing to and giving these kids a fighting chance in the red-hot ILCA’s would be something special.

Let’s do this like Morty has.

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