“Believe me my young friend, there is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats,” is the wonderful Kenneth Grahame line in the classic novel ‘The Wind in the Willows’ and one that we all recognise. Time lost to boats is as invaluable to the soul as all the religion in the world for those of us lucky enough to participate in this great sport. Whether you nail your colours to the mast of a carbon-fibre grand-prix racing machine or a clinker dinghy that’s seen better days, it really doesn’t matter in the greater scheme of things, just being out on the water and enjoying it is the name of the game. Last night I went Laser sailing and I reckon it’s been a good 30 years since I could last say that…
It was all going so well. I hopped in off the beach, lowered the rudder and centreboard and broad-reached a few hundred yards off – wow – responsive, fast, exhilarating – for a fleeting glimpse I had found the elixir of eternal youth. Feeling that is was time to go upwind and do some work, I ground on the main, leapt out in the hiking straps and….bang! The poorly-tied (read Granny-knot) clew rope blew and the wrongly reeved (by me) clew strap parted company with the boom. And over I went to windward. Oh the unalloyed joy of dinghy sailing. Re-righting with consummate professionalism, nonchalance and ease of someone who’s been capsized many a time albeit it 30 years ago…re-rigging on the water was impossible. Luckily for me, the Gurnard Sailing Club rescue RIB was on hand to tow me back to the shore with my tail between my legs, a soggy wetsuit and a red face.
Undeterred and with honour to uphold, I re-rigged the Laser properly and tied some knots that would hold a supertanker fast and set off to find the boy wonder in his RS Tera who was uncontrollably laughing, quite rightly, at his Old Man who was proving without any shadow of a doubt that parents are an utter embarrassment to teenagers. But with the control lines holding and a gentle breeze blowing, the Solent was a glorious playground last night. When did you last roll-tack or roll gybe? And how much fun to go around buoys for the hell of it on reach to reach gybes…I didn’t want it to end.
Amazing how much enjoyment you can have in something that is just under 14 feet. ‘Rima Tekau’ is what I’ve named her and for those of you with Maori blood coursing through your veins, you will know that those words mean ‘fifty’ – it’s an early present from my dearest to encourage that long-awaited and much promised six-pack. We shall see if it materialises but smiles are guaranteed.
But whilst I messed about on the seas off Cowes, down in the Principality of Monte Carlo they’ve been hosting the 8th edition of their Monaco Energy Boat Challenge from the utterly astonishing Yacht Club de Monaco – undoubtedly the best club in the world facility-wise and on the fast-track to challenging for the outright title.
For at least six of the last eight years it has been an event that, let’s be honest, you and I have sort of laughed at with quirky solar powered motor boats that look utterly impractical and ‘will never catch on’. But we’re wrong. We are so wrong. With Prince Albert driving hard his, and his tiny Principality’s, ecological credentials you can’t really ignore them any longer. Fabulous video of these boats racing has emerged and as an electric motor fan myself, they are unquestionably moving to the mainstream. Diesel and hydro-carbons be damned. Solar is here to stay and we might as well get with it or get left behind. And the racing was – how shall I say it – electric…
Equally, in Sail GP land as they rev up for the British grand prix in Plymouth, came an announcement that I (and I suspect you too) groaned at with the appointment of Beyond Meat as its “official plant-based meat provider.” Forgive my natural scepticism but the words ‘Oh for goodness sake’ departed my lips as I read the release through cynical eyes but calming down, okay I get it. Fiona Morgan, director of purpose and impact – wow what a title – at SailGP said: “There are huge benefits of a more plant-based diet for nutrition and of course for a better planet to help mitigate climate change. At SailGP, we remove more carbon than our footprint, with a 55 percent target reduction (based on science) by 2025 and we are already climate positive, taking responsibility for our league and putting actions in place across the board. Race for the Future is accelerating change and working with Beyond Meat as the official plant-based meat provider of SailGP in Plymouth is a perfect partnership to do this.”
Fiona’s right of course and Sail GP is a modern, forward-thinking event that absolutely has to adopt the eco-stance if it’s to have a prayer of being welcomed and competing with other sports globally. Going carbon neutral through a huge variety of initiatives is paramount to being a global circus and whilst luddites like you and I bemoan the changing world, it’s happening all around us and like it or not, we are all becoming more responsible.
I still contend that the RORC Rating Office could take a giant leap forward as a gatekeeper with its IRC Rating System if it awarded an advantage to those boats adopting electric outboards or imbedding electric inboards. Perhaps the technology is too new and the ranges aren’t sufficient but even a one point rating gain would see Torqeedo’s sales go through the roof.
Make it happen RORC, make it happen and prove beyond doubt that this most progressive of clubs is squarely in the climate game.