Please Help

The old adage that the pen is mightier than the sword may well be true but is the pen, in the modern world, mightier than the might of multi-media? Romantics, the aged and deluded writers like me would almost certainly argue that the pen has never been more important. I’m not so sure anymore but I’m going to give it a go about a cause that really means something and is a desperately sad situation, namely the plight of the Jubilee Sailing Trust that faces imminent bankruptcy this week unless £500k can be found by Thursday and a further £1.2m by September.

For just about all of my awake adult life, the Jubilee Sailing Trust has been an ever-present. As a pre-teen I was witness to a family-friend, who was so cruelly struck at birth with chronic physical disability and diminished mental cognisance that his life-chances were minimal.

I admired the way he would ‘bump’ himself up the stairs of our house leaving his wheelchair behind and was in awe when he managed to shuffle in leg braces and with sticks, desperate to try and walk normally. In my eye he was a hero for just being him, and a lovelier soul you could not wish to meet. But going sailing? Forget it. No chance.

That was until the Jubilee Sailing Trust came along in 1978 and literally changed our friend’s life. Suddenly he was crossing the Atlantic aboard the Lord Nelson, and further onwards to parts unknown that required us to pull out paper maps on the dining table (pre-internet y’understand) to visualise his voyages. And it absolutely blew my mind. When he came back from each and every trip, he was different. He had tales to tell of being hoisted to the tip of the rig to affect sail changes. Of contributing wholly to the watch system. Of horrendous seas encountered. Of magical sunsets in far off lands.

Suddenly his disabilities were irrelevant and it was his abilities that counted. Here was a friend that was doing more than I possibly could ever imagine and it was the Jubilee Sailing Trust that unlocked everything and gave our family friend not only confidence but the world.

What that charity, and its amazing team did, was offer hope and possibility to someone who was denied those basic human rights by dint of oxygen starvation at birth. It wasn’t his fault. His body was a restricting vessel that in the early 1980’s was still something that consigned you to a miserable life. The Jubilee Sailing Trust changed that and successfully challenged the notions of the times, snubbed the accepted parameters of disability sailing and became a beacon of hope in our sport.

It sailed on for another 44 years away from the glare of publicity, working hard to keep the coffers ticking over through generous support from private, brilliant benefactors. Our friend eventually hung up his sailing boots and became an ambassador for the charity. He met royalty. He had an important role in his life. The charity gave him everything.

Now the perfect storm of the pandemic and inflationary costs has spiralled the Trust onto the rocks and it’s cash that’s desperately needed. I know people that are reading this today who could write that cheque in a heartbeat and sleep easily tonight on fluffy pillows. And on a blog where I regularly write about multi-billionaires spending eye-watering sums of money on ridiculous tweaks to elicit 0.1 knots of extra boatspeed, it seems anathema to be writing about a vital charity that needs what we would call ‘chump change’ in America’s Cup, SailGP or grand-prix terms. But it’s a desperate call for help.

The charity currently runs the s/y Tenacious which is the only Tall Ship in the world that allows able and non-able bodied sailors to voyage together. The charity was unable to take any of the Government Recovery Schemes during Covid and sadly lost a number of vital donors to the pandemic, leaving them absolutely high and dry. The banks, the auditors and the accountants are pulling stumps. A donor is required or it’s all over.

And that’s the saddest line I’ve ever written.

Furthermore, and the charity absolutely understands this, donor monies have been funnelled firstly to healthcare services during the pandemic and now with a war in Ukraine, to charities supporting the relief effort. It’s absolutely understandable and so it’s down to the sailing community to do something – and I know just how powerful and generous this community is.

But here’s the thing and this is really important – the Tenacious is sailing again and the demand for places from disabled sailors seeking to get back on the water after what must have been an horrifically amplified lockdown experience, is booming.

They have ‘unprecedented demand’ so this isn’t a bottomless pit supporting some fat cat charity bosses or a donation to a fund that is then invested and the proceeds of ‘income’ used to support the cause – God help me I’ve worked in that industry from the finance side and it’s sad as hell. This is real.

This is cash that makes a difference immediately and it’s desperately needed so I appeal to those with more money than Croesus to look long and hard at the sailing budget, the personal charity account, the charity trust that benefits from those stock write-downs, the philanthropists, the generous or those that want to leave a lasting, brilliant legacy and make a call on supporting the Jubilee Sailing Trust.

It’s time to act. Speed is everything. We can’t let the Jubilee Sailing Trust down. We will likely never see something like this again if we let this slip through our fingers. For the sake of sailing, the sake of disability sailing, the sake of our sport, we have to support the Trust to get through these times.

Please help if you can.

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