Some young crew in the Oyster World Rally got more than they bargained for when their parents had to return home to England leaving them to face a Pacific crossing on their own! David Glenn found them safe and sound in Fiji

Photo: Mark Snyder/WetArtProductions

Home alone recently took on a new meaning
for the crew of Dreams Come True, Paul and Susan Fletcher’s Oyster 56, which is
currently in Savsavu, Fiji as they continue an eventful circumnavigation with
the Oyster World Rally. (The picture shows, from left to right, Tim, Susan and
Sarah Fletcher and Tim’s girlfriend Fay).

A logistics businessman from Grantham in
the UK, Paul Fletcher realised a life long ambition when he started the rally
last January with the whole family aboard. Trouble was their youngest,
16-year-old Philip, had to get back to school in England to revise for his GCSEs
so after the start Dreams immediately returned to English Harbour, Antigua
where Paul flew home with his youngest. Eldest son Marc, immersed in a physics
Phd at Cambridge University also decided he needed to get his head down back

Eventually the boat re-started and Paul
re-joined the yacht, but a combination of business commitments and a cry for
help from young Philip meant that both parents decided they had to abandon
their remaining family leaving 26-year-old Tim, 22-year-old sister Sarah and
Tim’s girlfriend Fay Hollingberry to run the boat and face the daunting
prospect of crossing the Pacific alone. “We were basically orphaned!” said

Although Tim and Fay had been earning money
for the rally by working on superyachts – a parental condition of joining was
that all the children had to pay their own way, apart from air fares – none had much clue about offshore sailing or indeed running a complex yacht
like an Oyster 56.

In what has now become true Oyster World
Rally fashion, other yachts immediately came to their help and Ludo
Bennett-Jones from Ian Davis’s Yantina shipped aboard to help them sail on the
3,500 leg to the Marquesas. Ludo’s only 22 so he actually managed to reduce the
average age of the crew and although he is an Ocean Yachtmaster and is well
known in UK yachting circles for sailing round Britain last year in a Wayfarer
dinghy, this challenge was clearly a very different prospect.

“We were more organised and up for it than
ever before,” revealed Fay who said that the need to face up to the
responsibility quickly came to the fore. They knuckled down to the jobs and
maintenance lists as best they could and made a perfectly safe passage to the

Ludo left the boat in Tahiti and I met the
family in very fine spirits in Fiji where mum Susan was full of praise for the
achievements of her young crew. Susan openly admits that she’s really on the
rally for the destinations and parties and that sailing isn’t high on her list
of priorities. Taking charge herself is out of the question – Paul is away again incidentally! – so Tim has
become skipper and there’s a wonderful air of confidence about the boat which has a particularly homely feel below.

Tim, helped by a now highly motivated
crew with far more experience than their youth suggests, will continue to
skipper and the nod is they’ll all complete the circumnavigation. Paul is about
to re-join along with Philip who now has the option of taking a year out before
returning to school.

One wonders if Paul will be allowed to
re-gain control or just be asked to put his feet up and watch the 20-somethings
sail his yacht round the world for him. If nothing else Paul and Susan’s occasional absence has
turned some fine youngsters into competent yachtsmen and women.