Or should that be the Jonny & Gringo show?


Until last year, Jonny Malbon (pictured right) seemed stuck in a long and dogged apprenticeship. He had chipped away doing boat prep for Mike Golding and Ellen MacArthur but in 2000 was rejected by Sir Chay Blyth as a race skipper for the BT Global Challenge on the basis that he was too young and inexperienced. That may well have been an underestimation but although it deprived him of an career springboard it didn’t blow young Jonny off course.

Since then he has raced round the world on Tracey Edwards’s Oryx Quest and was made boat captain of the British Open 60 Artemis. Then out the blue last year a twist of fate handed him the starring role. Artemis’s skipper Brian Thompson and the campaign management fell out and Jonny was asked to step up. Aged 32, he finally realised his long-cherished ambition to be an ocean racing skipper.

Jonny didn’t have to scout far for a No.2. An obvious choice was Graham ‘Gringo’ Tourell. Gringo was Mike Golding’s longest serving boat captain and for years had been pinning his hopes on a chance to race with Mike in a major race. Despite Gringo’s formidable accumulation of experience in these boats he, too, had to content himself with playing bridesmaid.

I mention all of this because the Artemis duo is a fascinating unleashing of ambition, experience and aptitude – and not just in sailing terms. Jonny & Gringo: it sounds like a music hall act, a comedy turn. And in a way it is. These sailing gunslingers are sharp and smart and ultra quick-witted, a variety performance in their own right. They’re two Two Ronnies, the Morecambe & Wise, the Bird & Fortune of British sailing, both with a wry and irreverent humour that has not been blunted by professionalism.

So even if you’re not madly interested in the technicalities of Open 60 sailing or the tactical challenges of racing round Britain, keep an eye out for their on board diaries during the Calais Round Britain Race. These guys are going to going to put a smile on your face and remind you how much fun it is to hoon around on these boats – and why short-handed sailing is not really all tears and tantrums.