Young entrants are encouraged by the organisers at Skandia Cowes Week, so it's not unusual to find skippers for whom a 1980s nostalgia evening would mean very little.
Young entrants are encouraged by the organisers at Skandia Cowes Week, so it’s not unusual to find skippers for whom a 1980s nostalgia evening would mean very little.
Yachting World caught up with Simon Berry, skipper of Dancing Bear, the Sinergia 40 that yesterday attracted so much attention flying a huge Union Jack from its masthead before the start. Simon is not yet 20, yet he is skippering one of the newest boats on the water, together with his crew of under 22s.
The boat, owned by Adrian Clarke of 407 Racing, was launched just prior to the Admiral’s Cup and chartered out for the event. Simon persuaded the owner that it would be good publicity for the boat by putting a youth team together, and that idea was the inspiration for the entry.
Simon is not new to yacht racing, often sailing onboard Bear of Britain, and together with his crew of competent sailors, they’re hoping to get a better result for the boat than it achieved during the Admiral’s Cup. “We got an eighth yesterday, which wasn’t particularly good, but it was the result of a penalty we picked up on the line.”
Entering a regatta as large as Skandia Cowes Week can often seem intimidating, but Simon, who is attending his fourth event, reckons the best way to get out on the water is “by walking down the pontoons and asking every boat in sight.”
Another way some young sailors get afloat is by borrowing Dad’s boat. Joanna Brigg 17 entered her stepfather’s Sigma 33 along with a number of friends. Honey of Bosham is being helmed this week by John Gimson, 20, for whom this is his first Skandia Cowes Week. As a 470 sailor in the GB Olympic Development Squad, he’s not exactly new to sailing, but has found the event a little different to dinghy racing.
“It’s very hectic before the start with all the boats around you,” John comments, “but once we’re underway it comes down to sailing the best course as quickly as possible – our strongest aspect is the start and first beat.”
The crew is made up of dinghy sailors that have never even set foot aboard a Sigma 33 before. However their apparent lack of experience on big boats seems not to have inhibited their racing ability, having finished third on Saturday and managing to lead the fleet yesterday prior to their race being abandoned. “We’re all quite good dinghy sailors, so between us we sit on the rail and discuss tactics and it seems to get us a good result.”
Clarifying what amounts to a good result, John smiled, “We’ve got to win!”