Bob Geldof wants UK yachtsmen to sail to France, pick up the French and bring them to the south coast to help them get to Edinburgh to support Action Against Poverty during the Gleneagles G8 summit.
The world’s press descended on Swanwick Marina on the Hamble today to listen to Bob Geldof explain how he wants ‘10,000 yachts – who knows how many?’ cross the English Channel on July 3 and bring the French to Edinburgh by way of the English south coast.
Sail8, nautical son of Live8, was officially launched from the bow of a Moody sailing yacht and Geldof was there complete with yachting cap calling for the ‘rich to get on the move in support of those who can barely crawl’. He wanted a Dunkirk Spirit, he has asked Ellen MacArthur to lead the fleet and he wants yachtsmen to ‘be bold’ in support of the ‘long walk for justice’.
It’s all part of his plan to bring as many people as possible to Scotland during the G8 summit in Gleneagles where Geldof wants to again hammer home the plight of the poverty stricken, especially in Africa where 30,000 children die every day. That fact probably doesn’t often pass through the minds of afluent yacht owners on the river Hamble but Geldof clearly believes it’s about time it did and there couldn’t be a better way of illustrating the gap between the rich and the starving than by getting UK yachtsmen involved.
During the press conference Ellen MacArthur phoned in from B&Q (appropriately just off the French coast) and despite a long pause after being greeted by Geldof with the words “Hi sexy!”, pledged her support in name, carefully suggesting that those with the right qualifications and safe boats should support Geldof’s Sail8 plan.
When questioned about the wisdom of encouraging thousands of yachtsmen to cross the English Channel – “Even if you’ve got a rowing boat go for it,” he enthused – Geldof said: “No one should be stupid. Risk – yes. Calculated risk. Be bold, be brave!”
His undoubted ability to inspire people came through very strongly and although he said his organisation has been in touch with the MCA, the Navy and the RNLI the MCA was, this morning, at a loss to respond to enquiries about how a fleet of yachts would cross some of the world’s busiest shipping lanes unscathed.
Yachting World was told by MCA press officer Fred Caygill that they had been swamped by the world’s press and were still formulating their response. Organising flotillas through clubs seemed to be one way of organising potentially big numbers but as Andrew McCall, Portsmouth’s yachting event promoter, pointed out in a tv interview, there’s precious little time for yachts to get organised. In good conditions, he said, some power boats could be in France and back within the day but it would be a two-day event for a sailing yacht.
Roger Maber who specialises in marine public relations, helped organise today’s conference and who knows Geldof through his parent company said that he was hoping the RNLI would be able to provide support during Sail8 but nothing yet was official. Organisers are also hoping to link in with the International Festival of the Sea which runs in Portsmouth from June 30 to July 3 but again there were some concerns about where yachtsmen’s allegiance might lie. There’s no doubt though that any yachtsmen listening to Geldof in the unlikely surrounding’s of Moody’s Swanwick Marina will probably be considering rearranging their diaries.
More information and updates on Sail8 can be found on www.sail8.ybw.com where you can register support. Logistics of the event will also be posted when they have been formulated.