Solent Sailing on Jalapeno and Karic

A lovely weekend of Solent sailing with Jalapeno and Karic both out working. We rafted both boats together at anchor in Osborne Bay on the Saturday evening for a swim around the boats, followed by a joint dinner. Lovely moonrise/sunset and a chance to identify the navigational marks in the Solent light up during dusk, a great way to apply learning from our navigational theory courses.



rolex-fastnet-race-logo-102x75Regular readers may have noticed a Star Wars theme to the titles of the last two blogs. I was wondering how to twist “Episode 6 – Return of the Jedi” to fit our marathon trip to Guernsey and could only come up with “Return of the Jaded”, but this doesn’t accurately reflect our feelings at the end of an exhilarating run back to Itchenor (of which more later). Yes, we were tired, very tired, but definitely upbeat. Maintaining the science fiction theme, perhaps “Sleep – the final frontier” might be more appropriate?

Anyway, here we go – The Morgan Cup weekend. The event dates back to 1929 when the cup was donated by a member of the Morgan family (of JP Morgan fame) and is traditionally a cross-Channel race.  It’s designed to last 24-36 hours and starts on a Friday evening from Cowes. With at least one night sail and a distance of up to 160nm, the race is good preparation for crews planning to do the Fastnet.

We gathered on Friday morning at Itchenor. There were a few new faces and some missing ones – Jason had withdrawn for health reasons and Luke, Mark, Phil and Woody had also decided not to continue with the Fastnet campaign.  Dhara, Trevor, James and I were happy to be joined by Ben, Mike and Farouk. Ben is Sail Boat Project’s Chief Instructor and very familiar with Jalapeño, Chichester Harbour and the Channel.  Mike’s a trans-Atlantic two-timer who recently completed his Coastal Skipper qualification with Sail Boat Project (SBP) and Farouk is a regular SBP volunteer. Farouk is also in his early twenties, bringing very welcome energy and sleep-deprivation-resistance!

We spent the first few hours getting to know each other, refamiliarising ourselves with Jalapeño and going through the plan for the race. There was quite a lot of discussion about watch patterns as the old Navy four-on-four-off that we tried on the De Guingand Bowl Race didn’t give us enough rest time. We settled on trying 3-3-3: 3 hours off-watch followed by 3 hours on stand-by and then 3 hours on-watch.

We motor-sailed gently over to Cowes and went through the normal pre-start routine of circling the committee boat displaying items of safety equipment – this time our air-horn and radar reflector – before focusing on the start. A westerly force 4-5 and a downwind start meant that we had to be careful not to overshoot the line as we headed for the Forts at the eastern end of the Solent. Ben guided us calmly and confidently away from Cowes and we settled into our watch system, with James and myself first up, taking Jalapeño past Bembridge and round the Nab Tower before heading south into the Channel as the sun set at the end of our watch.

The two night watches – Dhara/Mike and Ben/Trevor/Farouk – had the fun of taking us most of the way through the shipping lanes, as the big ships made their way between the Traffic Separation Schemes at the eastern and western ends of the Channel. The watches were mostly uneventful apart from a sharp tack to avoid a head-on collision with another yacht – we were on starboard but it seemed they hadn’t seen us under their genoa.  James and I resumed at 3.30am on Saturday to do the last bit of weaving past the tankers and container ships and were lucky to see the sunrise before we headed below for some rest.

Sailing conditions continued to be almost perfect and we made good progress south-west towards Guernsey, leaving Alderney and the Casquets buoy to port and feeling hopeful that we’d get round Hanois Point, the south-west corner of Guernsey, just over 10 miles from the finish at St Peter Port, before the tide turned against us. But of course we didn’t. The wind went flukey and then died, leaving us in a potentially dangerous situation just off Hanois. Our skipper decided to motor to get us away from danger, and we steered perpendicular to our desired course so as not to give us a racing advantage.

The light winds and foul tide cost us at least five hours, possibly more. We crossed the finishing line off Castle Cornet at 2.00am on Sunday morning and pulled wearily into St Peter Port harbour. 4 hours later we were off again to catch the tide through the Alderney Race. Despite the short sleep, we all felt quite refreshed, possibly because the boat hadn’t been moving for those 4 hours!

We were straight back into the watch system, James and I taking us past the island of Herm towards Alderney through a slightly misty Russel Channel. The wind built steadily through the day and into the evening and by the time we passed the Nab Tower we were in a good south-westerly force 6.  Jalapeño was surfing down the waves and for the last couple of hours we averaged well over 8 knots. Mike, on the helm, couldn’t stop grinning!

Trevor had put together a passage plan to take us up the Chichester Channel to Itchenor as part of his preparation for the Coastal Skipper course and, in the dark (10.30pm) and on a strong flood tide, he guided us safely in. 31.5 hours out, 4 hours in Guernsey and 18 hours back. Good preparation for the Fastnet!

Next up – Round the Island! Over 1000 boats and a 70-mile course – should be exciting!


De Gigo … er, Da Gringa … Gringo?  Gringo Bowl?  That doesn’t sound right.  Ah, De Guingand Bowl.  That’s easy to remember (!).  And probably why some sailors simply call it the Ging-Gang!

Yes indeed, the RORC De Guingand Bowl race.  Designed to last 24-36 hours, the Ging-Gang starts and finishes in the Solent and its course changes each year depending on the tides and weather.  We had been expecting to set off south towards Cherbourg but the forecast was south-westerly backing southerly, leaving the prospect of a lot of tacking for boats that didn’t reach Cherbourg fast enough, so this year we went most of the way round the Isle of Wight twice (intentionally!) with a run down to Anvil Point off the Swanage peninsular.

We met in Haslar Marina in Gosport, on a slightly chilly Friday morning.  It was the first time that all nine of us had been together, because James joined the crew after the Sea Survival training weekend and Phil and Woody were away on our first training sail last month.  We spend the morning re-familiarising ourselves with the boat and catching up with each other, and doing various bits of boat maintenance and checks to make sure we had all the right gear for the race the next day.  Perhaps the most challenging task was to get 2 huge sheets of orange sticky-back plastic to stick to our storm jib – James, Luke and Woody passed their auditions for Blue Peter!

In the afternoon we sailed gently over to Cowes Yacht Haven and completed a few more last-minute bits and pieces (the dodgers with our sail numbers had gone missing so Jason and Trevor did their own Blue Peter “here’s one I made earlier” trick) before repairing to a local hostelry to talk race tactics.

Race day dawned and the marina was a flurry of excitement.  By the time we crossed the starting line off the Royal Yacht Squadron at 9.10am, the early morning rain had cleared and we had our sunglasses on and were splashing on the suncream.  Up went the spinnaker with Woody leading the foredeck crew as we headed east up the Solent, leaving No Man’s Land fort to starboard and heading south past Bembridge on our way to St Catherine’s point, the southern tip of the Isle of Wight.

It’s 40 years or so since I came on holiday to the Isle of Wight – Blackgang Chine and all that – and I’d never sailed round the island before, always passing through the Solent, and I loved every minute as Luke, Woody and Mark steered us a steady course past spectacular cliffs and sun-drenched beaches.  We changed watches at 4pm as we approached the Needles and Jason, Phil, Trevor and James took over.

Luke, Woody, Mark and I were back on at 8pm and it was starting to get a bit breezy.  With Jason and Dhara’s help, we worked on getting Jalapeño nicely balanced and, with one reef in the genoa and main and the wind gusting 30mph, we whooped as she comfortably hit 10 knots on a close reach on the way down to Anvil Point, where we turned round for home.  We felt a few drops of rain towards midnight and Jason generously offered to take over early so we wouldn’t get wet before going off-watch.  It turned out to be a very kind gesture as the wind and rain really kicked in over the next four hours, giving Jason and his team an exciting time!  They coped admirably and, despite the worsening weather, sleep came quickly to me and I awoke quite refreshed just before 4am for our next watch.

As chance would have it, both wind and rain had had enough and our 4am-8am watch was actually a little too peaceful.  Unfortunately – and, to be fair, not surprisingly given it was our first time on Jalapeño – we had dropped a bit behind our schedule and ended up bucking the tide for much of the previous 12 hours, but the flood tide was with us now and swept us across to St Catherine’s Point and up the east coast of the Isle of Wight.

The wind picked up and, 28 hours and 13 minutes after starting, we crossed the finishing line in glorious sunshine once again.

Next stop – the Morgan Cup on 9th June.  And this one definitely will be across the Channel, to Guernsey.  May a south-easterly Force 5 be with us!

Fastnet 2017 – Blog Episode 4 (A New Hope?) – First Training Sail!

Chichester Harbour, Itchenor Reach, just before noon.  There’s a south westerly force 3, the sun is shining on a beautiful spring morning and the Sail Boat Project Fastnet 2017 crew are together on our boat, Jalapeño, for the first time.  We’re tacking down the channel to the harbour entrance trying to avoid the Saturday morning dinghy racers as they zip around with spinnakers flying.

“Hmm, it’s not that wide, this channel”, I muse as I take the helm from Trevor for the first time.  I glance at the depth meter – 6m, OK.  I have a look around and notice we’re approaching a channel marker buoy.  “Get ready to tack!” I shout and the crew slips into its routine, impressively slick after just a few minutes on the water together.

I want to hold this tack for as long as possible and look for the depth meter again.  Dammit, there’s someone in the way – the cockpit is quite crowded with everyone on deck for our first sail.  I ask him to move and … 1.5m!  “READY-ABOUT-LEE-… oh.”  Jalapeño gently comes to a stop on the soft Chichester mud midway through the tack.  We back the genoa and, with a little nudge from the engine, we’re free.  “Nice of you to take the pressure off the rest of us” Mark quips as we set off down the channel again.

There’s a lot to learn.  And not just about the boat or sailing or navigation.  13m by 4m is not a big space for 9 middle-aged men to share for a week.  NINE middle-aged men?!  Yes, we’ve been joined by James, who’s also sponsoring our adventure through his recruitment company BRS Global.

Fortunately, we’ve all spent a lot of time on boats, most of us know at least one other person reasonably well and – as Mark showed earlier – everyone has a ready sense of humour.  Dhara, first mate and one of Sail Boat Project’s founders, links us all together: Luke, Phil and Woody have done half a dozen Round-the-Island races with Jason, our skipper, and are old school friends.  Mark has known those 3 lads for some years and he and Luke know James through Brighton Surf Life Saving Club, Brighton Sailing Club and some crazy masochistic keep-fit thing called Spartan.  Trevor’s been helping Jason rebuild one of his boats for some time and did a lot of electrical work on Jalapeño.  It turns out I went to the same school as Luke, Phil and Woody, a few years ahead of them, and we have friends in common, and I’ve known James for years – we once tried to sail round an island in the North Sea in Hobie 16s but 4m waves got the better of us …  Only Phil and Woody were missing this weekend, as they were on a rugby tour with their sons.

So, the sailing.  We gathered at Itchenor on a gloriously sunny April morning and spent the first couple of hours familiarising ourselves with the boat basics – safety equipment, sails, engine, galley and heads.  Once out of the harbour, we set about building ourselves into a well-oiled machine, starting with learning how to change the genoa.  We had three on board (plus the storm jib), the biggest a huge 145%, and hoisted and stowed all three several times during the weekend.  We took turns on the helm, with Dhara coaching us on buoys, landmarks and underwater hazards as we made our way west into the Solent between the Forts, and Jason giving us tips on sail trim.

As the sun set and the wind dropped, Dhara helped us identify ships and buoys by their lights and we made our way gently into Cowes, very eager for some hearty refreshment!  The food and drink did their job and Jalapeño rocked gently through the night to a chorus of basso profundo, baritone and tenor snoring …

Fully refreshed we awoke to a just-boiled kettle as Luke took on the role of principal morning tea-maker.  Not long afterwards we were heading east past Ryde, hoisting the spinnaker and trying to work out how on Earth we supposed to gybe the thing.  20 minutes is OK in daylight, force 1-2 wind and a flat sea, but in the middle of the night in a gale and Atlantic swell?  We’ll need a bit of practice …

The wind dropped to barely a whisper as we completed our man-overboard drills and approached the entrance to Chichester Harbour, so we treated ourselves to another of Dhara’s fabulous lunches as we dropped the sails, motored back to Itchenor and reflected on a fun and educational weekend.

Next stop – our first Fastnet qualifying race!  Time to do it for real.  3 days and 160 nautical miles.  It’s the De Guingand Bowl Race on Friday 12th May – may the Force be with us!

ISAF flare picture

Fastnet 2017 – Blog Episode 3 – Meeting the Crew & Sea Survival Training



I spin round and catch sight of the flames starting to blaze in the corner just a few feet away from me.  Everyone’s shouting; alarms are blaring.  It all melts into a single disorientating racket.  I can’t think straight.  It’s getting hotter.  What do I do now?  Who’s doing what?  Where’s the fire extinguisher?  Is it the right type?  How does it work?  It’s getting really hot now.  “JOHN!  HAVE YOU SHUT OFF THE ENGINE?!”  Er …


Ross from Vortec Training takes pity on us and opens the door, allowing us to escape into the cool, fresh spring air.  He puts out the fire and turns off the alarms.  We breathe more calmly and try to think about what’s just happened.

All of us in the crew have spent quite a lot of time on boats of various sorts, in difficult conditions at times, and have had to deal with incidents and emergencies in different situations, yet we would have lost the boat and perhaps some of the crew if that had been for real.  We’d met each other briefly a couple of hours before, exchanged greetings and had an introduction to the course.

Ross then took us to the simulator – codenamed Pressure Cooker – and explained the controls and what was about to happen.  But he’d only explained it once.  And we hadn’t drilled it.  This was one of the themes of the weekend.  Practise as much as you can the things you can practise so they become automatic.  Do them again and again and make sure everyone can cover different roles.  This will give you more brain space to think about the situation you’re in.

Because, in an emergency, there are very few “in this situation, do this” rules.  But there are guiding principles, aids to prioritisation.

We’ve just spent a weekend on an ISAF/RYA Offshore Safety/Sea Survival course run by Vortec Training in Port Solent.   On Saturday, James, our trainer, focused on what you can do to avoid forfeiting the race and get the boat home still afloat with all crew on board – hence the fire-fighting training, as fire is one of the most serious hazards on a boat.  We examined races and events where, tragically, lives were lost, and from which important lessons have been learned.  One of these was the 1979 Fastnet, after which many improvements in safety equipment were made.  Another was the 1998 Sydney-Hobart, which highlighted the importance of training – not just having the equipment, but knowing how to use it, and more generally what to do when things turn against you. In both of these races some boats finished, battered but intact.  They weren’t the biggest boats, but they were the best prepared.

On Sunday we looked at what to do if you can’t get your boat home.  The first thing is – stay with the boat as long as possible!  It’s your best liferaft.  When do you abandon ship?  Only when you have absolutely no other choice.

What would we want to take with us on a liferaft if we had to abandon ship?  What would we expect to find already on a liferaft?  How much space is there to take all the stuff we’d like?  (Answer – not a lot!)  How can we be best prepared to make sure that we can get our hands on everything we’d need?  And if we could only take a few things, what would they be?

What are our priorities?

PROTECTION (shelter, warmth) – LOCATION (be found) – WATER – FOOD.

How long will you survive if you’re immersed in water?  3 hours at 15OC.  If you’re lucky.  3 minutes at 5OC.  If you’re very lucky.

What does my PLB do?  Is it AIS or EPIRB?  What do these TLAs mean?!  Flares.  Hold the cold end!  Read the instructions well before you need the flare.  Be familiar with your equipment.

We learned the Survival Rule of Three: 3 weeks without food, 3 days without water, 3 minutes without air.

We ended the day in the pool, getting very familiar with each other climbing in and out of a four-person liferaft (it’s tiny!).

It might never happen but … if it does, I’ll be glad I did the training … again.  I first did the course 5 years ago and I realise how much I’d forgotten, or never really taken in.  It was also a good intro to the rest of the crew – Jason, Dhara, Luke, Mark, Phil, Woody and Trevor – I’m sure they’ll have my back if I need them.


Fastnet 2017 – Blog Episode 2 – Jalapeno Refurb

Shiver me timbers it’s been cold this month ! John here from the Sail Boat Project with the latest update on our preparation for this year’s Fastnet Race.

January has been Jalapeño-ary for many of the Sail Boat Project crew including the Fastnet team.  Lots of TLC this month, from creature comforts such as the upholstery to a new mast and rigging, a full mechanical and electrical service and a slippery new go-faster bottom!

After taking Jalapeño’s mast out in Chichester, Dhara, Krister and Paul motored her to Sussex Yacht Club (SYC) in Shoreham at the start of January when the weather was just starting to get properly wintery.  They were lucky that day as it was dry, but check out the video of them jet-washing Jalapeño’s bottom a few days later – can you tell what’s jet-wash and what’s rain?!

Once out of the water and with Jalapeño settled in one of SYC’s shiny new cradles, walkways and tarpaulins were set up and it was on with the work.  The first and biggest task was to crack on with preparing Jalapeño’s bottom for the new non-biocidal silicon-based antifoul, or rather foul-release coating as it’s more accurately known.  Sail Boat Project has been looking for a more marine-life-friendly antifoul for several years and so we were very excited and grateful when AquaMarine FRC offered to donate a hull’s worth of AquaCote to us Jalapeño’s refurb.

The idea of the foul-release coating is that, rather than kill anything that attempts to grow on the hull, as traditional biocidal antifouls do, the silicon is so slippery that nothing can get a proper grip so that all we need is a jet-wash, soft rubber scraper or just our fingers and Jalapeño will be as good as new!  The product has been used on powerboats for some time, where it becomes self-cleaning at more than 20 knots, and now they’re looking at sailing boats too.  We might not quite make 20 knots but we’ll go as fast as we can and hopefully the silicon slipperiness will give us a little extra speed!

So, the hull prep – masks, goggles, gloves, earplugs, overalls all donned, it was out with the belt and orbital sanders to take off 40+ years of antifoul and dig out and fill blisters in the paintwork to achieve a nice smooth base for the Aquacote – and leave us all looking like we’re auditioning for Braveheart with some dark blue warpaint!  Meanwhile, Trevor, one of the Fastnet crew, has been re-wiring the electrics, fitting new bow navigation lights and stripping out any redundant kit (like many boats her age, Jalapeño has been frequently updated with new gadgets, the old ones not always removed at the same time …) and, with Paul, giving the engine a full service and new coat of paint. After a bit of trial-and-error, we’ve also put brand new vinyl on her topside as well.

Jalapeño was back in the water at Sussex Yacht Club in Shoreham on Wednesday 15th February, ready to be motored back to Chichester where we will have her mast stepped with her brand new rigging. In March we’re looking forward to our training starting – we have our ISAF Sea Survival weekend which looks set to be great fun, you’ll hear more from us then!


The UK’s only veggie/vegan sailing school

greenheartThis past January you might have been taking part in ‘Veganuary’ – if not, may well have seen it mentioned on social media or the news. If you haven’t heard of it, it was a commitment made by tens of thousands of people to cut out meat and animal products from their diet for a month.
At Sail Boat Project, we’re committed to lowering our carbon footprint and protecting the environment. That is why we are the UK’s only veggie/vegan sailing school. Animal agriculture has well-documented destructive effects on the environment and habitats, including marine wildlife, as well as by being the leading causes of deforestation and one of the main contributors of greenhouse gas emissions.

If you have given up animal products for Veganuary, you may have decided to continue the commitment for the time being – we for one want a society where it’s possible to live without hurting animals. This is a part of our effort to make sailing more accessible.

Therefore if you want to learn to sail without having to worry about what you’re going to eat, have a look at our RYA sailing courses and trips. All our boats are stocked with quality vegan food and snacks from our partners Infinity Foods.

Fastnet 2017 – Blog No. 1 – Introduction!

Ahoy sailors! John here from the Sail Boat Project with the first in a series of blogs about our journey over the next 8 months towards one of the most famous offshore races – the Fastnet!

In this first blog I’ll be telling you a little about me, our crew, Sail Boat Project, the Fastnet, our training and, of course – Jalapeño, our boat.

I’ve been sailing nearly all my life (I’m 50 now), mostly in dinghies, catamarans and small keelboats, and then 4 years ago had the chance to cross the Atlantic and do a bit of cruising in the Caribbean.  I got a real taste for offshore sailing and now I’m back in Brighton decided to get involved with the Sail Boat Project. Then, out of the blue a few weeks ago, an email popped up saying that Sail Boat Project is doing the Fastnet for the first time and would anyone like to join in?  So, what is Sail Boat Project and what is the Fastnet?

The Sail Boat Project (SBP) is a Workers’ Co-operative (registered as a Community Interest Company) established in 2009, providing a range of learning activities based around sailing.  SBP sees sailing as a means to improve life skills, knowledge and attitudes.  It aims to widen access to the sea, offering sail training onboard, navigation training on land and using these activities to increase confidence and a sense of wellbeing in marginalised coastal communities.

SBP builds relationships with individuals and organisations who are, or who work with, disadvantaged people, helping them to get the most out of the activities and opportunities it provides.  As part of its commitment to widening access, SBP raises funds to be able to offer subsidised training to people on very low incomes or from marginalised communities.

The Fastnet!  Seems a bit of madness really – 608 nautical miles as the crow flies, from Cowes to the south-west tip of Ireland, round a bit of rock with a lighthouse on it and back to Plymouth!  But it’s the stuff of legend.  Following the daily TV updates on the tragic 1979 race as a 13 year old, I was left in no doubt about the need to have a healthy respect for, and be just a little bit scared of, the sea.

Our team – I’ve yet to meet most of them!  But we’ve got lots of things organised to get us into a well-oiled machine before 6th August.  A boat’s a very small space and in the pressure of racing you need to know you are with people you can trust.  Although I don’t know them yet, their links with SBP make me feel confident that we’ll form a strong team.  We have our 1st Aid and ISAF Offshore Safety courses in the next few weeks and our first on-the-water training weekend in April.  There are 3 qualifying races, the Round-the-Island and a few shore-based activities and then it’s the real thing!

Our skipper is Jason, a man with decades of experience skippering tall ships to small keel boats. He will be helped by our first mate, Dhara – one of the founders of Sail Boat Project who has spent half is life on and around boats. Together these guys have put together a full package to help train us to become a cohesive team.

Saving the best till last … Jalapeño, our boat!  Jalapeño is Dutch-built Standfast 43, a solid roomy boat that handles the sea well. She is of a similar design and quality to the classic Sparkman & Stevens Swan yachts. Over the past week we’ve started Jalapeño’s TLC – new mast and rigging, full mechanical service and a shiny new bottom!  We’re taking off all the old antifoul and putting on a silicon hull wrap, a super-slippery, non-biocide alternative to traditional antifouls, that we hope will keep Jalapeño’s bottom clean while not harming marine life and simultaneously give us a few extra knots!  I’ll keep you posted…


Sailing Forward recovery sails qualifications

sailing forward recoevry sailsReally good to catch up with the crew from Sands (Stonepillow) today who have been out on a couple of our half day Sailing Forward recovery sails. Skipper Jacquie Dowding awarded RYA Sailability entry level certificates (see photo) and we planned an overnight trip next in Chichester habrour in early November. Feedback interviews found the sailing sessions had a positive impact on people and there was plenty of enthusiasm to do more.

We’d really like to do some 2-3 day sails in 2017, with staff members, so if there are any local businesses or individuals who would like to support this please contact us. We can offer some team away day sailing trips in return!

biglotteryLARGEOur Sailing Forward recovery sails have been supported by an Awards for All grant.


first aid

First aid course Brighton


First Aid course Brighton

2 sessions

Mondays 31st October and 28th November, 1800-2100

£75 per person, with £5 going to the RNLI.

Book Now

This Emergency First Aid at Work course runs over two evenings at Brighton Marina Yacht Club. You need to be able to attend both sessions to complete the course.

The course is a 6 hour award designed to equip you with the skills to manage an emergency situation until further help arrives. The award covers CPR and basic first aid and is the perfect introduction to first aid or for those who have some previous experience to act as a refresher. This course will also cover some extra knowledge specifically related to sailing such as head injuries, hypothermia and drowning. The course is very hands on and will ensure you have the knowledge and skills needed to safely manage a wide range of injuries.

Delivered by Mark Durrell, Brighton Surf Lifesaving Club