From Small Beginnings Can Come Greatness

Published on August 14th, 2017

After five days at sea, a team of inner-city teenagers made history as the only comprehensive school crew known to have finished one of the world’s most iconic offshore sailing races – the 603 nm Rolex Fastnet Race 2017.

The crew from Greig City Academy in north London were sailing their 45ft (13.7m) yacht Scaramouche. The young team said they never expected to win, aiming instead to finish safely, but did better last week by coming in 142nd overall in a fleet of 368 boats.

“The lads have been brilliant and disciplined throughout,” said teacher Jon Holt. “It’s gone better than expected.”

The sailing club at Greig City, where almost three-quarters of pupils are eligible for free school meals, was only set up four years ago when Mr Holt, a geography teacher and head of the sixth form, organised a dinghy sailing weekend.

Most of the pupils had never sailed before but quickly became hooked.

A massive fundraising effort by pupils and staff enabled the school to buy and restore an old 22ft yacht they found on eBay. Later they bought Scaramouche, a former international racing yacht, for £17,000.

When they entered their first race, which was against teams of adults, they had little hope.

“We thought, ‘We have just got to sail around the course and not embarrass ourselves,'” said Mr Holt.

But they won. Other races followed and the combination of the powerful old yacht and its enthusiastic novice crew continued to make waves.

They qualified for Fastnet earlier this year but realized they had run so short of money that they would probably be unable to enter. But the pupils were determined to carry on.

“We gave so many different talks,” said Montel Jordan, the crew’s main helmsman at 17 years. “There was a period when we did no sailing but 30 different talks in a month, to different people. We just tried to get the funding to try and carry on the project as long as possible, because we didn’t want to quit before we had done all the things we said we were going to do.”

The team’s ambitions were saved by a City firm, Pioneer Underwriters, which agreed to sponsor their entire operating budget.

On Twitter, GCA Sailing said: “We may have crossed the finish of this race but this is far from finished. Thank you for following, please continue to do so, this is not over.”

Let’s hope not!

Source: BBC News


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