Sailor of the decade

In a year that truly needs good news stories, the winner of the YJA MS Amlin International Sailor of the Decade Award has been announced as Jon Holt, founder of the Scaramouche Sailing Trust.

The aim of the award is to recognise the achievements of those who have had the greatest positive impact on sailing.

Jon Holt, the head of outdoor education at the Greig City Academy secondary school in Hornsey, London, has broken down barriers, providing opportunities for young people from all backgrounds to sail and race successfully. He started the sailing programme at Greig City Academy back in 2014.

When there was not an obvious route into sailing, they bought an old 22ft yacht on eBay, which was rotting in a field, spending the summer making it seaworthy and then sailing and racing the yacht. Then came the ambition to be the first state school to complete the Rolex Fastnet Race.

The next step towards this goal was the purchase of Scaramouche, a 45ft Admiral’s Cup yacht built in 1981, which they set to work on, made race-worthy and finished 14th in class in the 2016 Round the Island Race. They then completed the iconic Rolex Fastnet Race in 2017, placing 144th out of the 362 starters. Following this achievement Scaramouche sailor, Montel Fagan-Jordan, won the YJA Young Sailor of the Year.

The Scaramouche Sailing Trust has since gone from strength to strength, with sailors competing regularly in Etchells, 420s, competing in the Fastnet Race again in 2019, combined with the students refurbishing more yachts and dinghies.

Jon Holt has been the quiet, unassuming driving force behind the Scaramouche Sailing Trust. He has brought on board partners from within the sailing industry and beyond, giving many young sailors the chance to enjoy sailing and even find careers in the industry.

What Jon, the staff and pupils at Greig City Academy and the Scaramouche Sailing Trust have achieved is truly remarkable. He is now sharing his knowledge, experience and passion so that pupils from other schools can enjoy sailing.

Jon was among five sailors shortlisted for the award alongside Dee Caffari, Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, Sir Ben Ainslie and Andrew ‘Bart’ Simpson.

The award was presented to Jon in a socially distanced surprise event by the historian and TV presenter Dan Snow, who is himself a keen sailor.

On winning Jon said: “It feels absolutely extraordinary because I saw the list of who was on there, and I think that we all do different things within sailing, but they have achieved so much. It is quite a shock actually. Maybe it shows how big it is, what we are doing with sailing and the young people who we are taking out sailing at weekends.”

In response to the aim of the award being to recognise somebody who has had a positive impact on the sport and to seeing the other nominated names, Jon said: “They are all my idols within sailing, so yes, that is incredible. As time has gone on with our project, it has felt more important; we are showing people what can be done, we are showing that you can get into the sport and join the existing structures which are there – if you just dare to try. And that is what we have done.”

Clifford Webb, chairman of the Yachting Journalists’ Association, said: “It has been fascinating to see the votes arriving from our members spread around the world. The nominations were made by the public, and the shortlist drawn up was based on the number of nominations each person received.

“Subsequently, it was the YJA members who considered the five options available to cast their single vote. Voting was close and it may surprise some that the ‘big’ names nominated were not selected, but our well-informed members made their decision one by one, until Jon emerged as the outright winner, and what an achievement it is, absolutely brilliant.”

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