The time for action

James Boyd presents some views on what could be done to assist singlehanded sailors in the UK
In yesterday's article we looked at the collision regulations and why the various sailing authorities have been dragging their heels over their support for singlehanded offshore yacht racing. Today we will look at what could be done to help those who want to take up a career in solo sailing in the UK. There is little doubt that the Ellen MacArthur factor that has done wonders to draw people into sailing. Comparing the years 2001 with 2000, Penny Haire, the RYA's Chief Cruising Instructor says there has been a 38% increase in the number of people taking Competent Crew courses and a 35% increase in those taking their Yacht Master course. The former, she feels, is particularly relevant. "According to the school principals their students say it is down to awareness and Ellen MacArthur. They're taken up by her story, " comments Haire. "She has changed the image of sailing with people of her age group who otherwise thought it was all just people in rust coloured trousers with beards." She also says the economic upturn and fewer people going abroad on holiday may have also been contributing factors. From feedback he has had Offshore Challenge's Mark Turner agrees. "We have created a new set of people who given the right type of assistance will come into the sport," he says, remembering how they were inundated with email to Ellen during the Vendee Globe. "There are a lot of 11, 12, 13 year old kids who just weren't interested before. Ellen is their idol from a 'get out there and doing something' point of view." It seems unusual that it should be 8-13 year olds who show the most interest, but Turner feels this is because they are at an impressionable age and are still able to imagine