With the start of the first BNY MELLON CHALLENGE now about 1 year away, this is the first of what will be an irregular series of blogs leading up to the race to let you know what is happening and to give you an insight into its organisation.
The BNY Mellon Challenge is a new JOG race from Cowes to Cascais in Portugal, via La Trinité Sur Mer in Brittany. It will be the only 1000 mile race starting from the UK in 2013 and is due to start on 14 June when yachts will compete for the Patrick Ellam Trophies.
To get to this point, a substantial amount of work has already been done. It was last summer when the initial concept was floated by Andy Hill and it took some months to convert that to a viable plan. Not least, it would not have got off the ground without suitable funding and Andy was willing to put his money where his mouth was by providing substantial seedcorn funding through his company Clanfield Properties, who will be sponsoring the Double Handed class. I had already an established contact with the US bank BNY Mellon Asset Management through their sponsorship of the 2011 Biscay Challenge and it was a huge bonus when they agreed to become the title sponsor of this new JOG race. But this in itself took time and their local Director, Geoff Wenden, played a key role in securing the bank’s support.
So our race is well funded, we have an excellent and highly experienced Race Management Team and we know where we’re headed – both mentally and physically. The race is a significant challenge, but we wanted to make it as attractive as we could to the widest range of competitors, notwithstanding JOG’s tradition of not allowing boats with any form of advertising to enter. For the first time, JOG are inviting MOCRA multihulls to take part and if we can attract 3 or 4 of these guys they will make a great sight on the start line. Another great initiative is to encourage University Sailing Clubs to enter. There are some great sailors in our universities and they are actively supported by the RYA. We would like to give them the chance to do a serious offshore race and Nick Barlow has been given the role of our University Liaison person. I hope to bring you more news about this aspect of the event in a later blog.
The principle trophies for the BNY Mellon Challenge have been donated by Patrick Ellam, one of the co- founders of JOG in 1950. After a distinguished war career Patrick sailed the Atlantic in the 20ft sloop Sopranino with his friend Colin Mudie and JOG are honoured that Patrick has given us the actual sextant and chronometer that he and Colin used during that epic voyage 60 years ago. The cases that hold the instruments have been beautifully restored by Mark Wynter and they will make unique trophies for two of the classes who do the full race to Cascais. Now living in Arizona, we are keeping Patrick up to date with progress on the race, which we hope will be a fitting testimony to his generosity and contribution to JOG.
La Trinité is already well known to JOG competitors: tucked into the Baie de Quiberon and some 330 miles from Cowes. As a Cat 3 race, this will enable smaller boats to compete, or those whose time is constrained. We are aiming to get 25 to 30 boats to enter this leg, for which there will be separate awards.
Cascais: A recce report
“our competitors arriving in Cascais will be in very good hands”
Cascais was suggested by Andy in his original concept and he had already made contact with Rui Pinto, the local marina director, who had made some very welcoming noises. At 650 miles from La Trinité, it fitted the 1000 mile template pretty well.
Although I had been to Cascais some years ago, I returned for a couple of days at the end of April and a lot had happened since I was last there. The 650 berth marina had been built 12 years ago and had already established itself as a world class sailing venue, culminating in hosting an America’s Cup World Series event last summer. Ian Walker is on record in describing Cascais as one of the world’s finest yacht racing venues.
Rui Pinto collected me from the airport on Friday night and delivered me to the Palacio Hotel in Estoril, which was a very grand establishment. It had clearly been even grander in its heyday of the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s, when it had hosted crowned heads of the world; not to mention more recent pop stars such as Diana Ross and Chris de Burgh and various film stars. Indeed, across the park was the Estoril Casino, allegedly the largest in Europe and the location for the early James Bond movie Casino Royale: as was the hotel itself.
You may well be wondering what a humble race officer was doing ensconced in a 5 star hotel and believe me, it was a question that I found myself asking. It transpired that it was owned by the same Japanese investors that owned the marina and therefore there was a deal to be done, so to speak. Whatever, it was a pretty extraordinary experience to find your room three doors along from the suite occupied by HRH Prince Hirohito of Japan, or so the brass plate on the door indicated. I can’t wait to go back to find out whether a similar plate will record the visit of a JOG Race Director!
JOG member and Hamble based yacht designer Fernando Gamboa comes from Lisbon and knows Cascais well, having been a dinghy instructor at the Yacht Club there for three years. He has agreed to be our Portuguese race liaison man and organised my trip to coincide with a visit he was making to his family. It was good to have him there on the Saturday when Rui showed us around the marina. As Andy had suggested, Rui was extremely friendly and welcoming: anxious to do whatever he could to make our competitors stay an extremely comfortable one. All our boats are going to be moored together, in the smaller and quieter pool and arrangements will be made for our Race Officers to greet finishers with some cold beers, no matter what time of day or night they arrive. They will be able to have hot showers on arrival in the middle of the night if they so wish. There are restaurants, a chandlery and a food store within 10 minutes walk and we have identified a good bar that could become a meeting point for our crews.
We have even met Antonio Carvalho who runs the leading yacht maintenance company in the marina, in case running repairs need to be done. It transpired that Antonio was not only very interested in entering our race himself, in the Double Handed class, but said that he would drum up 4 or 5 other Portuguese entries as well. That would be a real result!
We also met with Bruno Santos of Clube Naval de Cascais, which is based on the other side of the marina to where our boats will be parked. This Club has large Dragon and SB3 fleets and is a very active racing club with substantial training facilities for youngsters. Again they were extremely welcoming and it is likely that we will hold our final prize giving party there.
I am confident that our competitors arriving in Cascais will be in very good hands.
Indeed, there could hardly be a better place for families, lovers or friends to join the sailors and enjoy a holiday there. Estoril and Sintra are both close by and are steeped in history, right up to the Second World War, when Estoril was a hive of espionage on behalf of both Germany and the Allies. We are looking into organizing a coach trip to Sintra, the hill site of the Portuguese Royal Summer Palace and there is a cheap rail trip all along the coast from Cascais into the centre of Lisbon, which is worth doing. I will write more about this in a later post.
At the time of writing, already a year in advance we are delighted to have one confirmed entry for the full race and several interested parties. If you'd like to know more please explore the BNY Mellon Challenge section of the website, and get in touch (by email) with myself to express your interest / find answers to your questions. Race entry closes in early April 2013, so why not start planning next year's summer holiday now?!
Updates to follow.