I’ve followed the Jester for a few years now, ever since I looked at a little Corribee 21 for my first “big boat”. I read up on MingMing, Roger Taylor’s junk rig Corribee that has sailed across oceans and up to the Artic circle, this lead me to other sailors and boats and eventually the Jester Challenge. There’s three different challenges for solo sailors in boats between 20-30ft, originally the longest to Newport RI, USA, a shorter one to the Azores and finally one for people like myself to Baltimore South Ireland.
The thought of total independence on a small boat in the middle of nowhere strangely appeals to me. It takes me back to my childhood when I learnt to sail in a Mirror with my father, brother and sister. I soon caught the bug and managed to convince my father I needed my own boat, I lusted after a little Topper but with my parents recently divorced could only afford a plywood Prout Puffin. I loved that boat, it was mine, I could rig, launch and sail it on my own. I sailed for hours with just my thoughts. I’m not sure if it was an escape from my parents splitting up or that I just enjoyed sailing, but sailing, especially on my own is the only real thing I can remember from that time.
The Corribee didn’t work out, I continued to save and follow the Jester Challenges. I fell in love with an Albin Ballad, I saw on a visit to Plymouth. It was bigger then the Corribee, enough so I could go sailing with a crew, sail on nice days with the wife and little lad, but small enough to qualify as a Jester boat. They’re a solid sea boat, with an encapsulated keel, and a keel stepped mast and a skeg hung rudder, I had convinced myself a Ballad was the boat for me! After a few years of selling, scrimping and saving I had just about enough money for a boat, which brought me to NUSC and Ron’s Ballad, Sundance. There’s a couple of things I would really like to upgrade but nothing stopping me sailing her as is, she’s got a good engine, decent sails and has proven herself in the three peeks yacht race. In the back of my mind I bought Sundance to take me on the Jester but I know I need to learn the waters of the Bristol Channel, the boat and myself first. NUSC seems the perfect place to do it, kind, experienced and friendly members, club races and ideally placed for a nice drive down from my home in Shrewsbury. NUSC also seemed the perfect place to host the first Welsh Jester Challenge get together as well.
People started to arrive about 12pm, and gathered in the lounge at the back of the clubhouse. The first to arrive was Tony Head from Plymouth, a retired yacht surveyor, Navy man and owner of Triple Venture, a Twister 28 build by himself, brother and friend. Roger Fitzgerald drove from Pwllheli the evening before and arrived shortly after with CBYC member Nick Head along with other people interested in the Jester Challenge. Most were either from the area or kept their boat in the Bristol Channel. Graeme who drove all the way from York for the day, sails from North Wales was the furthest visitor. All together there were nine of us and a couple of NUSC members who wanted to know more about the Jester.
The lounge was loud with conversations, people introducing themselves, talking boats and preparations. Roger Fitzgerald brought his Atlantic charts from his two crossings to the USA and three crossings to the Azores. It showed for interesting routes, one ducking south to miss the tail end of a hurricane on a return sail. Lots of photos and stories meant before we knew it, an hour or so had passed and we were being called for lunch. Glenys had kindly taken the time to prepare a generous buffet spread for the club members and Jester visitors. I have to say another big thank you to Glenys and the other club members for making the Jesters feel very welcome, they were singing the clubs praises all afternoon.
After lunch we returned to the back room where Tony and Roger ran through a presentation on preparation for a Jester Challenge. This has to be one of the most interesting and informative presentations I’ve ever been to, thoughts and ideas of Tony’s span off into other thoughts and suggestions from other people. There was so much to take in you couldn’t, luckily Tony had handed out notes of his presentation for us to mull over at home. His talk went on until half six in the evening, when we all said goodbyes and after doing the final bits of washing up, locked the club up and went on our journeys home.
I have a copy of Tony’s notes so if anyone wants a to read about his preparations I’m sure he won’t mind me forwarding them on to you. It’s the Baltimore, Ireland challenge this year, a 250nm solo sail from either Plymouth or Pwllheli. I’m planning on making the start on June 11th with Sundance.
Anyone else up for an adventure?
Find out more information about the Jester Challenge at jesterinfo.org