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Hyde Sails, the Squib, and the father & son duo spurring each other on

by Mark Jardine 19 Sep 2018 04:00 PDT
Nigel and Jack Grogan during the National Squib 50th Anniversary National Championship at Lendy Cowes Week 2018 © Mark Jardine

We spoke to Nigel and Jack Grogan, the father and son team at Hyde Sails who also sail together in the Squib class, which celebrated its 50th Anniversary in style with 100 boats for their National Championship at Lendy Cowes Week.

Mark Jardine: Hyde Sails have a deep involvement in the Squib class and Nigel, you have been instrumental in many of the initiatives taken in this 50th anniversary year. What initially hooked you in to the Squib class?

Nigel Grogan: A worryingly long time ago, Jack's grandfather and I started sailing one. The reason we did so was that we'd done Burnham Week in his cruising boat, a Tomahawk 25. He'd bought some new sails, he was very enthusiastic about it, and we'd packed it out with family and friends and we cruised around the River Crouch at the back of Class 7, finishing hours after everybody else and sat there wondering if we'd had a nice time or not.

The Squibs at that time had around fifty boats, crashing around the marks together, and in-between the races there would be dozens of these Squibs tied up to the pontoon with their sails up, while the crew were in the bar having a drink! Fifteen minutes before the start they'd all jump in their boats and repeat the process. To us it just looked like fantastic sailing which was very accessible, great racing and superb socialising.

We thought, "What are we doing in a cruiser-racer, let's get one of them!" So that's what we did!

Mark: Jack, it's quite clear as a father and son team on the water that you spur each other on. Do you think that also happens in business at Hyde Sails, where you're developing all the time and pushing things forward?

Jack Grogan: Without doubt it is not a 9 to 5 job. Every minute we're sitting on the boat together, waiting for racing, we're always discussing other sails and sail-making; in truth it's only when we're asleep that we're not working for Hyde Sails! Our competitive nature on the water, making sure we're each doing the best job we can, which drives us to go at 100% the whole way around the race course, is exactly the same within Hyde Sails.

While in the past we may have cast our net too wide, we've focused on products in fewer classes recently and we're reaping the rewards of honing the details in classes such as the Fireball, Merlin Rocket and Solo – it seems to be all coming together – and we hope to keep on improving as we move forwards.

Mark: Watching the Squib class on the water, it's clear a lot of development has gone into the sails lately and the standard of the racing within the fleet seems to have risen correspondingly as well. How challenging have you found it within in the class this year?

Nigel: The overall level of Squib sailing has definitely risen over the past ten years. What would have been a high-quality fleet a decade ago is now a very high-quality fleet, and in many respects, they are far more one-design. While there are new hybrid and Rondar foam-sandwich versions of the boat, the bottom line is they are all going around the course at almost identical speeds.

During Lendy Cowes Week, in one of the races, we were beaten into second by seven seconds after a two-hour race, so it's such a small speed difference and that is reflected the whole way down the fleet – people are finishing overlapped. It's a great one-design class and the level of sailing is excellent. We have Gold, Silver and Bronze divisions within the racing, so there are rivalries going on throughout the overall results, and intense competition the whole way down the fleet.

It's also the antithesis of a chequebook sailing class. The Gibson boys spent £1,000 on their boat and won a race during Lendy Cowes Week – how good is it to have people jump in to the class, spending that little money, and being right on the pace? They, and we as a class, are as pleased as punch.

Mark: 2018 saw an anniversary championship for the Squibs, and big events like this always attract people in from other classes. Do you think people will now stay in the fleet after seeing the ethos and standard within the class?

Jack: You'd certainly find it hard to step away from sailing in a hundred-boat fleet. If you look at the Nationals Attendance Table on you'll see that the Squib is always near the top. We have very good sailors in the class, such as the Baileys who are two-time Edinburgh Cup winners in the Dragon class, and they're already looking at the 2019 Squib Nationals in Torbay.

After Torbay we're off to Kinsale in Ireland – a superb venue with a great Squib fleet and it could certainly attract another hundred boats; it's an exciting time. In the Squib class it isn't all about what happens on the water, there's also strong social scene.

Mark: With two superb venues for your upcoming championships, how is the Squib class embracing newcomers to the class?

Nigel: Adam Beaumont, the CEO of aql who very kindly sponsored the spinnakers for us at Lendy Cowes Week, held a party during the event and gave a speech. The audience were a few people from the Squib class and a lot of people from other classes, and he said the highlight of his visit was the sponsorship of the Squib class and the reception he got when he went to our social the night before. He said he was amazed by that everybody came up to him, thanked him and how friendly they were towards him. As an outside observer, to suddenly become deeply involved in a class and sense that one of the key dynamics was the friendly and welcoming nature thrilled him to bits.

Adam is keen on supporting good causes such as blind sailing and environmental sustainability, which is why aql provided long-life water bottles throughout Lendy Cowes Week, and his take on the Squib class was that it was full of down-to-earth, friendly people that were welcoming and, dare I say it, nice!

Mark: With the support of companies such as aql and Hyde Sails showing such commitment to the class, the reception the class had at Lendy Cowes Week, the nature of the sailors themselves and the venues lined up in the future, it looks like the Squib has a rosy future!

Find out more...

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