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YJA MS Amlin International Sailor of the Decade winner announced

by Mark Jardine 8 Dec 2020 05:25 PST
Jon Holt (left), founder of the Scaramouche Sailing Trust, is presented with the YJA MS Amlin 'International Sailor of the Decade' Award by Dan Snow of History Hit © Mark Jardine

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 YJA MS Amlin 'International Sailor of the Decade' 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 in 2014. When there wasn't 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 formed the ambition to be the first state school to complete the Fastnet.

The next step towards this goal was the purchase of 'Scaramouche', a 45ft Admirals Cup yacht built in 1981, which they set to work on, made race-worthy, finishing 14th in class in the 2016 Round the Island Race, completed the Fastnet qualification races and then completed the iconic Rolex Fastnet Race itself 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 Award.

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 the list of five sailors shortlisted which also included Dee Caffari, Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, Sir Ben Ainslie and Andrew 'Bart' Simpson - all of whom are well known for their outstanding sailing achievements and previous winners of the YJA 'Yachtsman of the Year' Trophy.

The Award was presented to Jon Holt by historian and TV presenter Dan Snow of 'History Hit', the massively popular online channel, who is himself a keen sailor.

On winning the Award 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's quite a shock actually. Maybe it shows how big it is what we're doing with sailing and the young people who we're taking out sailing at weekends."

On being chosen ahead of the other sailors - Sir Ben Ainslie, Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, Andrew 'Bart' Simpson and Dee Caffari - Jon said, "They're all my idols within sailing, so yes, that's incredible. I've grown up watching documentaries about what they do in sailing! As time has gone on, with our project, it has felt more important; we are showing people what can be done, we're 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 over the past month 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."

Paul Knox-Johnston, MS Amlin Boat Insurance Business Development Manager, said: "Huge and heartfelt congratulations to Jon Holt from all at MS Amlin Boat Insurance on winning this, the inaugural YJA MS Amlin 'International Sailor of the Decade' Award. The nominee list was a veritable who's who of yachting talent and people who have inspired so many to get out on the water. I know that the Scaramouche Sailing Trust is a huge team effort and the work you all do in bringing new people from different backgrounds into our sport is fantastic but, behind every team there is a driving inspiration; it is your dedication and drive which has propelled the Trust to where it stands today."

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