Sailing and European politics, do they really go hand in hand?

Ariane, based between Hampshire and Berlin, is one of fifteen Europeans that has received a scholarship from the Hans-Farmont foundation to partake in one of three ten-day summer sailing school trips.

On these trips, three groups of five Europeans will sail between Greece and Turkey, whilst discussing European politics. This year, their theme for discussion is ‘Europe is lost’.

Ariane, one of 15 Europeans awarded a scholarship for the foundation’s summer school
Picture used with permission.

The summer school is an annual project that gives the opportunity to discuss European politics onboard a boat to fifteen young Europeans every year. Their aim is to ‘strengthen the connections and unity of young people in Europe.’

The three separate trips take place from June to August and the participants are encouraged to get hands-on and participate in the sailing of the boats, tying knots and manoeuvring .

How did you find out about the project, and was it something you wanted to do immediately, or did you have to think about it?

Well I’d never really considered sailing, I can’t even swim! it definitely wasn’t something I sought out. I heard about it from an alumni through a network I’m in.

I clicked on the link they sent and thought ‘well I love European politics, but I’ve never sailed and I’m afraid of water, so why not challenge myself?’ So I applied and got through!

Do you know what route you’ll be taking?

It’ll be between turkey and Greek islands, obviously it’ll depend on the weather and any possible Coronavirus restrictions.

What will the discussion panels involve?

Because of contact restrictions, it will be a bit different to normal years, so we’ll be making a documentary on what it means to be European, and putting that out on social media.

Are you more excited for the discussion or the sailing?

It’s about 70/30, I’m definitely more excited for the sailing, even though its a new experience so I’m a bit hesitant to be on the water for that long.

I’m also really excited to meet the others on my trip, we’ve been talking for a year now, as the trip was pushed back from 2020 to this year, due to the pandemic.

Ariane and her fellow Europeans that will be also taking part in the summer sailing school: Jasmin, Nuno, Elena, and Marco. Used with permission from Ariane.

Do you think that after this trip you’ll pursue more sailing?

I haven’t really thought about it, it could definitely be something to explore, depending on how accessible it is. I’m sure I’ll know if I want to take sailing further after the trip.

What do you hope to achieve and experience from this trip?

Pushing myself out of my boundaries, really. I’m a landlocked person and venturing into the deep seas between Greece and Turkey will definitely be interesting.

The discussion side of it too, as I come from a consultancy, politics and healthcare world, getting to understand what everyday people that might not necessarily like these kinds of discussions think, is something different and exciting to look forwards to.

You can keep up to date with Ariane on Twitter or Clubhouse, where her username is @_arianex

Please note-this interview may have been edited for ease of understanding.

A chat with a sailor whose boat is his home

Ever wondered what life fully aboard a boat is like? I spoke with Justin Butler, one of few ‘live-aboard‘ sailors, and asked him about what makes his lifestyle so different from the ‘landlubber‘ one most of us are accustomed to.

Justin, alone at the helm in the middle of an open sea, only a small amount of land is visible on the horizon. Photo used with permission from Justin Butler.

When did you choose to start living on board and why?

I’ve been living on board just under a year, but in my 20’s I lived aboard for ten years.

I had a motorcycle accident in my 20’s that left me unable to walk, I relocated from up-country to Falmouth and the family that I was living with broke apart, and I found myself homeless.

Not only did my financial security disappear but my psychological state deteriorated rapidly. I spent my last £500 on an old wooden boat to live in. But this time, I did it because I wanted to, I really missed the lifestyle.

What are the positives and negatives of living on a boat?

The self sufficiency and privacy is definitely a positive, I can play my Violin or Guitar and no-one will complain. I’ve spent three years renovating this boat and it’ll go anywhere, so it’s not only my home but my holiday home as well.

I sail to the Scillies at least once a year with my six-year-old daughter, just the two of us.

It’s also a largely tax-free life, it’s extremely inexpensive and minimalist, which I love, but it comes with extra jobs you don’t have to do in a house, like fetching water from shore for tea!

What have been your highlights on sailing and living on board, so far?

Due to the ‘whole lockdown thing’, I think my personal highlight was being able to get away to the Scillies with my daughter for three weeks, and I think that entire trip cost me about three hundred quid.

What experiences have you had living on the water that you wouldn’t have had otherwise?

Certainly the environmental awareness, its something that grows on you until you’re hyper aware of it, especially with things like plastic in the sea, which I don’t think I would have payed any attention to, had I not lived aboard.

How do you manage family life living on board?

I have my six-year-old onboard with me at the Weekends and on Wednesdays, and for her it’s just a massive adventure.

Coming to the boat on an inflatable dinghy in a forty knot gale is not something I look forward to, but she laughs like a train the whole trip.

Really the only issue is the lack of space, but she just adapts, as kids always do.

Justin and his daughter, both smiling on his boat, with an outboard and sea visible behind them. Photo used with permission from Justin Butler.

What makes living on board the perfect lifestyle for you?

It’s autonomous and extremely low cost, which gives me the freedom to do a lot of other things. I’m able to be off-grid and minimalist and that appeals to me.

What do you hope to achieve in your future of sailing and living onboard?

This year I’m doing the Jester Azores challenge, a single-handed, 1,200 mile nautical race, which is in June. I’m also applying to Plymouth University to do a degree in Paramedic science, and if I get in, I’ll just sail my boat around to Plymouth marina and tie it up there for three years!

You can check out Justin’s YouTube channel here

Please note- this interview and the quotes featured may have been edited for clarity and greater understanding.

Sailing and the benefits for mental health

Tamara Jean, a domestic abuse survivor and solo sailor with big dreams to sail round the world, believes that sailing can really help with mental health.

She’s experienced the effect that sailing has on mental health first-hand, and wants to bring that opportunity to other people that have experienced hardship and mental health struggles, starting with other victims of domestic abuse.

On her mental health as a child and how that changed during her marriage, Tamara says, “I had a great childhood, my mental health was completely intact. I grew up, got married and had four kids in five years.

I realised I was being controlled, lied to, manipulated and when I asked for a divorce he blew up and the mask came off completely.

Then after all the drama, the trauma and the domestic abuse, I ended up with PTSD.”

“I would recommend sailing to anyone going through mental health issues.

The experience clears your mind more than everything, you have to troubleshoot every problem and everything else dissolves away.” said Tamara, about how sailing has helped her.

“Sailing on my own I have to be the captain, the mechanic, the engineer.

There are other ways to experience the same therapeutic connection to nature though, through gardening or exercise, sailing is just what I choose.”

See an excerpt of my interview with Tamara here^

“You have to be grounded before you can be balanced and work on yourself,” she said.

There is a lot of science based evidence to support the idea that sailing is beneficial to mental health, and charities such as The Rona Sailing Project, Sea Sanctuary and Turn To Starboard work to provide adults and young people struggling with mental health here in the UK with sailing therapy.

You can learn more about Tamara’s story, her experience of domestic abuse and parental alienation on her website.

Please note- this interview and the quotes featured may have been edited for clarity and greater understanding.

Five struggles of being a lady in sailing, and how one woman is overcoming them

Sailing is an incredibly male dominated sport and workplace, says Victoria Morris, a sailing instructor at the Russell Coutts Sailing Foundation in New Zealand.

From learning to sail at six years old, to having worked in the industry, teaching sailing and delivering yachts, for two years, Victoria has found that as a woman she is often overlooked or assumed to be less qualified, here’s what she’s experienced and how she has dealt with it.

A view of Teignmouth pier with two cruise ships at anchor on the horizon
A view of Teignmouth pier with two cruise ships at anchor on the horizon

1-Being the only woman on a boat

This summer Victoria spent her time delivering two Yachts, one of which was a catamaran. On both yachts she had male skippers and was the only woman on her last trip from France to Croatia, She told me it was sometimes really hard being the only girl.

Obviously this could happen in any profession but in the sailing industry women are often few and far between. Out of over 180 sailors at the Swan 45 World Championship in 2017, only 12 were women. 

A view of Exmouth from across the estuary and trainline, a yacht and other boats can be seen at their moorings.
A view of Exmouth from across the estuary and the trainline, a yacht and other boats can be seen at their moorings.

2-Having her knowledge questioned

Victoria also mentioned that during her time as a sailing instructor, people have often doubted her ability to teach sailing.

She has often had men be patronising towards her, as though she couldn’t do her job and didn’t know as much as any of her male equivalents, even if she was more qualified than her male counterparts.

3-Having her ability to be firm with students doubted

Women are stereotypically seen as more ‘gentle’, compassionate and nurturing, even though the science tells us that this is not always the case, but that compassion is just expressed in different ways.

Because of this, Victoria has often experienced prejudice, with people questioning her ability to reprimand bad behaviour in the sailing classes that she teaches.

Students at Paignton sailing club, in full winter sailing gear, putting dinghies in the water. photo used with permission from Maria A Bown
Students at Paignton sailing club putting dinghies in the water, used with permission from Maria A Bown

4-Being expected to make more mistakes at sea

When things go wrong at sea, the consequences can be life threatening, but apportioning blame in situations like that do no good. Victoria said that when things went wrong she would be the first one that people would look at, as they assumed the woman would have made the mistake.

One study shows that men were rated lower for making the same mistakes as their female counterparts in ‘masculine fields of work’, and the researcher suggests that this was because women were ‘expected to fail’ in these environments.

5-Experiencing misogyny from people in senior positions

Due to the lack of women in the sailing industry, from committees of general sailing clubs in the UK, right up to formal racing such as the America’s cup, misogyny is rife and often goes undetected.

Victoria had an experience where an Olympic coach was so ‘nasty and misogynistic’ towards her that it made her cry. A global survey of 4,500 sailors revealed that almost 60 per cent of female respondents have experienced gender discrimination in the sport, but this rises to 71 per cent for women aged between 25 to 30 .

How she deals with misogyny now

I’m sure that many other women have had these experience, but this was the turning point for Victoria. She made a formal complaint due to the misogyny from the Olympic sailing coach and now ‘doesn’t take anything from anyone’.

She always stands her ground and sometimes proves them wrong by exceeding expectations. She says that women often have to work twice as hard to earn the same level of respect as men.

She shouldn’t have to do this to prove her ability as a woman in sailing, but it’s good she’s found her confidence and doesn’t let anyone else’s opinions get in her way.