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Meet GGR 2022 skipper, Ian Herbert-Jones

Let’s give you a little insight into Ian’s extraordinary campaign.

Ian Herbert Jones

When did you first get into sailing?

I never sailed as a child, my family didn’t have any connections with sailing, even though for many years we lived near the sea in both North Wales and on the South Coast. It was when I joined the Army that I was first introduced to boats, which may sound strange, but the Army has used sailing as part of its adventure training and leadership development for generations, it’s not just for the Navy!

What was it like sailing in the British Army?

I guess the clue was always in the name, it was called Adventure Training, I had no idea that “cruising” was even a thing at first, initially sailing was just another form of suffering.

But a good friend of mine, Chris Lait, who now runs Sailchecker.com, and who had joined-up at the same time as me, managed to wangle the time off to do the day skipper training, and of course he then need crew naïve enough to go out with him. Through this we slowly discovered the wider world of sailing and racing.

You used to be an avionics engineer, will this knowledge be useful to you when sailing around the world?  

My Corp in the Army was called the REME (Royal Electrical & Mechanical Engineers) and their mission is all about front line or field engineering, with the emphasis on keeping the kit moving under any circumstances. I think that problem solving mindset was drummed into me back then and it may well prove to be critical in the race.

Breakages and gear failure are one of the most likely things that will stop your race, or any voyage, from being successful, so being able to find that workaround, no matter how many tie-wraps and roles of gaffer tape it needs could be really important.

We hear you circumnavigated in the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race, can you tell us a bit about that?

That was back in 2007/8 when I sailed on Clipper Singapore. My family and I had been living in Malaysia at the time of applying to the race, so Singapore just seemed to be the right boat for me.  As one of the “round the world crew” on board I acted as a watch leader for the majority of the race, and I was lucky enough to learn a huge amount from our skipper Mark Preedy, who did an amazing job getting us all around in one piece.  

We had a great crew on Singapore, many of the team were young people sponsored by the ASEAN organisation (The Association of Southeast Asian Nations) most of whom had no prior sailing experience at all. This made for a really interesting mix of people, lots of instant noodles consumed between watches of course which suited me, but it also meant that we were always in training mode on each leg of the race. Taking responsibility for the crew on watch through some pretty awful conditions at times, ensuring that everyone was always safe and knew their jobs, but weren’t pushed too far beyond their skill levels, certainly added to the whole learning experience for me.

sextand and traditional navigation

And now you have  your sights set on the GGR 2022, what made you decide to enter such a challenging race?

The idea of sailing around the world and then sailing alone around the Great Capes has been with me for a long time, Clipper was part of that, but not the whole deal, we didn’t round Cape Horn in that race, and of course it was a team event.

So in 2015 when I first heard about the ‘new generation’ of Golden Globe Race I wanted to sign up straight away, but with work, life and family commitments the time wasn’t right for me. I watched the 2018 race unfold with both a huge respect for what those guys were achieving and huge frustration of not being part of it, thinking “that’s for me” and “if not now, then when?”.

One thing led to another and in April 2019 I found myself at the GGR prize-giving event in France, where I met Istvan Koper (who had finished in fourth place in 2018) and I decided to buy his boat Puffin and got myself seriously “over committed”.

I’m quite mission orientated in life in general and so what I like about the GGR is that it provides that race structure, with a deadline to hit (and some seriously hard rules to follow), just sailing off into the sunset wasn’t quite enough for me and so GGR gives me that target to chase.

You recently teamed up with savvy navvy as an ambassador. savvy navvy is all about electronic navigation and the GGR is all about traditional navigation, do you think that traditional and electronic navigation can work in harmony?

That’s a great question, and undoubtedly the answer is yes. I think sailors have always taken advantage of the latest technologies, whether that was a magnetic compass, a sextant or a chronometer, but good mariners have always maintained and used their “traditional” skills alongside the latest kit. So the GGR celebrates the art of navigation as it was back in 1969 and is a great way to inspire sailors to get involved with those skills again and a reminder to us all that sometimes you may need to rely on dead reckoning and running fix to keep track of your position. I really do think, in normal sailing situations, the combination of both latest tech like the savvy navvy app and those “long-hand” skills, just makes for better seamanship.

How did you first find out about savvy navvy?

That’s a Clipper story too. David Cusworth who is now the community manager at savvy navvy, was the recruitment manager at Clipper when I joined the race back in 2007. He was also helping Don McIntyre and the GGR team with their planning. So when I signed up for 2022 GGR, David introduced me to Jelte the CEO and Founder of savvy navvy, also an ex-Clipper crew member, thinking that savvy navvy would make a great partner for my campaign.

Why did you want to become an ambassador?

In my non-sailing life I’ve been involved in a number technology start-ups, so when I was introduced to Hannah and Jelte, I just loved what the business was building, both the product and community, and I really like the opportunity to be involved in small way at least with UK start-ups who are trying to bring something new to market.

What is your preparation plan in the run up to GGR 2022, have you been hampered much by COVID-19?

This year has been all about Puffin and her refit for 2022. She’s amazingly strong boat, but she had just done a 30,000 mile circumnavigation when I took her over from Istvan at the end of the last race, so she needed some TLC. We also have our own plans for sailing and systems tweaks and improvements, and so we’ve been working hard on that.

We’ve also been looking for partners for both equipment and financial support and I’m pleased to say we have some great companies coming on board now (watch this space for updates as they say), which is a huge boost to the campaign.

My aim is to have the vast majority of the refit and redesign completed by year end, allowing me to focus 2021 on sailing, getting those long solo qualification passages under my belt and actually testing every aspect of the boat and myself, so that as we enter 2022 we can focus on refinements and the race plan itself.

As for Covid, what can I say, it’s been a real challenge for my GGR campaign as it has for everyone. In short, we lost about 4 months straight, where we couldn’t access the boat at all, which pushed much of the sailing plans into 2021. But these are just more challenges and problems to solve and so we’re certainly not going let it stop us getting to the start line as planned in 2022.

savvy navvy ambassador Ian Herbert-Jones

Can you tell us a bit about the boat you bought for the GGR - Puffin!

Puffin, she the star of campaign, a real character and an awesome boat. She competed in the 2018 GGR Race sailed by Istvan Koper and was one of only 5 boats to finish after 18 started! She’s a Tradewind 35 designed by John Rock in the late 70’s and built back 1986. The TW35’s are very rugged boats, with a flush decks, long keels and cutter rigs, they were really designed with long-distance voyaging in mind.

Puffin is the taller mast and bowsprit rigged version and she has been extensively strengthened to withstand the rigours of the Southern Ocean and the Golden Globe Race. She’s a heavy boat, so may not be the fastest in a straight line, but she tracks beautifully through a heavy seaway and I can’t think of better boat of her size to face the Southern Ocean in.

Where can we follow your progress?

We’ve got the Team HJ Sailing website up and running now, where you can see our updates in the Logbook and sign up for our newsletter.  You’ll also find us on Facebook and Instagram and then during the race itself people will be able to follow all the competitors live on the race tracker and GGR website.

It’s great to have so many people following the campaign, we’ve had tremendous support so far from businesses, local and international and most of all from the sailing community. I’ve been completely blown away by how the concept of the race has captured people’s imaginations, so please keep following Puffin and I over the coming months, we’re certainly going to need all the support we can get.

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