RYA Competent Crew…during Winter?

Last night I took a few more steps towards sailing by actually finding a sail training company that answered email. I had zero luck with the local training folk in Ballyholme with both email and voicemail but I lucked out and remembered an article in the August 2009 issue of Sailing Today (which is by far my favourite sailing magazine).

We don’t have the weather for sailing all year round and and this is never more apparent than when you drive past Ballyholme Yacht Club and see the smaller yachts being hoisted out of the water and laid up for storage during our “harsh” winter months. In other regions, especially close to the equator, sailing is an all-season pastime. Which brings me to AllAbroad which was featured in the issue of S.T. but also was very quick to email me back (turnaround time of around 8 hours – most of that overnight – which again sets them apart from other trainers I’d contacted.

As you can see, the AllAbroad Competent Crew course is £475 off-season and covers 5 days and 6 nights of accommodation on the yacht with a focus on safety and boat handling and giving you the opportunity to visit Gibraltar, Spain and Morocco. To avail, all you have to do is pay your ticket, bring along a little spending money and then get yourself a return flight to Gibraltar.

Sailing Today, August 2009

My costs would include a flight to Gatwick (£50-75 return) and then a flight from Gatwick to Gibraltar (£100 return) but even so, the trip seems very reasonable and as soon as I’m able, I’ll endeavour to get that booked.

The schedule of the course as laid out in the magazine was:

Sunday – Introduction to boat and safety briefing
Monday – Kitting out, exercises under engine in Gib Bay, Sailed up to Strait for look around
Tuesday – MOB exercises and passage to Ceuta
Wednesday – Ceuta to Smir
Thursday – From Smir, planned passage to Estepona aborted on rounding Ceuta – made for Gib instead
Friday – Sail across Gib Bay, exercises and dinghy drill in inner Bay.

All of this also included time ashore in the various locations including Morocco/North Africa and the historic regions abound (especially if you pay attention to your Templar lore) but among all of this foreign culture you learn the full RYA-approved Competent Crew syllabus.

Seems like a bloomin’ bargain.


Just over a year ago, my friend Keith (who I have known for 25 years), took me our for 4 hours on his yacht (a Contessa 32) around a waterway near his home in Holland.


Since then I’ve been somewhat hooked on the romance of sailing. I have only those 4 hours to go by but the experience was so much fun that I have a strong desire to repeat it and, eventually, to own my own boat.

I’m buying sailing magazines (Sailing Today, Yachting Monthly, Yachting World, Ireland Afloat) in an attempt to get to know the terminology, to be able to adequately explain to someone else the difference between ‘a jib’ and ‘to gybe’. I do notice, however, there’s a dearth of resources online for sailing the way I have been able to eat my fill of news and articles about technology. I’m sure there’s more out there but until then, dead tree will suffice.

Sailing is not in my blood (to my knowledge) but now I live by the sea and have a dream of circumnavigating the world in my own boat.

I’m so full of interesting information, I feel like the latest edition of something or other.

It’s been a while since I blogged and it’s entirely because of keeping confidences.

Last week was the culmination of a lot of planning, a lot of thinking. Some of it started the previous week, when John Hartnett of the Irish Technology Leadership Group (ITLG) had a meeting with InvestNI, QUB, the University of Ulster and, at my insistence, Momentum and Digital Circle. But part of it started 90 days previous, when David Kirk asked me to participate in putting together a document which would form the framework of what we thought needed to happen in Northern Ireland’s technology landscape. Even more relevantly, it started back in February this year when we had the audacity to travel to Cupertino and make a pitch to Apple Inc about the talent and innovation available in Northern Ireland. All of this, from pitch to pitch, has made great dividends for Northern Ireland.

Fail Fast, Fail Often
For my part, at a meeting last Thursday with John Hartnett and John Gilmore, both of the ITLG, I pitched for Digital Circle and my pitch was simple. I want an onion skin approach to involvement with our cousins in the ITLG. I want to start by getting them to take notice of the companies in the digital content and software sector. I want to ask their help in identifying real world opportunities and, in many cases, we want them to help us to fail fast and fail often. This will be the first groundswell of culture change in Northern Ireland which regards failures as something to be despised (and only marginally less palatable than successes).

Get Involved
I also want them to use their experience and presence to advise those ideas which survive the fail test and nurture them. This can be as shallow or as deep as required. In truth, I would hope this would range from a couple of hours a month spent on Skype giving out advice to face-to-face visits in order to secure a small amount of equity. And if things worked out and the people involved liked each other, the individuals would have opportunity to become intimately involved with the company, joining the board, investing, becoming a de-facto salesman for the company as they move in their circles.

This isn’t going to happen overnight, but it ties well into some of the things we came up with in the document I contributed to which has become known as “NISW”. I’m putting a lot of effort into this, even outside of the day job, because it’s the way forward for the sector and, to be honest, in 18 months I’ll be looking for a job and I’ll want a process like this in place already for whatever I do next.

As for the confidences – I’m yet to see an announcement so I can’t say anything at all about them. But what I can say is that I am looking to meet up with the smartest folk in the province, with the best ideas and the biggest vision. And I’ll put them in touch with the first layer of the onion and we’ll see if we can create something amazing?