Making up a large percentage of the regatta crew are 38 young people from Liverpool who have one thing in common – Jim Graves. Jim is passionate about getting young people to sea, and not just to learn to sail, but more importantly to learn about themselves. “Luckily for me, at the age of 16 I joined the Merchant Navy and left Liverpool for six years, sailing around the world twice. The difference that I could see in myself was amazing and made a huge difference to the rest of my life”. Later Jim became involved with the Sail Training Association and sent around one hundred young people to sea from the Liverpool area every year. These days, as well as being a strategic management consultant in his professional life, he also runs MAST (Merseyside Adventure Training Trust) who’s strap line is ‘Enabling young people to help themselves'. Such belief in the younger generations is all too rare, and Jim strives to see as many young people as possible, from all walks of life but often from deprived areas and/or with difficult backgrounds, develop and turn their lives around in a positive way. “Sailing is a great leveler,” explains Jim. “Sailing skills are a valuable by-product but the team building, and character building, that sail training provides is invaluable”.
Sixteen local girls recruited MAST, all pupils at St John Bosco School in Liverpool, where amongst the winning crew on Tecla (Netherlands) – overall race winner and winner of her class.
Described by the girls as having ‘boundless energy’, they were touched by the lengths Jim goes to make sure they all have everything they need. The sail training experience is not a given right for the youngsters – they all have to earn the right to go, including fund raising by bag packing at the local supermarket, car washes, running tuc shops and finding sponsors, and in so doing acquiring skills in dealing with people before they even step foot on a ship.
Listening to Jim’s tales of life at sea made the girls want to sail, and now having experienced it they have tales of their own. What were the best moments of the trip? “Seeing a dolphin, seeing the stars in the night sky and seeing the Liverpool skyline from the sea. Oh, and winning the race of course!”
Pic: Jim surrounded by crew from Tecla