The Jubilee Sailing Trust has been changing lives since 1978. In that year it became a registered charity through the extraordinary vision of a dedicated group of people working against the odds to make their dream a reality. Back then the idea of integrating physically disabled with able-bodied people on a tall ship was a unique concept, and yet the JST still remains to this day the only organisation of its kind in the world.
The pioneering early days
In the 1960s and 70s, opportunities for outdoor education including offshore sailing were growing for the able-bodied. However there still existed a negative attitude towards what disabled people could and “should” do. Meanwhile, the man who became JST’s founder, Christopher Rudd, had been working with disabled and special needs children, teaching them to sail dinghies. At that time, the possibility for disabled people to sail at all, even in sheltered waters, was a major advance. Yet his practical experience working with people of mixed physical abilities convinced him that there was no reason why they should not be given the same opportunities as able-bodied people. He believed that the obstacles to sailing offshore were to a large extent artificial and could be overcome by thoughtful design and proper equipment. In addition, he believed that if physically disabled people were to sail alongside able-bodied people as part of the crew, it would help break down the prejudices and misunderstandings between people with different circumstances in life.
Christopher’s vision drew support from other exceptional individuals with whom he discussed his idea, in particular Dr Tony Hicklin, and together they became the founding fathers of what was to become the JST. A steering committee was set up and money was needed to study, and experiment the best way of putting the vision into practice. Christopher’s dentist made the very first donation – £1 –towards the idea, but then his landlord’s wife made the suggestion that really gave life to the project – to seek a grant from the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Appeal – which was successful and led to the name Jubilee Sailing Trust.
A pilot scheme was run which included voyages in square-rigged vessels the Marques, TS Royalist and Søren Larsen. In particular it was found that square-rig was ideal because the sailing of the ship needs large numbers of people all working together and there are numerous tasks to suit different capabilities and strengths. There was something for everyone – those who couldn’t pull on ropes could ease them off, and those who could do neither could instead call out the ‘two-six’ hauling rhythm.
Meanwhile the organisation gathered momentum and followers, though it was never an easy road. Convincing others that it was safe and sensible for disabled people to sail offshore on a tall ship was an ongoing battle and fundraising was a constant pressure. A permanent office was established in Southampton in the early 1980s – the original body of unpaid and devoted Trustees and volunteers could no longer operate without the the additional resources of paid staff.
Fundamental to the success of the organisation came when the JST had the good fortune to recruit Mr Francis Cator as its Chairman in 1983 (he later became President). Francis was a respected figure in the City of London and an enthusiastic sailor. He had also been brought up by a mother who overcame serious a disability during her life and he had an acute understanding of the needs of disabled people. The contribution of Francis and his wife Jacquetta (now JST’s President) cannot be overestimated.
In 1984, HRH Prince Andrew the Duke of York became the JST’s Patron, and he still is today.
Building the ships
Experimental voyages in existing square-riggers had proved beyond doubt that the vision and concept of integrating disabled with able-bodied people on a tall ship could without doubt be highly successful and safe. However, the experiments also proved that the vision could be best achieved with a purpose-built vessel. Naval architect Colin Mudie, who had been involved in the Trust from the start, was commissioned to design what was to become Lord Nelson. The build commenced in 1984 and the ship sailed on her maiden voyage from Southampton to Cherbourg on 17th October 1986. For more information on the history of Lord Nelson, click here.
After the launch of Lord Nelson, the JST grew from strength to strength, and demand for berths on voyages began to outstrip supply. With this in mind, in 1992, Lindsey Coleshill (later Neve), then Director of the JST made it her aim to fundraise for the build of a second ship. She also, in consultation with others, decided that the new ship should be built of wood, with disabled people forming part of the build team, which would bring ashore the JST ethos of integration. A year later, naval architect Tony Castro was commissioned to design the ship. Tenacious eventually sailed on her maiden voyage 1,548 days after her keel was laid, on 1st September 2000 from Southampton. Many of the volunteers who helped build her, working alongside professional shipwrights, still sail the ship today. Her name was thought up by the Hon. Jacquetta Cator, wife of Francis who was President at the time. For more information on the history of Tenacious, click here.
“It was a complicated business bringing Lord Nelson into the world, but we never doubted it would work. Although the world has since advanced in its approach to inequality, we still feel we are proving something every day that is relevant and we are the only ships to offer what we do. Our voyage crew develop self-confidence, self image and positive results. This is still relevant and important and is still learned on board”. (The late Ian Shuttleworth, former Vice President)
The JST’s two ships have sailed many hundreds of thousands of miles and have helped change thousands of lives, operating in European and North Atlantic waters. Both ships are regular visitors to France and Ireland in the summer and the Canaries or Mediterranean in the winter. Tenacious has spent many of her winters in the Caribbean (with numerous Atlantic crossings), since she was launched. Lord Nelson has taken part regularly in The Tall Ships Races during the summer months sailing within a fleet of the world’s biggest and most glamorous tall ships, in the Baltic or North Sea. In 2012 Lord Nelson was awarded the Shipping Federation of Great Britain trophy for ‘Great Loyalty’ – for being the ship that has taken part in the most Tall Ships Races since 2000. Also in 2012, Tenacious took part in the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Pageant, a fitting follow up to the charity having being named after the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Fund.
Over the years the JST has developed a number of successful programmes – Youth Leadership @ Sea, Diversity @ Sea, and more recently Sailing Forces, which integrates wounded and recovering service men and women with civilian crew members aboard the two ships.
However, both Lord Nelson and Tenacious were built with the capability of sailing anywhere in the world with mixed physical ability crews aboard. In November 2011, Chief Executive Alex Lochrane returned from a Sail Training International conference inspired by people involved in tall ships from all over the world who came up to him and said “No one else does what the JST does – why don’t you send one of your ships to visit us so our disabled people can go sailing”. Alex, together with Operations Manager Andy Spark who had always dreamed of sailing one of the ships round the world, mobilised the JST office into planning and executing a two year world voyage for Lord Nelson, leaving the UK in time to reach Sydney, Australia to take part in the centenary celebrations of the Royal Australian Navy in October 2013. The world voyage is divided into 10 ocean passages and 18 coastal voyages, all crewed by people of mixed physical abilities, including wheelchair users.
Lord Nelson left Southampton on 21st October 2012 and on 22 November crossed the Equator and making JST history by sailing into the Southern Hemisphere for the very first time. For more information and to follow the Norton Rose Fulbright Sail the World Challenge, click here.