Lord Nelson and Tenacious. | www.jst.org.uk

The Jubilee Sailing Trust has been thrown a vital million pound lifeline. The Southampton-based charity found itself floundering under the weight of substantial mechanical issues on both its tall ships, a poor uptake of its winter 2018 programme and a tricky fundraising environment. The decision was taken to launch an emergency fundraiser or face immediate closure – the worst possible scenario for an organisation that has made a profound difference to thousands of lives.

Operating under the tagline ‘a sea of possibility’, the Jubilee Sailing Trust is a very special entity. Co-founder Christopher Rudd started his work with disabled children by teaching them to dinghy sail. He held the passionate belief that by allowing disabled and non-disabled to sail alongside each other, prejudices and misunderstandings would be eliminated. Together with second co-founder Dr Tony Hicklin, using money from the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Fund, the Jubilee Sailing Trust was formed in 1978. Now, all they needed were some ships.

Sail Training Ship Lord Nelson was duly commissioned in 1984, the same year HRH The Duke of York was appointed as Patron, and the 55 metre tall ship made her maiden voyage from Southampton in October 1986. Word of her great adventures spread, and demand for voyages rapidly began to outstrip supply. It was time to build another.

In 1993, leading naval architect Tony Castro was commissioned to design 65 metre Sailing Vessel Tenacious and, when she set sail in 2000, she was the largest wooden ship to have been built in the UK for over 100 years. Together, Lord Nelson and Tenacious are the only tall ships in the world that are wheelchair accessible throughout, and they’ve brought endless joy to thousands.

Over the last four decades, more than 50,000 people have sailed with the Jubilee Sailing Trust. Its work has made a profound difference not only to disabled individuals, but to all abilities, ages, backgrounds and circumstances. The ships and their mission are unique - no other organisation in the world does exactly what they do – and they’ve sailed to every continent to share their vocation. The website shows voyages everywhere from France to New Zealand, but, just a few weeks ago, 40 years hard work was all in jeopardy.

On Monday July 1, I received an email entitled ‘Important and Urgent: JST Emergency Fundraising Appeal’. Here’s an extract: ‘At a meeting on Thursday June 27th 2019, the Trustees resolved that we should launch an emergency rescue fundraising effort to address our very serious financial challenges and to provide the working capital now needed to continue our activities. Our objective is to urgently raise £1m (one million pounds) of unrestricted funds by Friday July 5th 2019 to ensure that this can happen. If we are unable to reach this target, then it is likely the JST’s activities will cease immediately, unless the Trustees can find another viable solution to our funding situation which allows us to continue operating responsibly. This would, of course, be a very sad conclusion to four amazing decades of such important and ground-breaking work… This decision has not been taken lightly and follows extensive consultation with restructuring professionals. It also considers the Trustees’ fiduciary responsibilities and the requirement for good governance of the charity, along with its duty to all stakeholders.’

Just before midnight on Friday July 5, I received this update entitled ‘We did it!!’. Against all the odds, the Jubilee Sailing Trust had only gone and raised a million: ‘On behalf of beneficiaries and everyone at the JST, I cannot thank you enough for your truly brilliant support this week. As we go to press, I can confirm we have raised £1,084,000 and the donations are still coming in!! The response to our emergency appeal has been absolutely amazing. From difficult circumstances, your extremely generous support has given our work a much brighter future. ‘We are so grateful to everyone who has got behind our campaign, both with messages of encouragement and also donations. It has been great to hear from so many people who have been positively impacted by our work across our forty decades of operation. It has reinvigorated the JST family and reinforced the importance of our mission, and why it must continue.’

So where does that leave this wonderful charity? Aside from feeling grateful, proud, and encouraged, the answer is, deep in discussion. While they have their million, they now need to take stock. A sub-committee is currently trying to work out how to avoid this situation happening again in the future and ensure that the Trust’s work can be enjoyed by many generations to come.

None of the funds raised will be used until they’ve urgently evaluated the options, and the same goes for any new funds coming in via donations or voyage bookings. The Jubilee Sailing Trust will communicate their findings by next Monday July 22. So let’s see what conclusions are drawn.

Having been (briefly) onboard Tenacious, taking the opportunity to interview the captain as they pulled into Majorca en-route to Malta, I have seen first-hand the camaraderie, confidence and contentment amongst the multi-faceted crew.

It’s therefore, of course, my genuine desire that they put that million pounds to good use as soon as possible. I will be awaiting next week’s update email with great interest.
And, once the seas have calmed and the journey ahead is clearer, I will be browsing www.jst.org.uk to reserve my spot on one of their life-changing adventures.