JML Rotary Scout – Mark Jennings

JML Rotary Scout is a 39ft Tosca owned by the Scout Association of South Africa and moored in Simonstown. The boat was originally donated as a bare hull by the Rotary Club of Bellville in 1987 and was built up over a number of years by veteran Scoutmaster Neville Coxon, who launched the yacht in 1994. Then known as Rotary Scout she took part in the 2000 Cape to Rio race, crewed by teenagers. She has also taken part in three Governor’s Cup yacht races to St Helena Island.

The yacht fell into disrepair but was relaunched in January 2006 by an enthusiastic group of adult volunteers, mainly Dads and Moms of scouts. In three years well over 750 youngsters have gone sailing. The yacht is busy most weekends with only bad weather and maintenance preventing us from taking to sea. The yacht has been repainted, the engine repaired and safety equipment acquired – all with generous sponsorship from businesses and individuals. We were absolutely delighted when the Jewish Maritime League agreed to sponsor us and we renamed the yacht JML Rotary Scout for a period of five years from August 2007. To Alvin Kushner and the JML Committee, thank you – we are very grateful for your generosity. Thanks also to JML’s Russell Sher who has successfully coached three of our adult volunteers through the SAS Day Skipper’s exams, with two more volunteers to be tested soon.

Some of the sailing includes day trips around False Bay, visiting Seal Island or Cape Point – or overnight trips across the Bay with the youth sleeping at Gordon’s Bay Yacht Club and sailing back the next day. The Cape Windjammers NGO has used JML Rotary Scout for experiential training. The yacht has acted as a support vessel in the marathon Vista Nova School Freedom Swim from Robben Island to Blouberg Beach, and groups from Herzlia Primary School with Barbara Calothi have been day-sailing for a Sunday each month. A highlight was participating in a JML “Sailing Together” project with a group of Muslim Arab and Jewish Israeli youth around Cape Point to Hout Bay.

Last year JML Rotary Scout was part of the Volvo Ocean Race festivities in the V&A Waterfront. World Scouting is involved with Team Russia in tackling environmental awareness issues, with particular emphasis on whale and dolphin conservation. JML Rotary Scout was lucky enough to be allowed to moor at the Volvo Ocean Race jetty for a few days, attracting much attention from the public. Scouts came down to visit the yacht – and many of them are eager to sail when Scouts recommences in the New Year.  This year we plan to have another 250 children sail on the yacht. We also want to present a Competent Crew course for the Scouts

In December 2010, JML Rotary Scout took part in the Governor’s Cup Yacht Race, a 1700 nautical mile “downwind dash” to St Helena Island in the South Atlantic Ocean. On board were six youths between the ages of 14 and 19, with two adult co-skippers. We are very grateful to the Jewish Maritime League who, along with other co-sponsors, enabled us to undertake this trip-of-a-lifetime. We were delighted to welcome JML’s 18 year-old Ian Davis on board. . Ian brought considerable previous racing experience with him and was a popular watch captain.

On the first night out of Simonstown on the 1st of December we were met with gale force winds and heaving seas. Five of the 16 yachts in the fleet sustained damage and were forced to retire, although three of the yachts eventually re-joined the race. JML Rotary Scout weathered the storm magnificently and even though most of the crew were seasick, nobody missed a watch. Morale was high, characterised by lots of laughter and good-natured chirping! At one point we surfed down a wave at 20.2 knots!

When the wind settled down to a more manageable 15 to 20 knots we set our spinnaker and worked hard at keeping the yacht moving as quickly as possible. Of great assistance to us was Larry Davis, Ian’s dad, a former airline pilot and keen yacht racer, who gave us daily weather information by satellite telephone. This was allowed in terms of the race rules and all yachts could have used land-based weather watchers should they have wished. Larry kept us in the wind, and together with our fierce determination to succeed, enabled us to win the Cruising Class of the race and come 2nd overall on handicap. We were the 3rd yacht over the finish line!

It was a brilliant sailing experience and, on behalf of the South African Scout Association, we sincerely thank the Jewish Maritime League for their financial sponsorship of the scouts. We really value JML’s close association with the Rotary Scout sailing programme and we hope our mutually beneficial relationship will continue to grow and grow.

Sailing is a wonderful medium for teaching life skills, and JML’s sponsorship generosity is helping many children learn teamwork, develop leadership skills and explore ways of pushing the boundaries of their personal courage in a safe, nurturing environment.

Once again, many thanks to the Jewish Maritime League and we look forward to continuing our close association for many years to come.