The Griffin Fund
The Griffin Initiative | not a mythical beast!
One main aim: To encourage young people into the sport of offshore racing.
Over the years, through the generosity of Royal Ocean Racing Club members, the Griffin Fund has assisted in providing race boats and experienced sailors to improve young sailors’ understanding of offshore racing.
The RORC has appointed a total of 11 Honorary Griffin Secretaries. The first Honorary Secretary was Brigadier John Bush in 1945, when the training boat Griffin was presented to the RORC by H.E West. In 1951, Owen Aisher’s Fastnet winner Yeoman was presented to the Club and renamed Griffin II, which went on to represent Britain in several Admiral’s Cups and was on the winning team in 1959. In the infamous 1979 Fastnet, Griffin skippered by Neal Graham, with Stuart Quarrie as navigator, sank in atrocious conditions, but all the crew were safely picked up from their liferaft by the heroic actions of Alain Catherineau's French yacht, Lorelei. Seven boats called Griffin have raced with the RORC since 1945, and the Griffin Fund has always been active to this day.
Janet Grosvenor was Honorary Griffin Secretary from 1989 until 2007 (right of picture). Nicholson 33, Golden Guinea – renamed Griffin V, skippered by Rod Carr.
Janet started at the RORC in 1969 as a receptionist and ended up as RORC Racing Manager. “One of my first jobs in the early 70s was running a sweepstake on the Grand National to raise money for the Griffin Fund – I doubt it would be approved of today!” commented Janet Grosvenor. “Every RORC race I would put together a skipper and crew so Griffin could race, and a lot of provisional RORC members felt it was a way to qualify for full membership. Bill Edgerton was working for the RYA at the time, and he supported Griffin as a coach. It is wonderful to see Bill picking up the lead for the Griffin Initiative, and I hope that new benefactors will come forward and help in the future.”
Tom Kneen's JPK 1180 Sunrise © Kurt Arrigo/Rolex
The current Griffin Chair is Tor Tomlinson who was part of the winning crew on Tom Kneen’s Sunrise for the 2021 Rolex Fastnet Race. "I started offshore racing through a Griffin programme," commented Tor. "Nick Jones (Chair at the time) got a group of young Scottish sailors involved in South Coast sailing while we were at university. Over the last three years, the Griffin Committee has put in a lot of effort to reinvigorate the programme and to keep up that momentum, it would be ideal to recruit more young sailors into offshore sailing and the Griffin Committee."
Bill Edgerton was the National Keelboat Coach for the RYA and the RORC, he took up the reins of the Griffin Initiative in 2021. Bill has been associated with the America’s Cup for decades as a sailor, coach and umpire, and has been involved in numerous Olympic campaigns including Ian Walker & John Merricks, Ben Ainslie, and Giles Scott. Bill has spent his working life with crews from all levels from beginners to the top internationals. His is the last word on what is, or is not, good crew work.
There is a strong desire within the RORC Committee to do something and with that in mind, RORC Admiral Mike Greville asked me to look at some proposals that were on the table, from that was born the Griffin Initiative.” Commented Bill Edgerton.
In 2021, Bill Edgerton started a two-year project to give young sailors, who already have the requisite training skills, an opportunity to try offshore racing, learn best practices and crewmanship.
Henry Bateson's IC39 Andrasta, skippered by Bill Edgerton © Paul Wyeth/RORC
“For the 2022 RORC Season, the target participants were from the RYA Keelboat Academy with a focus on quality of training rather than quantity of races," commented Bill Edgerton. "Several boats were offered by RORC members, and we took up Henry Bateson’s offer of the IC39 Andrasta. She has plenty of miles under her keel, high-tech rig and sail plan, plus an electronics package to make her a good test-platform. Henry’s generosity and enthusiasm was very much in the spirit of Griffins past.”
Bill Edgerton organised two sessions during the 2022 RORC Season with separate seven-day programmes for two different crews. 18 sailors took part, all of them in their 20s. “Each programme included race preparation, high level coaching on boat handling, electronics and routing skills and two overnight race simulation courses. A lot of emphasis was placed on safety procedures as well as seamanship. The Cowes Dinard St Malo Race and The Channel Race were part of each week-long programme. The sailing programme went much to plan with the crews on a massive learning curve. Great thanks to Tom Cheney, Campbell Field and Ruaridh Wright for specialist coaching.”
Bill believes that the success of the Griffin Initiative for inductees should be measured against delivering a process-orientated programme, not results based. “The Griffin Initiative is not intended as a performance programme. Some of the sailors will go onto race on Grand Prix yachts but certainly not all, others will go racing just for fun, like most of the RORC members.
Plans for 2023
Two groups of induction sailors are planned for the 2023 RORC Season. Graduates from the 2022 programme aspire to have at least one entry from the Griffin Initiative in the 2023 Rolex Fastnet Race.
The intention is that we will have choose another 18 or so inductees in the Griffin Initiative, they must have the ability to sail but they can come from just about anywhere. We hope that the best of the class of 2022 will have a Rolex Fastnet Race Programme. We need to identify boat owners who may lend a boat for these sessions, and we need some financial help in sponsorship or goods and services in kind. The long-term future of the Griffin Initiative is that we are building a pool of new crew, quality assured, that RORC members with boats can tap into. We have demonstrated that the RORC, as benefits its position in our sport, can provide a pathway for new participants.