‘I couldn’t have lived much further away from the sea in Nottingham, but my grandfather was a merchant seaman.
He was torpedoed, I think, about four times in the Second World War.
The family is originally from Liverpool, a city of seafarers, so something has been passed down to me I think,’ Brown said.Brown and partners are defending the title they won last year, in tomorrow’s British Airways Round Jersey race.’I enjoy that race.
We start at 8.30 tomorrow morning, two hours before high tide, and head east with the first turn at the Violet buoy.
The current will be with us all the way up the coast and around to Grosnez and there’s a ten knot north-easterly been forecast so I expect we’ll have the spinnaker up.
After Grosnez the current will be against us so we’ll be doing a bit of rock-hopping, coming well inshore.’It was his day job as a quantity surveyor that led him to yacht racing.’I came to live in Jersey in 1978.
England was pretty miserable then, with the miners’ strike and the three-day week.”I thought of Jersey as a stepping-stone towards working in other parts of the world – but I never moved on.
Jersey has everything I need.’His sailing career began when, aged about 14, he crewed on a boat on the river Trent and when he arrived in Jersey he brought his own boat with him.’I saved my pocket-money and bought myself a dinghy, a Fireball.’He soon discovered how different it was to sail on the open sea.’I put my little boat in the sea at St Catherine’s – and all of a sudden there were waves.’I got a taste for it.
Then I teamed up with Ian Simpson and we took the boat away to compete in various national and European and world championships, we usually finished somewhere around the middle of the fleet.’At the same time Brown was crewing on various yachts then, in 1977, he raced with Peter Morton on his yacht Super Q.’That was it.
I loved it.’He bought his own yacht, the Melges 24 – which he and partners Bernie Cooper and Gary Birbeck thoughtfully named The Dog’s ********! thus ensuring it could never be named in full in the JEP – in 1997, and they have been racing ever since.The Melges was the obvious choice as far as he was concerned.’It’s basically a very large dinghy! It’s 24-ft long, it’s light – only 800 kg – and has a huge sail area.
The only difference is that it has a keel.
And it’s very fast, it can do 15-20 knots downwind in a Force 5 with the spinnaker up – it’s a huge adrenaline rush.’ he said.The boat is designed as a racing yacht and is, in Brown’s words, ‘a stripped-out racing machine with no home comforts’.
The crew put it on a road trailer and take it as far afield as Marseilles, Barcelona and La Rochelle to race, though his favourite venue is Lake Garda in Italy.In the five years that he and his sailing partners, plus regular fourth man Bruce Henstridge, have raced they have seen considerable success, winning the Dresdner Trophy two years in a row and taking top slot regularly in local races, including last year’s Round the Island race.
Competing earlier this year in the Melges national championship in Torquay they finished a creditable 11th.’The top six boats were all crewed by professionals.
The Melges attract pro crews, so we were pleased with our performance, we are very much amateurs.
We heard on the.grapevine that the top boat is sponsored to the tune of £100,000 a year …’Racing a yacht is not a simple matter of just climbing aboard.’In the nationals the rules state that because the Melges is so light the crew cannot weigh more than a total of 360 kg.
One year we were 4kg overweight.
We had to lose that before the official weigh-in, rather like jockeys, so, since we couldn’t find a sauna we all togged up in our thermal gear and oilskins and all the clothes we could find.
Then we got into the car, wound up the windows, put the heating on full and drove around Torquay for two hours.
We lost the 4kg and could then go to the bar for a pint to rehydrate.
It was very funny, in retrospect!’The same rules will not apply tomorrow and Brown is looking forward to the race.’Bernie, Gary and Bruce do all the work and I helm and shout a lot,’ he said, ‘as they often remind me.
But we work well as a team.
We see each other socially and when we go away to race our respective partners come with us.”It’s about 42 miles round the Island and I’d expect to finish in about five or six hours, depending on the weather.
I’d hope we’ll be one of the first boats across the line even though potentially quicker boats are entered.
If Toybox is competing it will be our main rival, and possibly the other Melges.
So many things can happen in a race.
You can have good winds which will stop unexpectedly, then start up again.
But the weather is part of the challenge and, as we often say aboard The Dog’s, “”it’s not over till the fat lady sings””.’