When Clear Solutions International Ltd confirmed that they were stepping up as Principal Sponsor of the 75th Edinburgh Cup and UK Grand Prix, little did we know just what a terrific level of personal support we could expect from Managing Director and owner James Mansell. James is a highly experienced and successful short-handed offshore sailor, but his only previous experience of Dragon sailing was the 2017 Edinburgh Cup. However, he loves a personal challenge and so when the opportunity to sponsor this special edition of the 75th Edinburgh Cup came up he decided to throw himself hook line and sinker into the opportunity. We asked him to explain more:
“I first sailed a Dragon in the 2017 Cowes Edinburgh Cup, crewing for Glynn Williams, who was initially a valued business advisor and has since become a close friend. I really enjoyed it and had great fun. I’ve been doing a lot of sailing since then, but mainly IRC double-handed offshore racing and the OSTAR single-handed transatlantic, where I finished first in class and second overall. Double handed we won the Round Britain and Ireland, did the Azores and Back a couple of times, two Fastnet Races and the Round Ireland Race. But I’ve never done a huge amount of round-the-cans or windward-leeward racing before.
“So, when Glynn popped up and said the Edinburgh Cup was in Cowes again this year and would I like to get involved, I thought it would be quite nice to do something different to what we’ve been doing for a while. After all, life is about learning and new challenges, and the one thing you know about the Edinburgh Cup is that you are going to be up against some of the World’s top sailors. It’s good to get involved in an event which is properly organised and where you are racing against people at the top level, plus the Solent’s an interesting piece of water to sail in and brings its own challenges. I knew it would be an opportunity to learn a lot and we wanted to get the most out of the opportunity, so we purchased a boat that’s all set up and ready to go and we know has the potential to do well – so we can’t blame the equipment!
“I also felt that, as a company, we could support the class and help get the momentum going for the event by becoming a sponsor. Sometimes it’s nice to give something back to the sport which brings us so much joy, and for Clear Solutions the Dragon is a great fit.
“Our business is all about helping our partners to create renewable energy solutions in a clean and sustainable way and to find ways to clean up historically “dirty” activities. For example, we are working to find solutions to make mining for essential minerals as sustainable and clean as possible. We’re about supplying a high-performance quality product and that fits well with the ethos of the Dragon Class. 95% of everything we manufacture goes abroad so we’re an international business, and it’s an international fleet.
“For me part of the attraction of the event and the Dragon fleet is that it offers a nice mix of serious sailing and fun socialising, and we’ll certainly be participating fully in the social events. I like that whilst the racing is very serious with a high level of professionalism, the fleet nonetheless retains a wonderful camaraderie and the sailors show great respect for each other and for what they are doing. We enjoy being able to focus on challenging the conditions and our own performance and learning from our competitors, without any unnecessary drama or a lot of screaming and shouting on the water. Everything about sailing the Dragon brings exciting challenges. As there’s no engine you even need to have a reasonable level of competence just to come and go from the dock! It’s nice to just do something where you are totally reliant on your own skill and managing the natural environment.
“In terms of my crew, I’m sailing with Eric Zon, who I’ve done all the double-handed sailing with. He’s a very competent and experienced sailor, but like me he’s mainly sailed short-handed offshore and has never sailed a Dragon before. And then we’ve got Paul Bennett, who is a friend I do a lot of skiing with. He’s never really sailed, but he’s got the time and inclination to learn, and he’s learning a lot quickly as well.
“We had a little bit of coaching from Mark Hart when we first got the boat to get everyone up to speed and make sure we could get round the course in one piece, and we’ve been racing with the Cowes fleet and training whenever we can. We’re not expecting to come straight into the fleet and make the podium, but I’m hoping we can put in a decent showing and make it to mid-fleet. We’re doing Cowes Week first so hopefully by the time we’ve had a full week in Cowes Week we’ll be finding our way and getting to grips with the Solent tides.
“The regatta will be something of a family affair for us. Eric and I will be joined by our wives and my oldest daughter Hattie is racing with Glynn Williams. No doubt there will be a bit of fun family rivalry as we are both very competitive!”