The Griffin Project

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.  Griffin24 Project © James Tomlinson/RORC
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.  Griffin24 Project © James Tomlinson/RORC

 The Griffin Project | 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 12 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.  

rorc history griffin 1 yacht  

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.”  

Sunrise, Sail no: GBR888X, Owner: Thomas Kneen, Boat Type: JPK 1180, Division: IRCFastwave 6, Sail no: FRA157, Owner: Eric Fries, Boat Type: JPK 1180, Division: IRCSailmon JR, Sail no: NED9015, Owner: Ronald Prins, Boat Type: J/122e, Division: IRCLeclerc Hennebont / Cocody, Sail no: FRA53081, Owner: Richard Fromentin, Boat Type: JPK 1180, Division: IRCTom Kneen's JPK 1180 Sunrise © Kurt Arrigo/Rolex

The 2022 Griffin Chair Tor Tomlinson 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.  

Andrasta,GBR 917Henry 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. 

Rolex Fastnet Race start off Cowes 8 August 2021The Needles GBR 6908 R White Knight 7 1.005 8 Royal Armoured Corps Yacht CClurbaig Circuit J/109

Two groups of induction sailors were planned for the 2023 RORC Season. Graduates from the 2022 programme aspired to have at least one entry from the Griffin Initiative in the 2023 Rolex Fastnet Race. Henry Bateson’s Andrasta crewed by the Griffin Team took part in four RORC races. The climax of the season was the 50th edition of the Rolex Fastnet Race. The Griffin Team was on the start line racing in IRC Zero. 358 boats racing under IRC experienced tough conditions for the start of the race with many retirements. Sadly Andrasta was one of them, as electrical failure hampered navigation and other systems, shortly after the race start.

The Griffin Committee met after the 2023 season and decided that  it was necessary  to get financial help in sponsorship or goods and services in kind. The long-term future of the Griffin Initiative was decided to be  building a pool of new crew, quality assured, that RORC members with boats can tap into. This is the ethos of the Griffin Project; to  have demonstrate that the RORC, as benefits its position in our sport, can provide a pathway for new participants.


Griffin24 © James Tomlinson/RORC

Griffin24 Project

In December 2023, Jim Driver was elected Chair of Griffin. With funding from RORC, Sun Fast 30 One Designs were chartered from Cap Regatta. FourthCape, a Cowes based sailing project management company headed by Charles Darbyshire, was chosen to run Griffin training and selection weekends to form a new Griffin Team for the 2024 season. The Griffin24 Project was born.

In total, 300 sailors applied for the Griffin24 programme, of which 40 were chosen for two selection events held in Cowes in late March 2024.  The sailors came from all over the UK, Europe, and the United States, with a wide range of experience from dinghy sailing to offshore racing and blue water cruising.  In total 10 nationalities were represented at the selection events and about 50% were women. 

20 sailors were selected for the 2024 cohort, and on 5-7 April  a Training Weekend is to be run on behalf of RORC by FourthCape. The Griffin24 squad will be coached by a group of World Class sailors, including Dee Caffari, Shirley Robertson, Steve Hayles and Ian Walker.

To get involved with the Griffin24 Project as a sailor or supporter contact:

Sevenstar Yacht Transport
Salcombe Gin