Former Bear put to good use for charity

Dee Caffari
Dee Caffari
This is what Alex Thomson Racing could look like in Haslar Marina, if planning permission is given. Picture: HGP / Dean and Reddyhoff

£5m plan will turn Gosport’s Haslar Marina into ‘world-class’ centre of sailing

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Injured servicemen and women will face a new challenge out in the Solent this year after the donation of a thoroughbred racing yacht to the Toe In The Water charity.

A familiar sight in the area for several years, the Farr 52 Bob – formerly Bear of Britain – will be renamed at the Joint Services Adventure Sail Training Centre in Gosport on March 23 before taking on a series of races in which she will be sailed in part by disabled service personnel.

The 52-footer, which has won several regattas in the past, has been donated to Toe In The Water by owners Tony Hayward, Sam Laidlaw, and Rob Gray, who have also personally contributed to its running costs.

The yacht endured a brief spell on notoriety when former BP chief executive Hayward sailed her in the 2010 Round The Island Race at the height of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

For Toe In The Water, now heading into its fifth racing season, the arrival of Bob marks a step change in terms of the sailing skills needed.

The previous yachts at its disposal, J80s and an A40, presented their own challenges but Bob is a much more powerful yacht which demands respect.

The charity’s ambassador Dee Caffari said: ‘Farr 52s are seriously exciting boats to sail and I know it will make a massive difference to the rehab of the extraordinary guys who sail with Toe in the Water to experience the adrenalin rush of racing on such a fast boat.

‘I’ve been able to see first hand the positive impact that being back in a competitive environment can have on severely injured service personnel,’ she added.

Hayward said: ‘She’s a fast boat with a fine racing pedigree and we’re confident that her Toe in the Water crews will continue to push her hard to deliver top results.’

Following the renaming ceremony, more than 170 prospective volunteer crew will be assessed at the charity’s annual crew selection weekend.

Those chosen will sail alongside injured crew at the RORC Easter Challenge in early April, the JP Morgan Asset Management Round the Island Race, Aberdeen Asset Management Cowes Week and the Garmin Hamble Big Boat Series in October.