Initially being introduced to the water by his father and grandfather, who have long held a passion for being on the water, Tom then joined Horning Sailing Club’s junior training and worked his way through his RYA Levels, starting in a Topper and moving onto a Laser. When he turned 16 he took his Dinghy Instructor qualification and started regularly instructing in Norfolk, completing his Senior Instructor qualification when he was 18.
Here, he explains what his sailing has meant to him:
“I’ve always loved being on the water, so that combined with the competitive side of dinghy sailing, was really great for me. I was never the most talented dinghy sailor but I always enjoyed racing. Once I started instructing my sailing improved enormously, which ultimately made it much easier once I started sailing small yachts. I would recommend for anyone wanting to improve their sailing ability that instructing is the best way to do so. Instructing was always a big passion for me in sailing, and the four seasons I did were extremely rewarding. As I got older, and spent some time in larger boats offshore, I began to enjoy navigation and seamanship skills a lot more.”
As Tom finished his A levels, he began to look at life after school and what sort of career he wanted to pursue. He had already decided upon doing a ski season in France, which ended up being two winters after enjoying the first so much. As he had enjoyed instructing sailing so much he decided to start researching sailing related jobs, which led him to superyacht crew jobs. After a bit of reading, he quickly knew it was something he would be interested in, so completed his ENG1 medical and STCW courses (which are both mandatory for seafarers) and began looking for jobs online before heading to Antibes, France to search for jobs in person. After 4 days there he was contacted by his current boat, offered the job, flew back home the next morning and then onto Hamburg, Germany, a week after that, where he spent four months in a shipyard learning about maintenance of the boat. His role onboard is Deckhand, which is an entry deck position onboard most boats. It generally involves a lot of maintenance - painting and varnishing, as well as tender driving and bridge watches.
After leaving Hamburg, they crossed back to the home port of Tarragona, Spain. Since then he has only had a handful of trips due to the pandemic but has still managed to sail around the Balearics and recently returned back from Sweden. He said “It’s been amazing to see some parts of the world which you can only really experience from sea - especially all the small islands around Sweden and Denmark.”
Tom had only been offshore a handful of times in small yachts before joining his current boat, but his first experience of deep sea sailing was back in February of this year, when he did a crossing from Hamburg to Tarragona, that took approximately 9 days. On the way he experienced some fantastic sunrises, lots of dolphin sightings and lots of learning about navigation. He also experienced some rougher sea states, which led to lots of the crew (including himself) who hadn’t been to sea for a while being seasick, but all of that passed after the first couple of nights.
The boat is currently planning to go to the Caribbean for the winter season at the end of this year, which is something Tom is looking forward to. He has some courses to complete in his next leave period, including Yachtmaster, which will then give him some more options for his next step. Tom believes that he will stay in the industry for the foreseeable future, as he can see a real career for himself there.
To anyone wishing to follow in his footsteps, he said:
“I would really recommend working on the water with anything sailing related. I think dinghy instructing is a great place to start as it’s really good for improving your sailing ability, and it really helped me to get my yacht job now. After that, spending some time researching and asking around about other people's experiences was really useful for me. The Superyacht Crew industry is incredibly competitive, so the more experience you can get on the water will go a long way.”
If you’d like to find out more about how to get out on the water and start your sailing adventure visit http://www.rya.org.uk/go/startboating