Hi everyone, my name’s Owen and I’m the Junior Design Engineer at Marine Rigging Services.
Whilst still studying at the University of Surrey and sailing with BKA, MRS posted an advert for day work to the academy. Having had no ‘big boat’ rigging experience at the time, I just wanted to be involved with some of the incredible projects that MRS were providing services to and learn as much as possible. Boats are so complex these days, with multiple controlling systems, it is no longer enough to just be a ‘good sailor’ - you need to understand the systems onboard to maximise the boat’s performance.
My first toe in the water was working on the RC44 Black Star, helping with all the small jobs that a junior gets to do, preparing the boat for its refit. I tried to fit as many days working as I could around my studies, gaining as much trust with the team to be given more responsibility in my given tasks. Through conversations of my engineering degree, the team were keen to expand into more design-based projects.
I started to design various parts, from bespoke rigging components to laying the groundwork for the initial reeler prototypes – an area in which MRS is now rapidly expanding in and has fast become the market leader for these products. After Graduating from university, I was delighted to be offered a full-time role with MRS as junior design engineer, where I have continued to create custom hardware and increase my practical rigging knowledge.
My role within the Griffin Project
The RORC Griffin project was re-launched last year, after its initial launch in 1945. Taken on by Bill Edgerton, the RORC ran programme is designed as a pathway for young sailors to enter the offshore racing world – an amazing opportunity I was keen to be a part of with my newfound rigging and design knowledge! RORC member Henry Bateson donated his custom 39ft IRC 0 offshore race boat to the program.
I put myself forwards and was selected onto the programme, where coaching was provided on all elements of offshore racing, from navigation, to shift systems, to manoeuvres in the dark. The program finished with a highlight 2nd place finish in IRC 0, RORC Cowes Dinard - St Malo. The programme continues in 2023, separated into two parts, taking on new youth sailors and the 'graduating' sailors from the previous year taking on a more competitive Fastnet campaign.
“The best way to develop young, offshore sailors is to trust them and empower them to be self-sufficient, whilst providing them with the necessary help, support and equipment. This is why the Griffin Initiative is so important. If successful, this program will develop the next generation of offshore sailors.” - Ian Walker, North Sails.
To become Fastnet ready, lots of work was required from boat work to training on the water and qualifying races. Due to the nature of the project, a large amount of responsibility to manage the campaign was given to the sailors. The initial work to bring the boat out of winter storage and into race mode was to service the rig, and not know the last time an inspection had taken place, this had to be very thorough. I managed the rig preparations, with the MRS team generously offering support through advice and resources which was again, a huge learning curve for me.
The mast was un-stepped, stripped, re-painted with durepox, new custom sheaves manufactured, rods dye penetrative tested, assembled, stepped and tuned. Most of the work was completed by the crew from the project out of hours, all in 2 weeks to meet our project tight deadlines! There were many very late nights sanding, painting, and disassembling stubborn rigging components! But we won!
MRS has been a huge help to the project, providing invaluable advice and resource support. The project has also been graciously supplied textile and hardware from MRS - examples of the continuing support from MRS with any work required on the boat.
The crew for our Fastnet campaign is a full under 25 team, no ‘coaches’ just us. We all are all proficient sailors with various competitive inshore backgrounds and trying to focus on developing our offshore sailing. We are all pursuing careers in the industry, me at MRS, other sailors working with Sail GP, North Sails, or still at university. There are few upcoming youth workers in the industry because the access is so limited. Opportunities like the Griffin project or the work I started with at the company is difficult to find, therefore all support given by teams like MRS to help develop the next generation of skilled professionals in the industry is vital.
Check out some of my photos from my time at MRS and with the Griffin Project -