Gary Colt, 53, was born in the USA, raised in Southern France and now lives on the West Indian island Nevis, where he runs a high-end beach restaurant with his wife Karin. Despite being a keen sailor for most of his life he was only introduced to the Clipper Race in 2013 when the escapades of one of his friend’s children caught his attention on social media.
“Funny enough, I know the parents of one of the Clipper 2013-14 Race skippers, Olly Cotterell,” Gary explained after completing his Level 3 training. “I had never met Olly personally but I was following his progress on Facebook through his mum and dad. The last posting that they put up was of the homecoming and I commented on it that I would love to do the race, or at least one leg, and Olly’s mum said ‘You can. Get on their website!’ and I signed up the same day. That was it.”
As a result of the spectacular fanfare the fleet received on its arrival into London, Gary signed up for Legs 1 and 8 of the race, and will form part of Team Olivier’s crew: “I was very happy that I was assigned to Olivier’s boat. He’s funny and has a good sense of humour. He’s very gentle and extremely knowledgeable which is important because he doesn’t stress anybody. The guy inspires a lot of trust and when we are going to be crossing oceans, we’ve got to trust our skipper. I’ll sail with him anywhere, not a problem at all.”
Gary, who has been sailing since he was a child, can already boast to having one circumnavigation under his belt, albeit under motor. With his family and business, he won’t be going the whole way round this time, but aims to complete a Clipper Race circumnavigation by adding more legs over the coming years.
Despite his experience, Gary admits he has learned so much from his three levels of training so far: “There is a huge difference from normal boats to these powerful sailing machines; team work is very different, the rigging is different from pleasure boats and even compared to smaller sailing boats.
“The fact that everything is so powerful makes every evolution even more important in order to ensure it’s a well-oiled machine for the crew and little stupid things that you would think is nothing on a smaller boat could actually be dangerous if you are not aware or alert on many things.”
“I think this is a fabulous social experience. I was talking with the skippers about how people from all walks of life, who wouldn’t say hi to each other on the street or subway, bus or tax, anywhere, but on the boat are bunking next to each other, hot bunking, sharing food and even ‘bathrooms’ with no door. It’s incredible how human kind can get along when they are put in this situation and work together.”
Gary’s ambition to compete in the race didn’t come as a surprise to any family members as they all share a love of the ocean and adventure: “One of my brother’s is a pleasure boater so he thinks that I’m crazy, the other one is climbing Everest so he thinks it’s great. My parents understand because they know that I’ve always loved sailing and my daughter, who is going to be eight in August, is very proud of it and her whole class is going to follow the race. My wife is very kindly going to run the business when I’m not there to take care of that part of our life which is really nice of her.”
Gary is a proud advocate for his island and is chairman of the Nevis Tourist Authority. His luxury restaurant boasts a string of awards, which in turn have attracted a few famous faces, not least of them Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend of rock band The Who. As a result, Gary is using his challenge as way of raising awareness for their Teen Cancer charities.
“Gary is a great friend of mine and I have huge respect for him taking this awe-inspiring challenge,” commented The Who frontman Roger Daltrey CBE, patron of both Teenage Cancer Trust in the UK, and Teen Cancer America in the US. “The Clipper Race is one of the biggest endurance tests in our time. Gary’s ‘Teen Cancer World Challenge’ will help to provide funds for specialist services for young people with cancer in both the UK and America.”
Pete Townshend is a keen sailor and wished Gary and his team well. He said: “Since its inception in 1996 the Clipper Race has been the proving ground for hardened sailors and earnest amateurs alike. Winning the race is not the only objective; just getting the yacht safely around the world – crewed by a whole variety of people under a single skipper – is an objective in itself. But speed is what this is about, and there will be several legs of the race that will be as gruelling as any ocean race ever staged.”
Pete Townshend has been sailing since 1976, and involved with boats since his stint in the Brentford (London) Sea Scouts in 1957. He is a member of the Royal Cornwall Yacht Club and a patron of the National Sailing Academy in Antigua
He added: “Knowing that Gary is planning to exert muscles he never knew he had in support of these charities, I wish him and his crew a safe journey and wonderful companionship. Sail fast! Sail hard! Sail joyfully! Sail safely!”Join The Race