Sometime early summer of 1987 an advert appeared in Yachts and Yachting for a youth training scheme based in a sailing school. Not having distinguished himself very well in the world of academia, Ben Curtis' parents encouraged him to set off on a bicycle to Hamble Point Marina to see Westerly Sea School, at that time a subsidiary of Westerly Yachts, a focus on training, but with some racing and corporate entertainment too. The chief instructor at the school, one Alison Noice, proved to be a fine role model for getting a job done properly.
Westerly Sea School agreed a placement for Ben with the £28.50 a week pay that all YTS kids were paid.
Given the chance to mess about in a marina all day, fixing boats, moving boats, sailing boats (and not to mention more than a fair share of unblocking toilets), Ben was in his element.
The school ran its own fleet, in the early days, eleven Fulmars, all with musical names, Sonata, Lullaby, Prelude, Nocturne, Symphony, Rhapsody, Bolero, Melody, Tango, Concerto and Overture with a Sealord called Serenade.
Later, the fleet of Fulmars were replaced with 12 boats, the same eleven names plus Cantata.
There were also a handful of other Westerlies, privately owned, that were managed by the school, more for charter than training, Electric Storm sail number 1, another Storm, a Corsair, an Oceanlord, A Falcon to name but a few.
Looking after this fleet through the season, then undertaking their winter refit, Ben acquired an indepth knowledge of the boats, knowledge that he's still got