I’ve been “messing about in boats“ since I was about 6 years old. I’m British & naturalised Swiss, live in the Swiss Alps in Laax, and have the good fortune to use my professional qualifications on my own yacht, Cloud Nine, based in the Ionian. I’m a commercially-endorsed Yachtmaster Offshore, RYA Cruising Instructor, Shorebased Instructor & Senior Dinghy Instructor. I also hold the Swiss inland waterways tickets for both sail & motor. When I’m not on the water or teaching theory, I earn my crust as a translator and interpreter. And as a sanity check I play tenor saxophone in the Swan Big Band in Horgen – this is my 18th year as a member!
I didn’t start sailing until the advanced age of 7 but I love the feel of the wind in my face. I’m a giant schnauzer, a low-allergenic breed, which means my fur doesn’t shed. In winter I love bumbling and burrowing in the snow at home in Laax. In summer I love visiting my friends in the various tavernas around the Ionian and if I’m lucky, Yianna in Sivota always saves me a sausage. The skipper tells me they always miss me if I’m not on board and ask where I am, but I don’t let it go to my head. I have the honour of being the only person ever to fall off the plank between the boat and the shore. I’m 12 now and if I can sail, anyone can – although I’m not sure I always get it quite right!
I’m a Staffordshire lad, and grew up on the edge of the UK’s Peak District. I spent over 25 years in the rat race then did my first ski season at the age of 43. After 2 seasons in France, I moved to Switzerland in 2012 after Emma & I became reacquiainted, and more. In the winter I run my own business as a handyman and ski host based in Laax. My practical skills come in very useful on Cloud Nine too! I’m an RYA dinghy instructor and have spent years sailing yachts in the Ionian with Emma. We have sailing the boat two-handed down to a fine art and to keep both the skipper and our guests happy, I make sure we don’t run out of coffee, beer, snacks or G&T. My eggy bread is famous!
Our motto – Rediscover Life in the Slow Lane – tells you everything you need to know about our philosophy. Once upon a time, the human race followed the pace of the seasons and mother nature. Technological advances are a wonderful thing, but they have increased the pace of modern life to a level that we were finding completely frenetic. We were also seeing so many of our friends and acquaintances struggling with the demands of trying to fit unrealistic amounts of activity into every day. And we realized that even if they were not in a position to achieve a lifestyle with a more natural pace as we fortunately were, at least we were in a position to give them the opportunity to do so for a week or two – for a lifetime.
What & where
We’ve been encouraging people – and giving them the tools – to slow down since 2013. Given our philosophy, we appreciated that people’s holiday entitlement from work was far too precious to waste just sitting in a classroom, so we give them the chance to do the theory side of their internationally-recognised RYA qualifications at the weekend, right here in Switzerland, in central Zurich.
On the practical side, we do almost all of our sailing in the Mediterranean. By heading to Greece for a week or more, our guests get the time to wind down and really get away from it all – quite literally, in the deserted bays you can only reach by boat. For those taking qualifications – to make that lifetime of a week or two possible – you not only have time to focus properly without the distractions of everyday life, but you get a really great holiday to boot. The wind, weather and warm water are all much more reliable – and the Mediterranean mindset matches our philosophy!
As a professional linguist, I used to offer a specialist language service to help expats find their feet in Switzerland. Back in 2012 we exhibited at an Expo in Zurich to pitch this service and thought we’d float the idea of offering sailing too. It was just a bit of an afterthought, really, but we got 30 times more sign-ups for sailing than for language help. When the universe tells you something, you should listen – and we did.
How it all
Why the name
It’s a question we’re always asked: what does the YSL in your name stand for? Nothing to do with a French fashion designer, I take it? Well….
The prosaic story: my expat language service was called Your Swiss Lifeline. When we saw which way the wind was blowing, I realized we needed to build a website, fast, and needed a name just as quickly. With no time to be clever, we simply took the initials of Your Swiss Lifeline, put the word Sail in front of them…. Et voilà!
The more romantic story: it stands for Sail Your Slow Lane. It’s another example of the universe sending us a message – from a utilitarian quick-fix name to incorporating our (independently-developed) philosophy.