Salvation Army team ready the sails for iconic Isle of Wight race to raise money for victims of slavery

published on 7 Jun 2018

Fundraiser Isle of Wight Yacht Race

Four men connected to The Salvation Army in Tunbridge Wells are set to take on one of the world’s largest yacht races raising funds through sponsorship for the church and charity’s work tackling the serious crime of modern slavery both in the UK and in Poland.

Robert Banks, Hamish McKeown, Christopher Hunt and church leader Captain Graeme Smith have formed Team Matuta and will join around 1,000 other cruising boats in the Round the Island Race circumnavigating 50 nautical miles around the Isle of Wight on 7th July.

The four friends whose ages range between 40 and 50 years decided to take on the challenge less than a year ago despite only one of them having previous sailing experience.

Dentist Robert Banks, who owns the five berth yacht Matuta has been sailing for about 15 years and is Team Matuta’s Skipper, said: “Round the Island Race is a challenge I have always wanted to take on.  My brother and sister–in-law are church leaders for The Salvation Army in Poland which is known as Armia Zbawienia in Polish and they have told me about the work they are involved in supporting anti-human trafficking there and I know about similar work by our organisation in the UK.  The decision to form a team with Graeme, Hamish and Chris was easy really as everyone was eager to take on the race.  We all knew this was the cause we wanted to raise money for. 

“The race will likely take our team up to twelve hours of hard physical labour to complete, but we will undoubtedly enjoy our day at sea with the end in sight and a warm welcome from our friends and families. This is in sharp contrast to the people we are trying to help who often cannot see the end of the difficult situations they find themselves in. People trafficked across the oceans of the world often end up in modern slavery and forced into another form of exploitation such as servitude or compulsory labour. All the money we raise through this race will enable The Salvation Army to carry on its excellent work raising awareness and supporting those who find themselves victims of modern slavery.”

During their training, the team have had to battle with extreme weather conditions, including three inches of snow and ice, scorching sunshine and gale force seven winds.

The Salvation Army’s church leader in Tunbridge Wells, Captain Graeme Smith adds: “I first went out on the yacht in May although Rob has been training us on land for some time now.  I can’t swim so there’s been a lot to learn to ensure we are all safe at sea as well as getting to grips with all the important nautical terms and how to control the yacht.  It’s physically hard work and I have definitely got fitter through the training - I took up running earlier this year which has helped my overall fitness.  Sailing is something I have always wanted to do but never have had the opportunity.  I’ve recently discovered that two of my distant relatives were admirals in the Royal Navy, so you could say sailing is in my blood - some have even joked that we could form The Salvation Navy!” 

The Salvation Army provides specialist support for potential adult victims of modern slavery and human trafficking via a UK government contract.  A 24-hour Victim Referral Helpline is available seven days a week - 0300 303 8151 - and offers immediate access to specialised support, such as counselling, interpretation services, legal and immigration advice, medical and financial assistance and safe house accommodation if needed.

Visit their Just Giving page to support them, and find more information about the race here.