From Bridlington Bay to Blup Blup Island

The One DLL boat, which is skippered by Olly Cotterell
The One DLL boat, which is skippered by Olly Cotterell

After spending many summers sailing in Bridlington as a child, Olly Cotterell is now skipper of the boat leading the famous Clipper Round The World Yacht Race.

Blup Blup Island sounds like somewhere from a children’s book.

Olly Cotterell

Olly Cotterell

It is actually off the north coast of Papua New Guinea, and although it sounds remote, global technology means you can email from there, even when you are sat on a boat drifting at sea.

Olly Cotterell is skipper of one of 12 boats in the Clipper Round The World Yacht race, but unusually for such a challenging race, he is leading a diverse team of amateur sailors from a variety of countries.

But he spent many summers in his childhood in Bridlington, honing his sailing skills with members of the Royal Yorkshire Yacht Club.

And from the other side of the world, with his boat moving at 1.5 knots having been at a frustrating standstill just 15 minutes earlier, he took time out from the latest leg of the race to email the Free Press about his memories of Bridlington.

Cotterell said: “A highlight for me was always Regatta week.

“It was one of the busiest times at the club and Bridlington bay came alive with yachts, both from the club itself and visiting yachts.

“The racing was always close and I particularly enjoyed having a picnic on the yachts afterwards.”

Crispin Blyth, treasurer at RYYC, played a key role in Cotterell’s development.

He said: “Olly was brought up in the West Indies and lived on a yacht for a few years, so he learned sailing from a very young age.

“He came to the UK to school in Edinburgh when, I think, he was about 10, and that is how I became involved. I was his guardian while he was in the UK.

“He sailed a number of Yorkshire One Designs with whoever was around when he came to Bridlington in his school holidays, until he left school at 18, when he went to work for the UK Sailing Academy at Cowes.

“Olly went on to be a professional yachtmaster and applied for the job as one of the skippers in the round-the-world race. There are only 12 boats and hundreds of people applied so it is quite an achievement.

“He is a big lad, confident and obviously good with people. He was quite clearly very good at sailing from a young age. You can tell when you take youngsters sailing if they are going to get it or not, and he was very good.”

Cotterell believes that his experiences in Bridlington have helped to shape his career, which has taken him all over the world doing a range of jobs.

He said: “My family, on my mother’s side, has a long members history of the RYYC.

“I remember as a child being shown pictures of my grandfather, who sadly I never met, as he started races from the North Pier.

“I always found the RYYC to be a very welcoming club. Lots of people will come up and have a conversation with you even as a new face.

“While I have been a member since I was a child I have often lived far away from the club. Whenever I returned to do some racing I was welcomed as if I had hardly been away.

“Most of my racing at the club has been on the Yorkshire One Design. I sailed with a number of members but mainly with my Godfather Crispin Blyth and his mother Lesley Berry.

“This racing was actually going to be a very valuable part of my application to be a Clipper Race skipper.

“I think it is fair to say that many members at the club shaped my sailing career and ambitions but a big thanks must go to Dick Saltonstall who coached me through my yachtmaster course at UKSA.”

Born in Bermuda, Cotterell completed his commercial yachtmaster course at the UK Sailing Academy in 2008 and went on to become an instructor at Cowes for a couple of years.

Despite all his experience, he is convinced that without his time in Bridlington, he would have struggled to get the position in charge of the One DLL boat.

“The truth is that I was mainly a cruising sailor. My family enjoyed cruising and I did not do much racing other that that at the RYYC.

“Racing at the RYYC whetted my appetite and as a result I got involved in more racing in the Solent.

“To become a Clipper Race skipper you had to have racing experience. For me this was the biggest hole in my sailing CV. As you would expect this to come up in interview.

“I think talking passionately about racing Yorkshire One Designs in Bridlington bay and how much I loved regatta week at the RYYC must have had an effect.”