How I became a cat sailor

It's Joe here from Joyrider TV. I make catamaran sailing videos that are published on YouTube. The videos are very popular and one of the best resources on the internet for those wanting to learn catamaran sailing, improve their technique, build, repair and tune their boat.
I am the beach manager at Wildwind Sailing Holidays - possibly the best place to go sailing in Europe and almost certainly the best job in the world for any sailing enthusiast!
Full send on my Tornado - Bad Boy 94
Here's how I got to where I am now.
Age 12, we had moved to Felixstowe - a seaside town on the east coast of England. I had really got into skateboarding, like obsessed, it was the only thing that I wanted to do.
I'd got into some trouble at school with the possibility of expulsion hanging, my parents put my bad behaviour down to the skateboarding.
About to take off, Romford Skatepark, London.
TURNING POINT #1
My dad had been a keen yacht sailor and navigator on a competitive racing  yacht, he thought that getting me into sailing might help my attitude and get me involved in something more positive.
My first time sailing, onboard the racing yacht 'Red Dragon'
There was a maths teacher at school - Mike Tehan - he had a Wayfarer dinghy (The Wayfarer is a wooden or fibreglass hulled fractional Bermuda rigged sailing dinghy of great versatility; used for short 'day boat' trips, longer cruises and for racing)
He was teaching students sailing after school and at weekends.
I got taken to Felixstowe Ferry Sailing Club and introduced to Mike, the next day was my first time out on the Wayfarer (wearing jeans and a hoodie - I really didn't have a clue)
I got the feeling for it pretty quickly, and loved being in control of something so big - I quickly got the nickname 'helm hog' in the boat.
In addition to learning on the Wayfarer, my Dad had bought a fibreglass Albacore dinghy - The Black Pig, on which we spent many an eventful weekend sailing in the River Deben.
This continued for at least two years. In that time I found out that there were Dart 18 sailors at the club looking for crew.
I owe a lot to Mike
TURNING POINT #2
I got my first crewing position on a Dart 18 with a good sailor John Marsh for an annual event - Deben Week, this was going to be two days of racing.
John showed me how to trapeze on land before the first day's racing was going to start. For some reason he wanted me to wear a drysuit and lycra stretch suit over the top, although by this point I had my own wetsuit and spray top.
Getting on the Dart for the first time was amazing, there was good wind for that whole weekend so I was out on the wire a lot. The speed was like nothing i'd ever experienced.
After that great experience, I looked for a more regular crewing position, I started sailing with Tim May, another good local sailor. After quite a bit of club racing, I sailed my first open meeting with Tim, what an amazing experience.
About to go for my first time cat sailing
TURNING POINT #3
An advert appeared on the sailing club's for sale/wanted board. A Dart 18, very old but usable for just £400.  I'd been religiously studying the classifieds in my dad's Yachts and Yachting magazines and knew that this was an amazing price for an 18 in any condition - I hadn't seen one for sale for less than a thousand. She had to be mine.
So after a lot of begging, part time jobs and donations from my parents and grandparents I'd got enough money together to buy the Dart, complete with trailer and trolley.
We picked the boat up from the next town, Ipswich, where it was sitting unloved in the back garden, got it home and I set about assembling the boat in the garden.  A lot of land drills at home, tacking, gybing and trapezing. Then I got the boat to the club, built it again and I was off.
One of the incarnations of Dart 18 - 362
At the same time I'd been doing work experience with Parker and Kay sailmakers (now Quantum) at Levington Marina, this was fortunate timing as I was allowed to bring my own sails in to repair - which they seemed to constantly need.
Over the next years I sailed that boat pretty much every single day.  Mostly solo, so I was helming on the trapeze a lot, I had various regular crews over the years for racing.
I replaced pretty much every single part on that boat, I went through five mainsails at least ten jibs, three masts and five hulls!
Years passed, I'd sailed various open meetings, my first Nationals and Worlds - I was there for the 1991 Dart 18 worlds in Abersoch, Wales, over 300 Dart 18s on a single start line, that was a real eye opener.
One of the best results we had around this time was in the first Kent Forts Race, the other competitors couldn't believe that we'd entered in such an old boat, let alone win!
How did I get mine there? A 1975 VW bus
In the summers, on week days I'd started hanging out with a group of ex windsurfers turned Hobie 16 sailors, going for longer day sails to other beaches and drag racing off the beach.
One of the Hobie Sailors (known as the Felixstowe Fat Boys) Nick Meyer, became the eastern dealer for Hobie in the UK, I became his main demo sailor, if people were thinking of buying, I'd take them out.
I hadn't really excelled academically, in my later years at high school my teachers were quite happy for me to bunk off to go sailing if the wind was good.
I stayed on for the 6th form to do A-Levels but I really didn't have a clue of what I wanted to do. When that was over it seemed that the only choice was to go to university, at that would buy me some more time.
My first choice was to go to Plymouth University to study marine biology but fortunately my grade in A-level biology wasn't good enough.
My Dad helping me up the slipway after a solo sail
TURNING POINT #4
I started hunting for what other courses might be suitable.  I found the perfect option. An HND (higher national diploma) in Water Based Leisure Management at Southampton Institute on the south coast.
I got onto the course, along with another hundred and twenty people. The course leaders were Martin Hughes  who was heavily involved in Windsurfing in the UK, and Rob Andrews who was an Olympic sailing coach and now founder of Pro Vela sailing in Spain.
In the opening lecture to all of the students Martin Hughes said ' if it's above a force four, I'm expecting the lecture theatre to be empty' knowing that most of the students were sailors or windsurfers.
While I was at Southampton, I joined Stokes Bay Sailing Club, they had one of the biggest Dart 18 fleets in the UK, each weekend the club racing was more like an open meeting!
On the course at Southampton there were a lot of people who ended up being quite major players in the watersports industry. who I still run into now.
Another version of 362 - one hull was actually two hulls joined together
TURNING POINT #5
Part of the course involved work experience during the summer holidays.
Through Rob's contacts he managed to get me a position at The Laser School/Cat Clinic at Grafham Water.  This was amazing, it was working for Brian Phipps (who wrote 'The Catamaran Book') and my manager was Pat Oxley - many time Dart 15 national champion.
My copy of 'The Catamaran Book' was certainly well used
I worked there for two summers and really learnt how to sail catamarans. This was such a major part in getting the knowledge base that put me on the path.
While I was there I also sailed in my first and only Hobie 16 event - The Youth Europeans, on the south coast of France. The girl who had asked me to sail with her announced once we got there that I would have to be the crew due to insurance.
I was gutted, I spent the event teaching her and sailing around the course by remote control.  Possibly one of the more frustrating experiences.
I crewed for Brian Phipps in the 1994 East Coast Piers race on a Dart 6000.  It was my first time sailing a catamaran  where the crew took the main sheet  and that had a spinnaker.
We won the first day and in the main event, a port flyer turned into a capsize and a snapped mast.
I learnt a lot though.
With my long standing crew - Chris Henry - we got up to some crazy stuff
TURNING POINT #6
One evening at Southampton Institute I got talking to a windsurfer who'd been working in Vassiliki. He said to me the words that changed everything "If you like cat sailing, you HAVE TO go to Wildwind"
And that was it. I applied and got turned down.
After my third application,  I was invited for an interview with then manager Rich Davenport, on the Guinness stand at the Earls Court Boat Show in London.
The phone call to say that I had the job was massive. I couldn't believe it.
Coming to Greece for the first time was amazing, when I arrived it turned out that we had a four man team working on the beach,  Big Rich - Manager, Big Joe - allrounder and assistant manager, Little Rich - windsurf instructor and Little Joe (me) - cat sailor.
I certainly got a lot of hours in on the Tiger, right from the start
Needless to say, I did a lot of sailing, all day every day.  It happened to be also the first year of the Hobie Tiger and Wildwind had one of the first boats.
I was appointed Hobie Tiger Specialist and soon, that was all that I was sailing, all wind conditions, helming, crewing, teaching, racing. I knew the boat inside out. I even starred in the Promo Video!
By the time that the first world championships came around I probably had spent more time Tiger Sailing than anyone else.
Unfortunately for me, Mitch Booth, one of the most successful cat sailors of all time, had been employed by Hobie to sail the Tiger and was at the event, giving the other competitors advice on the techniques that it had taken me years to work out on my own.
1st Tiger Worlds sailing with Adrien Willmott
We didn't win.
In the early years at Wildwind as well as Tiger sailing I was also sailing the 16s, but only when it was too windy for the Tiger - I was regularly reminded not to break it.
After a few years Wildwind took over as the UK importer for Hobie. I was employed in the off season to man the phone and put together parts orders. This gave me more knowledge about Hobie parts and the different boats.
What a fleet!

TURNING POINT #7
Although not directly related to cat sailing, in the year 2000, I spent three months in Cape Town , South Africa, windsurfing, surfing, eating steak and drinking red wine. This was a real step forward, now living back to back summers.
I loved my time in Cape Town so much that I ended up living there for twelve (European) winters in a row. As well as becoming a competent windsurfing wave sailor I learnt how to kite surf up to a pretty good level.
I certainly did more than my fair share of windsurfing in Cape Town
The only cat sailing that I did in South Africa was the 2008 Hobie Tiger Worlds in Langabaan, just to the north of Cape Town. This was the first event that I sailed with long time crew and right hand man, Marko Reynolds.
Over the years, there weren't so many major turning points, just a heck of a lot of sailing, windsurfing and kitesurfing. I'd become beach manager at Wildwind, I didn't want the position but it came to a time that It made too much sense as i'd been there for so long.
Start line of the Langabaan Worlds
TURNING POINT #8
It was actually at my parents home in Felixstowe that the videos started.
My long time friend Spencer Horton, came round to the house with a camcorder and a look in his eye. It was blowing a gale and he suggested that on the kitesurfer I tried jumping the Felixstowe spit (a shingle bank into a small lagoon) while he filmed it.
Of  course, I couldn't refuse. My first time doing any crazy stunts for the camera.
After that he helped me set up my Youtube channel (the same one) and uploaded the video. I was immediately into the whole thing, I got my own camera and filmed everything.
One of the guys that  I was windsurfing with in Cape Town - Simon Hurrey, showed me how to edit movies using imovie on the Mac - so I had to buy a Mac.
We certainly travelled in style in South Africa

TURNING POINT #9
In 2012 we hosted the first ever Vassiliki Watersports Festival, within that event there was a cat sailing regatta with there being 1000 euros prize money on the table for first place.
This money attracted olympic silver medalists and Tornado world champions - Dany Paschalidis and Kostas Trigonis. We raced against them in Tigers, they were so giving and helpful. After the first race, we rafted up and they gave us some advice, in the second race we beat them!  We finished that event with a score of 2 to us 4 to them, so they took the prize and split it with us.
That prize money gave us the means to go to lake Garda for our first Tornado World Championships, at which we borrowed Dany and Kostas' number 2 boat. That was a great experience, after that I was hooked on Tornado racing.
Onboard the 2nd Red Bull boat at the Tornado Worlds
TURNING POINT #10
Over the years at Wildwind i'd had to ban myself from sailing Hobie 16s in the strong wind as I was breaking on average about one rudder blade per week.
This was actually quite a blessing as it meant I spent a lot more time sailing the Tiger and Tornado in really strong winds which were more suited to the 16.
The actual turning point was in 2015 when Hobie Europe launched the EPO3 rudder blades.
We bought 12 for our fleet of 16s.
It was like the locked door had been opened, I was allowed out again and compared to the bigger boats, the 16 was so easy to manage in the strong winds, less load, less going on, so much fun.
Sending it on a 16 became a daily activity

I quickly became addicted to sailing the 16 in the strong wind.
A few years ago I got my first GPS watch and started getting addicted to going for big speeds. It took me years to finally break 25 knots. That was a wild ride!
VIDEO TURNING POINTS
The first video that really got a following was High Speed Sailing at Wildwind - looking at it now the quality is terrible but back then it seemed pretty good. The next one and still the most viewed was High Wind Laser Sailing - 18 knots - Rob Spencer out sailing in a massive amount of wind.
I started making some maintenance videos, the most significant was the rudder tuning video which is still viable nine years later!
Then the one that really changed Joyrider TV from being just a bit of fun to a global community was when the guys from Yachts and Yachting came out to write an article. They wanted to make a series of movies. We put several cameras on a Hobie Tiger and Marko and I went out and gave her some juice around the course in 25 knots.
From that footage I made a whole series of Tiger videos.
Out filming the Tiger tutorial series

It was actually June 2nd 2018 when I videoed a joyride on a 16 with Esther (a long standing dutch customer at Wildwind) during that video a lot of my talking came through in the video. Once posted, the response from the viewers was very much 'we like this, make videos like this'
For the next video two weeks later I sailed with one of our instructors Charlotte, three cameras on the boat, It was the first time when I was deliberately narrating what I was doing. The response was huge.
So that was the birth of this format.
Show us your cat! has become a series that has really united the global cat sailing community. This came about from when Hawaiian 16 sailor Will Westervelt send me a video of his 16. I thought ' people need to see this'
and now here we are almost at episode 100 after having featured over 300 boats.
Will's Tequila Sunrise Hobie 16 that started the series

OTHER TURNING POINTS
I gave up smoking in 2002, I still see that as one of the biggest achievements in my life.
I got married to Karen in 2011. That was fairly significant. Then our son Harry was born in 2013,  that's been a wild ride! Maybe this year he'll start loving the speed on a 16.
The next generation!