Isle of Wight based Brit Jules Salter is a Volvo Ocean Race winning navigator who clocked up his fourth participation on the last edition sailing with AkzoNobel. The round the world race may have been his pinnacle challenge but the quiet, super smart, highly respected Salter has lost nothing of his enduring passion for being on the ocean. As he tells Tip & Shaft here, he rises to and enjoys every kind of challenge, from Tuesday night racing on a Sonar on the Solent, sailing in the evergreen quarter ton class to winning the TP52 World Championship on Platoon, and winning the 2010 TP52 MedCup with Emirates Team New Zealand. This week he had his first real experience of racing two handed offshore when he sailed to third on the SunFast 3300 Leyton in the IRC two handed class on the 428 nautical miles Drheam Cup, racing with Henry Bomby. There was even time to reminisce about his favourite ever team win, the Barlo Plastics’ Tour de France a la Voile triumph which happened twenty years ago next weekend. Salut…
Why the Drheam Cup Jules and how did it come about? How was it?
It came up quite late on. Henry Bomby got in touch and said did I fancy doing it. I have seen him out practising in the Solent quite a lot and bumped into him on the dock and we chatted on the Volvo when we were both on different boats. I have helped him a bit with the navigation stuff and told him how I would approach it. I learned a lot from him about how they do the small boat short handed stuff so it was really interesting.
Is this a passing interest or a route you see yourself going down for personal satisfaction or professional reasons?
Obviously there is a lot going on at the moment. I have seen a lot of this style of boat starting to sail in the Solent more. There was a big double handed fleet out front of my bedroom window the other day, a JOG race I think, and having not seen any boats on the Solent for so long, to suddenly see 80 boats really piques your interest, also I have a couple of friends who are buying the SunFast 3300, they are going to do the Fastnet and things like that. It seems to be the thing now and that is a great. Anything that gets people out on the water sailing in the UK, keelboat sailing for younger people and older people and get some good racing going,
So a possible pro avenue?
Either or both, it could be either. I would happily go sailing with someone who would like to learn on races like that. But there are good long offshore and coastal races, these boats have many purposes, they can be used on all different types of racing. Right now it is hard to get bigger boats and bigger racing in the Solent. People are now talking about getting the Admiral’s Cup going again and you need offshore boats to do that, and there is a strong interest in France for this kind of sailing and the Olympics double handed thing will raise interest in this size of boat for the next five or six years at least. So it makes sense to have a look at it, for sure.
How was the race and your evaluation of how you did?
It was a typical jaunt around the Channel, lots of tide and three or four transitions. It was interesting racing in IRC class as there are horses-for-courses a little bit. We did not have S (symmetric) sails, just A (asymmetric) sails and half the race was VMG running and you learn things about certain wind strengths the A sail design we have works really well but you are limited in other areas. So trying to create an inventory which fits all purposes is an interesting thing to develop. I think the boat I sailed on they are still on first generation sails and Henry has clear ideas where he wants to go, we have some serious thoughts on that. It is general, standard stuff. You consider when you sail maxi boats, round the world boats, everything, you are looking at what sails you use on what legs and where you are prepared to compromise, how you manipulate the crossovers so you have the ability to do most things. Then with IRC there is where you sit the boat on the rating. Are you prepared to take a little risk. It is good to be thinking about those things again.
Do you have aspirations to get into Olympic offshore in some capacity?
Of course. But it is all about that thing of having the right people, the right team with you, the funding. It is racing in the area I enjoy working in and so I am interested, it is great.
How was the SunFast 3300?
It is a nice boat. We had 25-26kts downwind across Lyme Bay and the boat got up and went, there was spray everywhere and it was quite exciting, the boat is good and reaches well. We kept moving all the time, you could get it going in the light stuff in the transitions. It is physically harder work in a lot of wind, in big seas upwind, but small boats are like that if you are more used to sailing bigger boats. There are plenty of boats to race against, the JPK French boats are very nice to sail, every boat has its strong and weak points. It would be better if they are one design, I was enviously looking at the Figaros, handicap racing is very good if it is well monitored and smaller box rules are placed, and everyone has time to gravitate towards the same area of the box. You can get very competitive racing boat-for-boat even with different designers and different sails, different budgets still you can get very, very close racing.
What are your thoughts in The Ocean race postponement?
With the pandemic everything is up in the air, but the race is still in a very strong position. It is a brilliant offshore team race, it tests people, it is global. There is in an existing class of boat there and the IMOCA 60s are developing at such a rate, if people can get the budgets together that is going to provide a fascinating side of the sport where it is developing so quickly. I guess they need more time to get more teams beyond those who are already out there working hard to do it.
Has the pandemic maybe delayed a race that was already happening too fast for the number of IMOCA teams with the potential to be on the start line. Now there is more time and a better opportunity with clear ‘daylight’ after the Vendée Globe?
I am still not sure how it fits the IMOCA programme and obviously a lot of companies have huge re-evaluations of their global and national sponsorships. I am not an expert but there are plenty of them out there and that is what I hear. But there is always the underlying messages of how important our environment is and The Ocean Race does provide an excellent way to tell people and show people what is going on in our oceans which is very important. Many companies and individuals want to do something about it, which is good. And the other thing is that the world has changed I think there will be individuals who think ‘well why not do it’, you only get one life so get out and do exciting things like that. The race is unique and it is where people want to go and change their lives.
You want to be involved in The Ocean Race again?
Yes. I still love being on the ocean and doing stuff. You never know how it fits you circumstances at the time, but these are big projects and there are many ways to be involved, whether you are younger or older, experienced or inexperienced, there are all sorts of levels, you don’t always have to be on the boat. Any team is not just about the sailors, it is how the whole team works. And so if you can provide value then you are a valued team member. Anyone would take any role in these teams on a well run project. I would love to sail and it is frustrating when you don’t sail. But we will see how things shape up nearer the time.
Have you spoken to teams?
I had some loose conversations with some people about how they would do it, details about how the 65s were sailed a few general chats but nothing specific.
Has the IMOCA been good for the race, the right boat at the right time?
It is hard because they are such complicated beasts, but the race is about development and pushing the sport forwards as well. I have not sailed a foiling IMOCA yet, I would hope to in the near future, but I have seen them close up and they are amazing machines. But ultimately it is still a sailing programme, you have to campaign it well, you have to have a good sailing team, the boat has to be well maintained and developed, all your people need to be good, you need a good sail programme, weather and navigation has to be good. In the end it is a platform for all these systems and processes to be applied to.
The course seems to be at odds with the course which maybe the IMOCAs had hoped for, stretching budgets out of reach of the ‘average’ IMOCA team?
Historically when it was the Whitbread and the Volvo there were always races within the race, and it is a hard event to win, so you maybe don’t expect to win it at your first go. Typically first go is an experience building thing, if that makes it too expensive or not I don’t know. But there is really good scope for some excellent racing and big challenges given that you might not win. And you never, ever know with that race, something unexpected always happens. When you are on the start line you always have a chance.
What other sailing interests do you have right now?
Being at home these past months has been great to be with the family, luckily we live in Gurnard near Cowes on the Solent, so getting the kids sailing at the local sailing club has been good, getting the windsurfing gear out again has been good, sailing a Shadow catamaran at Gurnard, and then work wise trying to see what will start up. I think now everyone is pushing everything back to next year and looking at a clean start. I am still hoping for some Classic yacht racing in France in the Autumn and there will be some UK racing into the Autumn. And if it is a warm winter there is no reason why we can’t sail on through.
You still enjoy such a broad range of interests, rain, snow or sun you are still on the Solent every chance you get?
Yes. I still love sailing and every opportunity I get to try things I am out there, whether it is getting back into Etchells, a big X Boat fleet racing in Cowes I’ll try and do that, I will buy my own X Boat and do that, you don’t write anything off. It is just good to be out on the water. And if I am around home a bit more it is good to be able to help people get out sailing and enjoying it.
Do you really strive to keep improving and correspondingly was winning the Volvo you at the top of the game or have you sailed better and not won?
Experience is key but you have to stay fit. You are always learning. For sure you can have very, very good legs on the Volvo and not win, sometimes it can be harder to win a TP52 regatta than it is to win an ocean race, to win a Channel race or harder to win an Island Sailing Club Tuesday night race on a Sonar with your mates. You still enjoy it and want to do it. And you are always learning.
So next weekend is the 20 year anniversary of the famous Barlo Plastics Tour de France victory.
Yes, it was nice that it came back to me doing this race as we passed places we did on the different legs and it was good to speak with Henry about it because he has done so much Figaro legs, so we were talking about some of the places we had been into and it is 20 years since we won. But when we talk together a lot of it still see it as our most favourite event ever. We were and still are all good mates. Morty and Ado (Peter Morton and Adrian Stead) put a really good campaign together it was all our favourite people we had sailed with together at the same time on the same boat on a great race track. It is such a shame that race in that form does not exist anymore. France is beautiful with wonderful scenery and testing waters and it was done by pro teams, semi pro teams, universities, town and city teams, there was another good British team which pushed us hard at the start and maybe gave us the edge. The Barlo Plastics was a great time and we are going to have a 20 year reunion soon. France is great for racing. And that idea for the Drheam Cup is a great one with different classes using the same infrastructure, it was big for the Figaro, the IRC classes, the Ultimes, it could be a RORC race so maybe in the UK they could try something similar.
What about the future for the TP52s and 52 SUPER SERIES?
They are such refined racing boats with really, really good racing I hope they come back strongly next year. It is brilliant racing, it is very healthy for the sport as a whole as it gets a lot of people out there on the water, it is a target for people to aim at and it all filters down. It is achievable but people need to work hard at to do it, but the whole package is very good, the media is good, it is a regular, annual circuit with a 20 history for the class in the Med and coming up ten years for the Super Series, Cup teams drop in and out, who knows what will happen depending who wins the Cup.
Photo : Maxime Horlaville / polaRYSE / Leyton