Photo by Manon le Geun

In part one of this interview, I with spoke Peter about finding The Mini World and the broken rudder episode.  In this second part we discuss some of the background of U.S. Patriot Sailing and the work they are doing in that community.


Coop: Back to the beginning, as it were. You found a Mini, bought it, and set the Mini Transat as a goal.

PGN: Yup.

Coop: So, how did your parents take this? “Hey Mum, Dad, I just bought this cool boat and I’m gonna sail it singlehanded from France to the Caribbean. Oh, and the boat is 21 feet long. Whaddya think?”

PGN: My father passed away in 2013, but everyone on his side of the family were sailors. At one point, our boat was tied for the greatest number of Newport Bermuda Races. Mom had started sailing when she met Dad in the early 1980s and ended up doing Annapolis to Bermuda Races and deliveries back from Bermuda. She was not super excited at first, but she did not try and talk me out of it and eventually came around and was very supportive. She came to the start, and to the Azores while I was doing a qualifier and to the finish in Guadeloupe so she was good. She was like “Just hold on, and clip in.”

Coop: Tell me how the Patriot Sailing group became such a big part of your program. Obviously, you’re in Annapolis, a sailor, a U. S. Naval Academy grad, and a Marine that had been in “thick of it,” so you were as well placed as anyone to get involved. How did it fall into place?

PGN: I had been working with Patriot Sailing before the Mini, coaching on the J/22 we have, going sailing with them in Baltimore. I was already involved, and had been thinking about ways to expand awareness of Patriot Sailing to the wider world – to reach more people, help with the funding, and really to make sure more vets know about this program as a resource for them.

When the Mini idea seed landed and germinated, I thought, “This is a good way to get public exposure for Patriot Sailing, a group I had been volunteering with for two years at the time. Three days a week sometimes. And as the COVID restrictions lifted, I was able to get out with the folks and do more one-on-one or -two personalized coaching with them.

Coop: On the Mini?

PGN: (Chuckles) No, I barely knew how to sail this thing myself! [My girlfriend] Jane and I had only sailed her four or five times before she went to France, so no vets. But one of the reasons for bringing it back to Annapolis is to just that this summer.

Coop: Ah, good oh.

PGN: I will be bringing Terminal Leave up the coast this summer too, planning on around early June to be in Newport.

Coop: Well, give me a shout when you arrive. I know a bar…Have you done any crossover work with Warrior Sailing and my mates Ben Poucher, Tim Fetch and Ralfie Steitz?

PGN: Oh yes, but we have slightly different ways of operating. We are based in several cities, and they take their work around the country. They’re doing great things, and we work with them when we can.

Warrior Sailing has set the gold standard for this kind of work. They have great coaches and can teach you to sail in short order. So, you can do the Warrior Sailing, program and learn how to sail in a week. Then we can say, if you are in, Annapolis or Solomons MD or San Diego, you can come sail with Patriot Sailing any time you want. We are set up for a constant touch point, tiller time, always being there. We cannot travel around the country like they do, but together we cover a lot of bases. It works out pretty well. ■

As I write, (Valentine’s Day; Happy Val’s Day to all my lady friends), Patriot Sailing is competing in the Annapolis winter series and the Helly Hansen Sailing World Regatta Series in St. Petersburg, FL.

Also, Ronnie Simpson, another participant in the U.S. Patriot Sailing Program, is likely arriving by ship in Argentina. He was dismasted a few days ago while lying third, behind Cole Brauer (Go, Cole!) in the Global Solo Challenge. In view of all the variables facing him, Ronnie elected to be removed from the boat. Sadly, he reports the boat was scuttled. A harsh experience for any mariner. Bon Courage, mate.

Look for the conclusion of Coop’s conversation with PGN in our April edition.


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