Alvah Simon's Blog - The Jackson two

23:37, Aug 26 2012
Alvah Simon
Vicky and Tom Jackson have clocked up over 170,000 nautical miles on their Sparkman and Stevens designed Sunstone.

This is a cruising blog, so I normally try to leave the racing topics to the need-for-speed type of writers. My racing experience consists of one race where, nearing the start line, the skipper of an expensive and ever so delicate go-fast machine shouted at me "Starboard!" To which I replied, "Steel!" He tacked off.

But then comes along those select sailors that blur the borders between the two disciplines and I am forced to foray into the unknown. Tom and Vicky Jackson do more than blur those borders, they demolish them. That is because they have cruised so extensively and have written about it so prolifically that they have become something approaching icons in the British and American sailing press. Remember the famous Hall Roth title "After Fifty Thousand Miles" and the depth of experience that title suggested? Since they cut the cord in England in 1997 they have logged in excess of 170,000 miles on their S&S designed centerboard sloop Sunstone.

But before they tossed in their jobs to cruise full time (Tom as principal of Portsmouth College and Vicky as Assistant Dean in the Faculty Of Social Science at the Southampton Institute) they aggressively campaigned Sunstone, amassing awards too numerous to list here. As an example, they have won First in Class in five of the eight Fastnet races they have entered and once won the classic Channel Race overall against the entire Admirals Cup Fleet of far more modern and supposedly superior vessels.

Now there's a challenge - to design anything superior to the gifted hand of Olin Stephens. Sunstone was a development on his famous Finisterre design. He deepened the hull and added a sloop rig, but more importantly changed the underwater profile to a fin keel and skeg. The results, the beautifully varnished hull aside, are stunning both in performance and sea-keeping abilities, as Tom and Vicky proved by winning the 2008 Around The North Island race and taking leg honors in the longest and roughest leg this year's Around New Zealand Race. That on top of an IMS C Division win in the Sydney Hobart Race says it all.

They have lived aboard Sunstone since 1981, so this is truly their one and only home. But they don't hesitate to dismantle that home if they get the slightest whiff of a chance to compete. They have raced in seventeen different countries.

Vicky says, "We spend a lot of our time converting the boat into race mode or back to cruising. For a race we remove up to two tons of equipment- books, anchors, boom crotch, bow roller, dinghy, food, spares."


As to which of the two is more competitive, Tom says, "Well, we seem to push each other on. We are a team."

And a special team at that, in cruising, racing, and life I might add, for they have been married for forty years, living together in a confined space under conditions harsh enough to test any relationship. And still they shine when together.

Regarding their future, New Zealand is now their home base and they hope to get one leg ashore via a property here. They feel that perhaps both they and the boat are getting a little old for the extreme long distance racing but will certainly be seen on the starting lines of more local regattas. Their cruising plans remain ambitious and far a-field with a special interest in Alaska and British Columbia.

They obviously sail well, write beautifully, and speak with authority and passion, as they will on Friday night, August 31 at the Richmond Yacht Club in Westhaven Marina. They will be presenting Circling The Pacific On Sunstone, focusing on Micronesia, Japan, and the Aleutian Islands.

The event is open to the public. If you would like the $15 dinner before the show for catering purposes the club would appreciate it if you booked ahead by Tuesday, August 28th. The bar opens at 6:00, meals at 6:30, and the talk starts at 7:30. Contact the Richmond Yacht Club at 09 376 4332 or e-mail:

See you there. For more extensive information on Tom and Vicky Jackson and Sunstone go to their website -

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