James Crill of the Jubilee Sailing Trust on why he became a trustee

A present from his wife inspired him to join the board

James Crill
James Crill

About 20 years ago, James Crill received a birthday present from his wife that would have a big impact on his later career. "It was a trip from Liverpool to Glasgow on a ship called Lord Nelson," he recalls. "It was interesting and enjoyable – but, more importantly, it was the first time I'd encountered the work of the Jubilee Sailing Trust, a charity of which I would become chair a long time afterwards."

The trust offers people with disabilities the chance to be part of mixed ability crews sailing on two specially built ships, Lord Nelson (whose maiden voyage was in 1986) and Tenacious (2000). More than 36,000 people – about a third of them with disabilities – have now sailed on them.

About four years ago, Crill – a partner at a Jersey-based law firm – was asked by the charity's then chief executive to help out with its business plans. "Within months, I was asked to be a trustee of the charity, a role I'd not previously carried out, although I was an honorary legal adviser to the Jersey Wildlife Trust," he says.

The experience has been more intense than he expected, he says – especially because he has had to fill in as executive chair while a new chief executive is being sought. He feels the board's more corporate direction is important. "If you don't run a charity as a business, you suffer," he says. "So we've taken a remarkable charity and put it in a better business position. We've made it more corporate – for example, we have brought in new levels of technology, such as our booking system, which is now nearly all online."

The charity now has fundraising and marketing teams, and is extending its activities abroad. For example, last October it took a ship to Sydney, Australia – a good opportunity for a charity that tends to suffer in winter. "It was a bold decision, but it transformed the mindset of the charity from 'this is what we do' to 'this is what we can do'," he says.

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