"I know I won't win" says PBO columnist and charity challenger Dave who wants to be nominated for Yachtsman of the Year to ram home the message that cost is no barrier to getting afloat.

An “evangelist” small boat sailor battling a rare nerve disorder wants to be nominated for Yachtsman of the Year to draw attention to the decline in yachting and ram home the message that cost is no barrier to getting afloat.

Dave Selby’s solo initiative, called Marlin’s Mission, named after his 18ft Sailfish, involved sailing his small 40-year-old boat 338 miles to to put his boat on show at the Southampton Boat Show. The thrust of Marlin’s Mission is to engage with non sailors by creating awareness of the ever-growing fleet of good, small, old fibre-glass boats that are getting cheaper all the time.

Dave, 57, said: ‘I know I won’t win, but the elitist yachting establishment is not getting the message across. There’s a fixation with medals that doesn’t resonate with the wider world.’

Dave Selby with a trophy

Dave Selby with a trophy

A survey by market researchers Arkenford revealed the number of people involved in yacht cruising fell from 315,000 in 2005 to 253,000 in 2015. Yacht ownership has also fallen from 67,491 in 2010-12 to 58,110 in 2013-15.

Dave, from Maldon, Essex, added: ‘That’s nothing short of dramatic. We’re supposed to be a maritime nation. I know sailing transforms lives. The fact is that for a very modest outlay a small cruiser can give you holidays of a lifetime for a lifetime. Ordinary people don’t know that.’

Dave, who has a rare viral condition called Guillain-Barré Syndrome, completed his voyage in a little over two months, as weather, time and health allowed, raising over £5000 for www.gaincharity.org.uk, which funds research and supports those with this rare illness.

He said: ‘I have an even rarer variant which means the messages simply stop getting through to my legs. They packed up twice along on the way and each time I spent three days in hospital where antibodies from the blood of 800 donors restored them. Humbling!’

He says he was inspired and encouraged by those he met along the way who had managed to stay afloat despite far greater obstacles. ‘Disability is no barrier,’ he added. ‘At times I feel more stable and able on water than I do on land. It’s simple, I just want to share everything that sailing has to give.’

Nominations for the prestigious Yachting Journalists’ Association awards are open to the public and close on 16 October. To nominate go to www.boats.com/nominate. You can follow Dave’s story on twitter @ImpracticalBoat and facebook.com/impracticalboatowner and support his charity drive at www.justgiving.com/Dave-Selby-Marlins-Mission.