John is Commodore of the Solent Sunbeam class. He tells his story.
“There have been three competing interests in my life outside a professional career: painting, sailing and flying.
“An inspirational art teacher at school was the catalyst to take up a hobby in painting which has given lifelong pleasure.
“The follow up to a chance meeting on a train in 1947 between the School Sea Cadet Officer and a lady passenger was an invitation for my troop to spend 2 weeks learning to sail dinghies at Wootton Creek. The house and sail loft where we slept were owned by a redoubtable pipe-smoking lady, Miss Dorien Smith, a 1930’s Sunbeam sailor herself and aunt to our own well renowned Class Member Ann Philimore. This was my introduction to my second compelling interest.
“Naval training in the handling of motor and sail craft was followed by first racing experience in Firefly dinghies. A return to the Naval College in 1958 as a staff member coincided with the arrival of five new 43-foot Morgan Giles yachts. This opened up opportunities for offshore sailing with cadet crews, my first Cowes Week, followed by an Ocean Race to Santander. Their Lordship’s decision not to fit these yachts with engines certainly encouraged good seamanship and we always managed to berth even in such crowded harbours as Yarmouth IOW.
“This first taste of open water sailing led to many years skippering yachts in RORC races: the North Sea, cross-Channel and the Fastnet race. It was a great time for amateurs, and so different from today’s professionalism, with our off-watch crew asleep in bunks (except for the skipper!).
“Two unusual opportunities came up: firstly a 6-week secondment to the Moray Outward Bound school with sea-time on board a three-masted schooner. Then an invitation arrived to join the training team from which a crew were to be picked for the 1958 America’s Cup in Sceptre. Recalled after six weeks by the Navy shortly before the race saved me the ignominy of crewing Sceptre which lost all five races.
“Retirement brought more time for painting and to hone skills by the traditional method, painting nudes in a life class (The inevitable response from male friends “Grr that must be exciting.” – No, just mentally exhausting!).
“In 1987 my friend Mike Harting inexplicably set off to buy a wooden Dragon and returned from Falmouth with Sunbeam V36 Melody. I joined him in partnership, which was the start of a 31-year-experience which really has been life-changing, sailing a beautiful yacht in competitive races with the enjoyment of a circle of wonderful friends.
“My election as Commodore of the Sunbeam Class was a complete surprise, due I am sure to longevity rather than any particular service to the Class. but nevertheless, a real privilege and a matter of quiet pride”.