my lucky escape

40 Years ago I had my luckiest escape ever in sailing although at the time I was bitterly disappointed.

I read the piece by Brian on the frontpage and he was in the thick of it, I should have been too.

The year before I had navigated HMSTY Chaser, one of the Joint Service’s Nicholson 55s down the North Sea through challenging conditions of wind through half the compass and all the way from a zephyr to a full gale (Beaufort 8 according to my logbook) yet still arrived at destination within 15 minutes of the ETA we had given the Coastguard a day and a half before.

That led to an invitation to navigate the RN Engineering Manadon’s boat in the 1979 Fastnet. A few weeks before the race I had to cry off due to pressures of work and as many know Flashlight lost two overboard, never recovered. Lucky escape or just fate it is impossible to know but for a few weeks afterwards I had the strangest feelings of guilt for not being there which at the time just felt weird but of course now they give fancy titles to like ‘Survivor Syndrome’ or some such. 

I don’t write this to sound grand, I wasn’t. I wasn’t there. We should however never forget incidents like the ’79 Fastnet – or the ’98 Sydney Hobart for that matter. And it was good to see a service of remembrance at a Cowes church Thankfully, for those who sail offshore today, our sport is sensible enough to take these hard earned AND EXPENSIVE lessons and apply them to make our sport safer.

Sail on guys, although many don’t realize it the modern offshore racer owes you a deep debt of gratitude.