just super

Superdocious, surely one of the most recognizable and recognized names in Olympic sailing history and now the title of a new biography of her skipper and triple Olympic medalists, Rodney Pattison.

Supercalifragalisticexpialodocious, of course taken from the film Mary Poppins, was Pattison’s first Olympic Flying Dutchman class dinghy, one of the first such class of boats that could actually plane upwind. Many will recognize her sail plan as the logo of Musto sailing gear to this day, in fact Keith Musto was one of Pattison’s main rivals to actually get to the Olympics in the first place.

Born in Scotland and often wrongly claimed as a Scottish Olympian, Rodney Pattison’s long sailing career encompassed the International Cadet as a youth, three Olympics where he medaled each time, the early days of high performance multihulls and the America’s Cup.

Known as someone who pushed the rules to the limit (but never broke them) his level of pre-regatta preparedness was always meticulous as was his consciousness of the need for fair play evidenced by his decades long fight to have the unjust exclusion of his crew from the same level of national honor bestowed, without exception, on every British Olympic Gold Medal winner, a fight he eventually won.

Clearly he rattled a few feathers along the way which he touches on in the book and it was interesting to read of his impact on the improvements made to the judging and umpiring of our sport and details of a number of incidents where fair play wasn’t as it should be.

An interesting read, laid out rather like excepts from a diary and being ghost written along with respected yachting writer, Barry Pickthall, avoids the poor written style of many other sporting autobiographies. 

I particularly enjoyed the numerous ‘side bars’ where others’ views of Rodney  were included, warts and all, a courage and honesty that, with all I have heard over the years comes as no surprise.

Perhaps if the Royal Yachting Association had not boycotted the Moscow Olympics (one of only two British sports to do so) his medal tally would have rivaled that of Elvstrom or fellow countryman Sir Ben Ainslie who says to have been inspired by Pattison in his early years, an inspiration that clearly has not diminished given that he wrote the forward to this excellent book.

I warn you though, this is a book that is hard to put down and should only be picked up with a pitcher of beer or a glass of malt on hand.

One of my sporting heroes, both as a sailor and for the way he played our game – Enjoy! -SS.