"I would have felt a fraud if I tottered up here to talk tonight without having been on the water this day. Our bigger boats have been put away so the choice was a double scull, a paddleboard with a comfy chair on it, or my Laser One. I chose the paddleboard and paddled gently round the Orford Anchorage, standing up to paddle and sitting down to rest. It was highly enjoyable. ("Who here has been afloat today?" - only Ian Robson put has hand up)
Thank You, Anthony, for asking me, and thanks to the Commodore and the Committee for all their support. A big thank you to the AYC, to which I owe so much, for kindling my enthusiasm for sailing - which has lasted a lifetime.
It started 75 years ago. The year was 1947. I was 10. The war was over. We were alive. Dad came back from the war after three years as a medic on submarines. The Club was 50 years old. Very few boats were on the water compared with today, a few Redwings, National 12s, Alde15 footers, 6 Whitewings, 6 Garelochs, and half a dozen yachts.
By the way it is a BIT SCARY talking to you here tonight, and I'll tell you why. It is not that I haven't given talks to sailing audiences. This is my third in this Club, and it will soon be be four if you don't cancel the booking for an "Inspiring supper" in March, after today's performance. Audiences have included the Duke of Edinburgh (Who also wrote a Forward to my first book) and the Royal Institute of Naval Architects, twice, and many sailing club winter dinners. Venues have included the Foiling Week at Lake Garda, the ski resort at Mottaret, and a freebie to Australia. These have all been a case of "Have slides, will travel", but the trouble is tonight THERE ARE NO SLIDES ! It's just "Me". Is a BIT SCARY.
The slides were normally of our boats flying around on foils. This is now commonplace, but 40 years ago it was not. Back then boats stayed in the water. I was 30 years ahead of my time.
I am going to tackle three topics, Links with the past, Key groups of people, and Classes of boat.
Firstly, links with the past. These are personal. I did sail here before World War 2, as a passenger in my fathers National 12. Dick Vernon was already at the helm of one. I was aged two, probably in nappies. My sailing life really began in 1947, crewing my dad with my brothers racing our Alde 15 footer.
One trophy covers a sweep of the Club's history going forward and back from that date, right up to the present time. It is the Sheldrick Cup. It started in 1932 as a cup race round the island for the Alde 15 footers. It has recently been back in family hands. I looked at the plinth, with these findings :-
Before WW2 it was won by my grandfather, two uncles, my aunt and my father. After WW2 it was won again by my father, by me in 1953 (at the ripe old age of 16), and by my brother Alan the following year. The cup later transferred to the Wayfarer class, and Alan won it three times more in the 1980s. There was then another gap until it was recently won by Simon Sydenham, sailing with his wife, my daughter Emma, and by my son Angus with Thomasin. That makes the tally 14 wins by 9 different Grogs in 85 years.
The other link takes us right back to 1897, the club was formed. It is provided by my grandfather. He was a great friend of mine, a mad keen sportsman, and very fit when young. He was not present at the opening of AYC, but in that year, at the age of 19, he did a cycle tour of the Isle of Wight, in one day, riding to and from London, taking the Portsmouth Ryde ferry, a truly remarkable feat. He joined the Club in 1930 by sailing "Sonia" up from Burnham on Crouch.
My second topic is three groups of people. The first group is the "Grandees" of the 30s 40s and 50s, the de Quinceys, the Roneys, the Riggs,( Walter Tom and Richard), the Goodsons, the Adams, the Goodings, Lady Eddis, "B" McKinnon and Michael Crean. As the club opened up after the War we were in awe of them, minded our "Ps and Qs", and felt we were well "below the salt". They filled the Flag Officer posts and served the club well. Less than 10 years later my grandfather was President, my dad was on the main committee, and it dawned on me that the salt had moved.
The second group of people were our friends and rivals in the Alde 15 footers. This was family racing, with one or more family crewing each dad, and the mix of friendly family rivalry switched me on to racing for the rest of my life.
I remember the Vernons the Dobsons the Marsons the Nortons the Orange Bromheads and the Forrestier Walkers but there were many more.
The third group is those who excelled in racing in the wider world, either Olympics, or National Championships or open meetings. First of these must be Sir Earnest Roney, who won a silver medal in the 1924 Olympics in the eight meter class. There is a long list of the rest, Michael Crean, Bee McKinnon ,Graham Goodson, Dick Vernon, Patrick Gifford, Simon Fulford, Peter Wilson, Graham Hinton, Ben Nichols, Peter Tracy, Rory Bowman (and Ash), Ian Robson, Richard Keane and the Sydenham brothers. Lack of time prevents me giving more so please don't feel offended if you have been left you off. I had an uncle and a nephew who actually sailed in the Olympics, my uncle finishing fourth in the Star class in Kiel in 1936, finding a badly bent rudder , under the care of German "guards",after he had won two firsts and two seconds and was cruising towards a Gold, when he suddenly started going very slowly. I could do no better than finish second in the indicator trials in the Finn Class leading up to the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo.
My final topic is the Classes sailed at the AYC over the decades. The dinghy classes tended to come and go, and the keel boats to come and stay. In the dinghy classes the 12 footer, Redwing, 15 footer, Firefly, Enterprise, Fireball, Laser2, RS 400, Mirror and Topper all came and went. The Lapwing, Laser 1, Wayfarer, Opie and Feva came and stayed. In the keel boats the Whitewing, Gareloch and Squib classes came and went, and the Dragon , Loch Long, Flying Fifteen and K6 came and stayed.
The Loch Long class is by far the most successful. Present in the river for over sixty years, for many years there have been more than 40 on the annual list. They provide keen one design racing, a long season and mid week racing with expeditions to places like the Clyde and Morbihan. I am recorded as buying "Green Ginger" (No 63) in 1988 but I passed her straight to my father. He raced her for six years and saw the class grow from 9 to over 20. We teased him for being too young for the class, aged 73. He said, slightly plaintively, that he would be the oldest helmsman in the class when he started. In one race I'll never forget the Loch Longs started with the flying 15s, six of each. It was a tricky close reach along the edge of tide to Elbow. We bore away round the buoy leading from all the Loch Longs AND all the Flying 15s, two of which were helmed by Simon and Stephen Fulford. I'm sure they don't remember.
I wish to wind this up by returning to the incredible success of the Aldeburgh Yacht Club, which gets bigger and better and better and bigger by the year. I see us as the most successful Yacht Club in the country, and I have visited a lot of others in my travels.
My toast is the Aldeburgh Yacht Club. Please raise your glasses.
Thank you for your attention."