It is hard to believe that we are approaching the fifth anniversary of my father Alan’s death, and I believe that in some way his soul is still sailing. Sailing was one of his passions from a young man until the end with many boats and yachts of different shapes and sizes, carrying him on rivers, seas and oceans accompanied by thrill and danger. Three of these boats were lost, one sunk in the English Channel, another smashed in a storm, and one stolen by international drug traffickers and never found. In our family, we all have so many memories of sailing stories with dad on Chit Chat, Seamist, Spangle, Enigmatic, Sistermatic, adventurous voyages and delightful day trips on the water.
1982, the one year that dad had the Sigma 38 called Enigmatic, was when he entered most seriously into the exciting and high pressure world of yacht racing. He and his crew raced in Cowes Week, a very famous international sailing regatta on the Isle of White on England’s south coast. That year Prince Philip, who recently died just a few months before his 100th birthday when he might have received a birthday telegram from his wife, the Queen of England, was helming a Sigma 38 called Yeoman, belonging to his friend Sir Owen Aisher. My sister rediscovered this extraordinary photograph of my dad’s boat and Prince Philip’s on a collision course in one of the daily races.
My dad, as can be clearly seen, was on starboard tack, meaning that the wind was blowing in on the right side, which in the international rules of racing gives him the right of way and the other boat is obligated to tack or bear away, allowing the starboard vessel to continue its course. In this situation, shouts of “STARBOARD!” emphasize this right of way, warning the other yacht to move. Prince Philip did not, however, and Enigmatic had to bear off course to avoid a very expensive collision. The story goes that my father took the case against the prince to the race committee as an official protest. No one remembers the outcome! Apparently Prince Philip was very competitive and loved to win. In the photo, my father is not at the helm, but standing in the cockpit with a red and white striped shirt. Prince Philip is at the helm of the other boat wearing a yachting cap.
Who knows? Perhaps my father and the Prince Consort have made peace and are sailing together in that other dimension.