Round Trip Flight To England


I find it difficult to think about my whole lung cancer story. It was so dreadful for me that for a long time I could bear to think of only a small bit of the story at a time; sometimes I could talk about a part of it to a friend if I felt strong sympathy with him. Recently, however, Tubby Clayton, of Toc H, pressed me to tell the story; he said it was my duty to do it for the good of other sufferers. I shrank from it, but came to realise that since I was the only person who could tell the story, I must face up to it. It was really this decision that made me write the whole of this book.

In 1957 I had a tough year in the office, with a lot of worry, and also a hard season’s sailing. I raced my own Gipsy Moth II in three RORC events, and at the end of the English Channel race in my own yacht, jumped aboard Figaro, the crack American yacht, to navigate it for the owner, Bill Snaith, in a series of races for the Admiral’s Cup. This cup was presented by the Admiral of the RORC for international competition by teams of three yachts. Figaro had a crack crew; Bill Snaith was a first-class sailor, and an excellent, hard-driving skipper, but fair; Bobby Simonette had been acclaimed one of the world’s best foredeck hands; Ed Raymond was one of America’s best sail makers and a real old salt; Kanud Reimers, the Swedish yacht architect, told me that he had designed more yachts than he could remember; young Buckie was a first-class deck hand. Buckie had served in the Korean war, and now acted as permanent crew for Bill, looking after the yacht for him. They were a fine crowd to sail with. I enjoyed studying the famous American out-to-win methods, and I learned a lot from them. Also the differences between the American and British viewpoint amused me continuously; little things like eating marmalade on bacon. I don’t know what they thought of me.

Round Trip Flight To England Photo Gallery

Our first race was for the Britannia Cup, and I felt really tense. If we lost, the Americans could blame their British navigator; if we won, the British team could accuse me of being a renegade. Either way I was due to get the stick, and as a result I was, perhaps, over-keen to win. My first suggestion in tactics put us in the lead of the fleet. I was thrilled. Unfortunately my next stroke of genius turned out a flop, and cost us the race which we had had in our pocket.

In our next race, for the New York Yacht Club Cup, an unusual bit of navigation for a big yacht played an important part. In light airs we tacked into the mainland coast of the Solent, bucking a foul tide stream. Our depth steadily decreased as we neared the shore, till it looked as if we were about to ground and Bill called out, ‘Tack!’ I said, ‘Hold on, hold on!’ I had bathed from this beach, and remembered a long mud-bank with a shallow channel inshore of it. We hauled up the centre board, and kept on inshore. I held my breath as the depths decreased. Then they began to increase again and I sighed with relief. We had crossed the mud-bank. Now we worked our way up close inshore, where the current against us was least. At one time we were becalmed, and dropped the kedge anchor. I took the opportunity of dropping overboard myself for a swim. I think my American friends were horrified at my treating a race so flippantly, but at that time were too polite to say anything. Presently we were leading the fleet and won the race.

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