“Oh my children don’t you cry (don’t you cry)
Dry your eyes
Raise your voice up to the sky
It is a good day to die“
(It’s A Good Day To Die: lyrics by Robbie Robertson)
We are all familiar with the capriciousness of fate. As sailors we are beholden to the weather gods, although perhaps not sufficiently wary as to flee for cover when the first lightning flashes nearby, especially in a good wind and within sight of the finishing line and victory. But sitting on 80 acres of open space at 1350 ft with storm clouds above you, and beneath a 5m tall lightning conductor, may not seem an entirely sensible choice. (To a non-sailor, that is.) So it is even more ironic that Sunday 5th September 2021 delivered a gloriously sunny afternoon with a solid 10mph breeze, ideal for a late summer outing, before callously ripping the heart out of the Club and the family of one of our long-standing members, Kevin Holmes.
Christians seek solace in their faith to get through difficult times. Mariners adopt SOLAS, and in this respect the Club performed admirably. Without regard for their own personal safety the safety boat and nearby sailors rushed to Kevin’s side, brought him to shore, and for around half an hour, until the ambulance crews arrived, took over, and ultimately declared the battle lost, they tried valiantly to preserve his life. A dozen or so witnessed his last minutes, some especially privileged to have been able to take an active role through CPR in trying to prolong his life until the professionals took over. The medics were full of praise for the steps taken and the efforts made, and offered much-needed support and reassurance to all concerned.
The collective heart of the club is damaged not diminished, as proved by the large number who came out on Wednesday night to remember Kevin, and to thank those who had tried to save his life. William Redman, Commodore, spoke a few words to those gathered before calling for a minute’s silence to remember him.
There followed a short race, half a dozen or so on the water in similar conditions to Sunday. For a time we wondered whether the SUP might have made the best choice but the wind, although light, did behave, and everyone made it back without help from the safety boat. Reverting to a handicap format means having to re-learn how to start: there’s more pressure when many boats are around rather than often presenting singly or in pairs in the pursuit format of the early season. Another advantage of pursuit racing for the faster boats is the advantage of starting later and having others to follow until you have learned the correct course. In his haste Adam shot his bolt early, having to find his way back to start correctly. Meanwhile Your Correspondent, having the faster boat on the line, reached the first mark ahead of the field and managed to stay there until the end, despite losing his way at one point. (Or was heading from No. 8 to No. 3 via Blue in fact a deliberate tactical choice, taking a wide line to make the best of a tricky downwind leg? Will we ever know for sure?) Henry crossed the line next having built up enough of a margin to beat the Radials of William and Adam, who took 3rd and 4th places respectively. Thanks go to Ben Holden (OD) and Robin Boardman and Sue Lamb (safety boat) for officiating.
Following the race around 30 club members came up and stayed until long after sunset to enjoy a few beers and to share tales of dear Kevin, and to show their support and gratitude to those who had tried so valiantly to save his life. Kevin was a well-liked and lively character, and for all we will miss him our thoughts and condolences are with his wife and sons, but especially Michaela, whose plans and dreams of a long and happy retirement together have been torn up so tragically.
Rest in peace, dear friend. The club will be a sadder and quieter place without you.