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Sir John Oakeley passes away

by Sarah Norbury 22 Dec 2016 17:25 GMT 22 December 2016
John Oakeley passes away © Bob Fisher / PPL

Sir John Oakeley, one of Britain's greatest sailors, has died aged 84. World champion, Olympian and author, he was also a leading figure in the marine industry for more than 30 years.

In 1957 he was champion of not just one but two of Britain's most competitive dinghy classes, the Merlin Rocket and National 12. At just 24 years old and with his head of blond curls, ebullient personality and outstanding ability, he was Britain's golden boy of sailing. He will go down in history for his hat-trick of Merlin championship victories in 1956, '57 and 58.

He went on to win the Flying Dutchman World Championship in 1967 and twice won the European Championships. In 1972 he represented Britain at the Olympics in Kiel, Germany, racing a Soling.

In the following years he was a sought-after helmsman for big-boat racing, competing in many inshore and offshore events. In the 1980s he was a skipper in the Lionheart America's Cup challenge team.

Well-known in the marine industry as head of Miller and Whitworth sailmakers, followed by Freedom Yachts and Dehler UK, Sir John combined his love of boats with his career.

He and his wife Maureen spent their first years of marriage running their own charter boat before they had their children Marina and Robert. After Sir John gave up competitive sailing the family enjoyed cruising to the Channel Islands and exploring the French coast.

Oakeley's books – Winning and This is Downwind Sailing – are still inspiring racing sailors today, many years after they were first published.

Sir John will be sadly missed by those who sailed with him and against him, and by all his friends and former colleagues.

The Funeral will be held at St Leonard's Church, Bursledon on the 30th December at 10.30am. We would love to see as many of his friends who are able to make it.

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