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Mike Fitzpatrick of Whistable Yacht Clubs has passed away

by Robert Govier 18 Aug 2021 06:46 BST 8 August 2021
Big waves on day three during the Merlin Rocket nationals at Looe © Mike Rice / www.fotoboat.com

Sadly, we must report that a long-standing member of Whitstable Yacht Club and the worldwide sailing community, Mike Fitzpatrick, passed away at the weekend after a long illness. Mike is well known for his sailing skills and achievements, his humour and willingness to help others and his contribution to the running of the club.

There will be a private cremation, and a celebration of Mike's life will be held from 5pm on Saturday 28th August at Whitstable Yacht Club.

Born 30 June 1942, Mike was the son of a fisherman at Leigh on Sea. One of his early boating experiences was when his father's fishing boat was requisitioned by the navy to rescue residents of Canvey Island trapped by the 1953 floods. He was all set to go as boat boy but was taken off on the orders of the RN officer as being too young!

He used to dine out on the story that as a teenager a certain young girl crewed for him at Leigh: Helen Mirren!

Mike went to Loughborough College where he founded, on a shoestring, the college sailing team. In the 1960s and early 70s he built and sailed OK dinghies, campaigned one of the early Contenders, then moved on to Flying Dutchmen and then the Finn.

He crewed for John Oakeley and Bob Fisher in their Soling campaign to be selected for the 1976 Olympics. They were favourites to win the trials, but John O fell off his boat on the dock and broke his arm, had to sail with his arm in a cast and they didn't win.

During this time, he also crewed the winning GP14 at the National Championships in 1964 and the Soling at the National Championships in 1977 and 1978.

Mike stayed involved with the Finn and became an international class measurer. At the time the fastest Finns were being built by Bungy Taylor in UK, so a steady stream of boats passed through Mike's living room in Dunkirk to be measured on their way to customers in Europe.

In the 1980s he commissioned his first new Merlin, customised for him and Wendy to sail but he did not stay in the class long and moved on to Tasers and later Lasers. When his two boys were young, he built Optimist dinghies for them and an embryo fleet was formed for the cadets at Whitstable Yacht Club and Westbere Lake.

In the early 1990s he was heavily involved in activities at WYC organising major events including, in one year, six national championships. The "volunteer burnout" that followed led to the club's open meeting policy being written!

During the 1990s he became involved with the International Canoe and sailed the World Championships in San Francisco. His boat remained in the roof of his garage until very recently. He loved building, modifying and mending boats and was an inveterate boat bimbler and innovator.

He worked for Lloyds in London "in IT", then for a paper manufacturing company near Canterbury. On leaving that he was employed part time by WYC in the office as sailing administrator before finally retiring in 2006.

He moved back into Merlin Rockets with Julie crewing at a very windy Abersoch championships in 1998. He fitted out a new Winder hull in his inimitable alternative style... which never really worked... so Julie bought a new complete boat in 2006 and he was ordered not to change anything without the say so of the class captain! As a result, they were pretty successful in club racing.

His love of the Finn dinghy never diminished even though he was too light to be competitive and most recently in 2009 he sailed in the Finn Masters World Championship in France.

He and Wendy co-wrote wrote the Sailing: Techniques of Seamanship (a Duke of Edinburgh's Award guide) and Dinghy Racing. He was very chuffed that the first friend he made when he moved to Bradbury Grange Nursing Home had read the book!

He will be missed and fondly remembered by everyone who knew him.

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