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I must go down to the sea again

by Mark Jardine 3 May 16:00 BST
Christchurch Bay at sunset © Mark Jardine

The intention of my editorial today was to celebrate all that is good about long weekend events and how they have grown in popularity as the demands on people's time change. The article focused on the optimal balance of serious racing and laugh-filled socials, but after a weekend which had far more than its fair share of tragedy at sea, all that changed.

On Saturday two dinghy sailing competitors died: 51-year-old ILCA 6 sailor Massimo Patelli was reportedly struck by the boom in Livorno, Italy, during the Settimana Velica Internazionale, and in the Western Solent, UK, 45-year-old Richard Blowman, sailing in a Finn Masters event. Both were rescued and received medical attention quickly, but so sadly they both passed away.

Then, in the early hours of Monday morning, the UK's Maritime Coastguard Agency received a call about a person in the water at Poole Harbour, triggering an extensive search involving a helicopter and the RNLI. The missing person has been named as 24-year-old David Haw, a competitor in the Poole Regatta. The organisers cancelled the racing on Monday morning.

Our first thoughts are always with the family and friends of those lost. We join so many others in offering our deepest condolences to all those close to them. Deaths in sailing are relatively rare, so to have three tragedies at different events in such a short space of time is distressing for the entire sailing community.

For those involved in the rescues, and for the event organisers, it is deeply traumatic. Our thoughts are with them all as well, as they process what has happened.

While running junior sailing sessions, the first priority is always safety, but the knowledge is there that something could go wrong. An awful weekend like this drives home hard how it can, but we know the positives of sailing, and I will not let the rare risks put me off.

John Masefield, who was Poet Laureate from 1930 until 1967, and himself a sailor, wrote Sea-Fever in 1902, which I feel is fitting at this time:

I must go down to the sea again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by.
And the wheels kick and the winds song and the white sail's shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea's face, and a grey dawn breaking.

I must go down to the sea again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
All I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the seagulls crying.

I must go down to the sea again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull's way and the whales way, where the wind's like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow rover,
And a quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trips over.

Stay safe. The very worst of days can happen at sea, but the benefits of being out on the water are immeasurable.

Our thoughts are with all those struggling and grieving after the weekend's news.

Mark Jardine

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