Please select your home edition
Ovington 2021 - ILCA 3 - LEADERBOARD

Jeremy Rogers MBE: 1937 - 2022

by Barry Pickthall 18 Oct 2022 15:20 BST

Jeremy Rogers, one of Britain's most successful yachtsmen, made a life out of sailing from an early age, from making model boats as a small child before making his mark in offshore yacht racing, winning major international events including Cowes Week, the One Ton Cup, Admiral's Cup, the Round the Island Race and the 605-mile Fastnet classic.

Rogers was as skilled with his hands as he was at the helm of a boat, and after serving an apprenticeship under Jack Chippendale MBE, then the most respected racing dinghy builder in the UK, he embarked on building yachts with the same level of excellence. Starting in a garage at home, the business grew to become one of the largest employees in Lymington with 200 working in five factories across this Hampshire sailing mecca.

In 1974, Rogers won the prestigious One Ton Cup world championship in Torquay in Gumboots, a yacht built by the company. Mid-way through the final offshore race, Rogers and his crew were alerted to a MAYDAY call, broke off from racing and went to the rescue of a crew sitting precariously in a punctured liferaft. Once they were safely onboard, Gumboots resumed racing, and after being given time dispensation for the diversion, won the series outright. For this, and the rescue, Jeremy Rogers was given that year's Yachtsman of the Year Award.

In 1980, Rogers, a shy and modest character, was invited to Buckingham Palace to lunch with the Queen and Prince Philip. "Jeremy was petrified" recalls his wife, Fiona. "He found himself sharing the occasion with writer Harold Pinter and the Archbishop of Canterbury. The door opened and the Queen was preceded by two of her corgis who made a beeline for Jeremy. He got down on his knees to give them a stroke and was joined on the floor by the Queen where they shared anecdotes about their dogs.

Born in Thaxted, Essex on 16 September 1937, Jeremy was one of three brothers born to Group Captain Charles Rogers OBE and his wife Margaret (nee Keithley). The 2nd World War saw his father stationed in Canada where he set up a series of flying schools for budding RAF pilots, and the family followed. At the end of hostilities, the family returned in a convoy of 70 ships and had the excitement of watching a pack of German U-boats surrender.

Once back home, the family moved to Lulworth Cove where Jeremy and his brothers Jonathan and Tim found a rescue inflatable from a Spitfire fighter plane and began experimenting with rigs in a bid to get the boat to sail upwind. With their Father away in Germany working to establish NATO, the brothers were sent to Clayesmore boarding school in Dorset, where Jeremy built his first 10ft dinghy.

After serving his apprenticeship under Jack Chippendale, Jeremy set up his own business in Lymington in 1961, building a wooden Folkboat class cruising yacht in the family garage. He was one of the first to appreciate the potential of glass-reinforced plastic (GRP) construction, and after a period building GRP dinghies, he worked with designer David Sadler to develop a variation of the Folkboat design in glassfibre. Called the Contessa 26, this one-design was an instant success and over the years more than 400 were built, some sailing to the four corners of the globe.

One to do so was young adventurer and artist Nick Jaffe who sailed his to Australia. Recalling Jeremy's life, he said this week. "To build and create boats is a rare art form. Jeremy's work inspired an entire generation of dreamers and adventures to find the sea and ultimately themselves, for which myself and countless others are eternally grateful."

Another to mark his gratitude is Contessa 26 class stalwart Mike Harrison. "We remain so grateful to Jeremy for his foresight with David Sadler in the design and construction of what has become such a long lasting and respected small classic cruiser. His three overall victories in the annual Round the Island Race aboard his own Contessa 26 Rosana is a record hard to beat."

The 26 was followed by the Contessa 32, also in collaboration with David Sadler, which won the prestigious 'Boat of the Show' award when first displayed at the London Boat Show in 1972. Fifty years on, this model is still in production with more than 650 built to-date. Jo Sammons, the CO32 Class Captain paid tribute to Rogers. "It is a testament to Jeremy's skills that the boat he helped to design and first built over 50 years ago is still being regularly raced, cruised and loved in all four corners of the globe. Never failing to turn heads and never failing to bring enjoyment and comfort to those that sail her, Jeremy's legacy lives on through the Contessa 32 community".

Further successes followed on the water. In 1977 and 1979, Rogers and his crew were selected to represent Britain in the 3-boat Admiral's Cup team. Joining Sir Edward Heath and his Morning Cloud, and Chris Dunning's Marionette, they won the 1977 series, with Rogers' Contessa 43 Moonshine finishing top scoring yacht.

The 1979 Admiral's Cup coincided with one of the worst disasters in ocean racing history when near hurricane conditions swept across the 303-strong fleet and lead to 19 deaths, 24 abandoned yachts and 5 sinkings. The results became insignificant, but Rogers' Contessa 39, Eclipse, came in second overall to Ted Turner's Tenacious, a yacht twice her size.

The following year Rogers received an MBE.

By the early 1980s, Rogers was working with world-renown designers including Doug Peterson, Rob Humphries and David Alan-Williams. The Company had five purpose-built factories building a range of Contessa yachts sized from 26 to 43ft and was exporting them all over the world until a recession decimated the British boatbuilding industry leading to many failures, including J C Rogers.

Undeterred, Jeremy pulled himself back up. After a spell building Etchells keel boats in a former cow shed he found premises in nearby Milford before returning to Lymington to the site of the current boat yard in Lymington Yacht Haven. Now under the management of his son Kit Rogers, the company builds new Contessa 32s and carries out yacht refurbishment as well as manufacturing carbon fibre davits, designed by son Simon Rogers for the superyacht industry.

Jeremy's last years were clouded by Alzheimer's, aggravated in the end by Covid, but though he lost sight of his whereabouts, he could still helm a boat as naturally as before. Sailing with his son David in a little Keyhaven Scow in June 2020 and the family Contessa 32 Assent in early 2021. "It was as if the tiller was a natural extension of his arm." recalls his wife.

Jeremy Rogers is survived by his wife Fiona, sons, Simon, Kit and David, and grandchildren Hattie, Jonah, Inigo, Tom, Rex, Kai, Leo, Minnie and Rafe.

The funeral will be a family only service, followed by a public memorial service at a date yet to be announced.

Related Articles

Multihull design pioneer Derek Kelsall passes away
The sailing world has lost a pioneering multihull designer and boat builder Derek Kelsall, the man who during his life created the modern day trimaran, who famously introduced Eric Tabarly to multihulls and who was one of the first to champion foam sandwich construction, died in hospital in Thames, New Zealand, aged 89. Posted on 2 Jan
Mervyn Cook : 1942-2022
Designer of the Magnum series of International Moth, and much more Mervyn passed away peacefully at his home on Hayling Island on Monday 14th of November after a long illness. He was a lovely modest and quietly spoken man with a lifetime interest in sailing boats. Posted on 21 Nov 2022
Peter Hunter passes away
Former world-class International 14, Finn and Dragon sailor The world of sailing has lost one of its great characters. Hunter - the "Peter" or "PCC" are unnecessary prefixes, when people of a certain era in sailing refer to Hunter, we know exactly who they are talking about. Posted on 14 Sep 2022
Reg Bratt passes away, aged almost 104
Previously featured in our 'Wise Men' series, for his clever dinghy designs Sadly, we heard that Reg Bratt had peacefully passed away yesterday, just two months short of his 104th birthday. He was an avid supporter of Speed Week, either with one of his clever dinghy designs or even as one of the early thinkers about foiling. Posted on 3 May 2022
Sam Richmond passes away
Remembrance Procession held at Antigua After being injured in training before the Superyacht Challenge Antigua, Sam Richmond has sadly passed away. Everyone involved with the regatta joins the worldwide sailing community in paying respects to a much-loved and highly respected sailor. Posted on 14 Mar 2022
Top amateur dinghy crew Fiona Clark passes away
'Running Girl' pulled the kite up so fast you'd wonder if it was electric Fiona Clark was an outstanding amateur dinghy crew, a shining light especially in the RS200 and RS400 fleets. Elaine Watkin Jones shares the thoughts of some of the country's top dinghy sailors and her personal memories of a special sailor. Posted on 15 Oct 2021
Mike Fitzpatrick of Whistable YC passes away
Olympic campaigner, class measurer, championship organiser and author 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. Posted on 18 Aug 2021
David Pelly passes away
Highly respected journalist and participant in virtually every type of sailing Born in 1941, David Pelly remembered London during the war, with breakfast crockery shaking on the table. He first took the helm of a boat at the age of seven and was closely involved with sailing ever since. Posted on 1 Jun 2021
John Mullins : 1938 - 2020
Yacht designer and master boatbuilder from Brightlingsea John Mullins' was a designer and builder of World Championship winning Dragon, Soling and Brightlingsea One Design boats. In addition he designed and built many successful sailing dinghies, cruising yachts and motor launches. Posted on 28 May 2021
8 Bells: Bob Fisher - Mr America's Cup
The larger-than-life yachtsman, journalist and author passes away at 85 Bob Fisher, the larger-than-life yachtsman, journalist and author crossed the bar peacefully on January 25 surrounded by family. He was 85. Posted on 26 Jan 2021