Please select your home edition
Craftinsure 2021 - LEADERBOARD

Mervyn Cook : 1942-2022

by Roger Stollery 21 Nov 2022 21:00 GMT 14 November 2022
Mervyn Cook adjusting the vane gear of a model yacht © Jacque Cook

Mervyn Cook 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.

His initial interest started way back, when with a friend he cycled to the Rick Pond to sail their little boats and was amazed by the magnificent A boats racing. The seed may have been planted there at what was then the Yachting Monthly 6 Metre Owners Association just as it was for me also, a few years later.

His first sailing boat was a British Moth dinghy with the hull built professionally, but finished off by his dad for him to sail on the Thames. Whilst his sailing included lots of dinghy classes, he loved drawing boats, as he was a fine draughtsman and was convinced that the relatively high rocker displacement boats, which were the norm in all development classes, were not the fastest way to go.

He concentrated on the International Moth class, which was and continues to be the ultimate single-hander with designers and sailors from all over the world.

His creative mind produced some beautiful boats, which not only looked superb, but gave dinghy designers an idea of how to make boats go faster. He designed the Magnum series which notched up eight Worlds, ten Europeans, 19 UK Nationals and many more Nationals worldwide in the 70s/80s/90s with boat speeds on a reach, which would compete with Merlins and Fireballs!

This radical rethinking of dinghy design caused major changes to the Portsmouth Yardstick ratings for handicap racing.

Mervyn's iconic designs are perhaps even more noteworthy as they were produced in tortured 3 mm plywood, a technique he and his brother-in-law John Claridge developed with great success. The Magnum designs were voted the most iconic dinghy of all time in Yachts & Yachting.

Mervyn continued to follow the class and was proud to be a part of its history which has resulted in today's amazing foiling machines.

He also designed to the National 12 and International 14 dinghy class rules and, as a result of his skill and knowledge, he served on the IYRU technical committee (International Yacht Racing Union, forerunner to the World Sailing Governing Body) and was an official measurer for the Moth class as well as contributing to ideas for Moth sail area measurement rules.

Mervyn developed an interest in sailing IOMs and joined Chichester Model Yacht Club before he knew about the Gosport club and the Walpole Lakes. When he experienced the vane sailing there, this became his main interest with the challenge of generating, building, sailing and measuring beautiful yachts to the complex A class formula.

As MYA Technical Officer I was first aware of Mervyn when he applied to become an Official Measurer for the IOM and A class in 2007. He was already part of the highly regarded Gosport A Class measuring team and in 2010 he volunteered to be the Met and Southern District Senior Measurer and so joined the MYA's Tech Team. He made a big contribution to the Team's work in helping to make IOMICA's certification paperwork more sustainable, as well as commenting with other measurers, designers and builders on the controversial IRSA rule change proposals in 2016.

As someone used to working within the Moth's simple rule parameters, he disliked complexity and was not happy with the proposed version of the A class rules changing from 9 pages to 32 pages, removing the free sailing class rules completely and adding what he saw as unnecessary restrictions to development. In particular, he detested the description of the jib measurement written in words that he found difficult to understand and which didn't make sense to the ordinary member/measurer.

His favourite A boat to sail was one of Jon Simpson's 'Lightnings', which describes the idea perfectly, as lightweight was always his preferred characteristic for creating speed. On two occasions he and Peter Fothergill won the YM Cup sailing 'N'lightning'. However he was best pleased and delighted with his cooperation with Dave Hollom in the design of his A boat 'Reference Point', which he had the satisfaction of watching win the Yachting Monthly Cup in 2021, being sailed by Peter Fothergill and Paul Edwards.

In contrast to the A class rules, the simplicity of the 36" class rule, where the boat just had to fit into the measurement box, appealed and he and Jacque contributed to the regular vane 36" sailing and particularly to the development of the class. His careful analysis of the important factors in design helped him to brief his designer friend Dave Hollom to produce designs with progressively better performance.

Speed on water was always an objective and lately he enjoyed the excitement of Mini40 multihull racing and the new design challenges that this posed.

As well as enjoying the racing at Gosport, Mervyn repaid the club by becoming the Commodore in 2013 and helping Jacque in organising the racing. He will be sorely missed by Jacque, his brother-in-law John and all his friends in the model and full-size sailing world.

No longer being able to have 'designer chats' with my great friend is a sad loss for me too.

Related Articles

The Wise Man of the West
Another of our first generation 'greats' has left us - Alec Stone Another of our first generation 'greats' has left us. The name of Alec Stone is hardly an oft featured favourite, yet he should not be forgotten as he had become one of the great links to an era of sailing and boatbuilding that is now long past. Posted on 5 Mar
Vale Syd Fischer AM OBE
Yachting legend Syd Fischer passed away on Thursday afternoon, he was 95 Yachting legend Syd Fischer passed away on Thursday afternoon, he was 95. Posted on 27 Feb
Offshore great Syd Fischer dies at 95
One of Australia's great sailors, Syd Fischer AM OBE, has died at the age of 95yrs. One of Australia's great sailors, Syd Fischer AM OBE, has died at the age of 95yrs. Posted on 25 Feb
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
Jeremy Rogers MBE: 1937 - 2022
One of Britain's most successful yachtsmen passes away 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 yacht racing. He was as skilled with his hands as he was at the helm of a boat. Posted on 18 Oct 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