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Cliff Norbury 1929 - 2023

by Sarah Norbury 5 Jan 08:36 GMT
Cliff Norbury, a man whose influence still extends across much of our sport today © Norbury Family

Cliff Norbury, mastmaker, world champion sailor and Olympic team manager has died aged 93.

Cliff Norbury was one of the biggest names in dinghy and keelboat racing throughout the 1950s, 60s and 70s. He sailed Finns, Merlins, Fireflys and Ospreys, but is best remembered as a champion National 12 helm in the days when it was one of the largest, most competitive classes in Britain. He was twice Tempest world champion, British Olympic team manager and a hard-working advocate for sailors within the RYA and ISAF.

After his masters degree in aeronautics, Cliff was forging a career in the aerospace industry when he was lured away by his friend Ian Proctor to apply his knowledge to aluminium masts. Together they experimented with chemicals and design factors to produce lighter, stronger, more aerodynamic spars. For decades Proctors was the biggest mast maker in the world, with Cliff as Production- and later Managing-Director.

Later, Cliff wanted to give something back to the sport he loved and took on voluntary roles with the RYA and ISAF including British Olympic Team Manager and Chairman of the ISAF Technical Committee. In total, including time as a measurer, he played a role at five Olympic Games.

In his 70s he retired from the racing world and bought a Starlight 39. He, his wife June and children Sarah, Alison and Stephen enjoyed many happy times cruising in Brittany, although 'cruising' to Cliff didn't mean the crew could sit about and relax if there was a sail to be trimmed for that extra fraction of a knot.

However, these achievements are a mere glimpse of all that Cliff accomplished in his lifelong association with sailing, Dougal Henshall is researching his life and will shortly be producing a retrospective of Cliff's life as part of his 'Wise Men' series.

There will be a thanksgiving for Cliff on 26th January, details at

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