Committee Focus – Jeremy Atkins

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One of the items of feedback we’ve received is that some/many club members don’t feel that they know who makes up the Committee, what the each Committee member does, and therefore who to approach if they need to.
So, each Monday we’ll be posting a quick interview with each of our Committee, and we’re starting at the top with our Commodore, Jeremy Atkins…

Dressed up for some Clipper sailing

How did you get into sailing? My family has always sailed – parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles. We were fortunate to have a family base on the River Deben in Suffolk and there my family had a single-sail, gaff-rigged, clinker boat called Tortus and she certainly did that (taught us)! I then moved onto Cadets, followed by team racing at school and university.

How did you join DWSC? I had a break from sailing of around 10 years while the kids were growing up, but then I wanted somewhere to sail our Pico with my younger daughter, Rachel. We did a few pursuit races, but then I thought I ought to get a bit more serious again and looked for the fleet that would give me the best competition which, at that time, was the Solos. So, never having sailed one, I bought a wooden Solo and started racing.

Sailing Thames barge with my daughter to celebrate my 60th & her 30th brithdays

Why did you go on the Committee? I have to admit that I hoped that I wouldn’t get involved in running the club. Throughout my life I have been involved in running sailing organisations – both sailing clubs and class associations. So far I have done over 100 ‘committee years’! I felt I had done my bit and now was the time just to enjoy myself. But I could see that the protracted lease negotiations and the financial crisis had really damaged the club and I felt that the experience I had could help, so I joined to help the work that Phil Hunt and Rodger Webb had started.

What do you do on the Committee? As Commodore I think my main role is to chair the committee so that we give the club direction and do what is necessary to serve our members. We are fortunate to have a brilliant staff team and we have set in place many things like the Development Plan, the Trading Company, the Boat Replacement Scheme and so on which means that we have a direction and good ways of doing things. But beyond that I get involved in whatever I think I can help with. Because of my professional background, initially this was marketing. Because of my experience in running many major sailing events, I also picked up the Race Team instructions / manuals. Both of these I have now handed on.

What’s your best sailing experience? Winning the Laser 2 Nationals convincingly from a 50+ boat fleet must be up there. As was coming 3rd in the Bloody Mary pursuit race. Sailing into unspoilt Turkish harbours on a yacht was also pretty special.

And at Draycote? The first time I sailed at Draycote, I won the Laser 2 Inland Championships, beating the likes of Steve Irish and Andrew Blee – although they were both in short trousers at the time! Winning a race at the Solo Spring Championships was good.

Solo sailing at Draycote

What is your most embarrassing sailing experience? A few weeks after winning the nationals, I was doing a Laser 2 demo day at Felixstowe Ferry SC in Suffolk. The tide can be very strong there and, with a total novice crewing, the boat drifted onto a groyne, capsized, broke the mast and finally got swept away towards the sea. Embarrassing and frightening!

Who inspires you? It is perhaps strange to select a friend, but I would say Robin Knox-Johnston. I have known him for about 30 years and he is great company, kind and the first to respond to e-mails and pay bills despite a very busy life. Obviously he was the first man to sail around the world single-handed, non-stop, and that is inspirational enough, but his subsequent sailing and business ventures are just as remarkable and the way he continues at 100% at his age is just remarkable. He has made thousands of dreams come true through the Clipper round the world race and, having sailed with some of those this time last year, I know I am not the only one who finds him an inspiration!

Who would you like to swap places with for the day? This is hard and I am going to cop out slightly. Everyone’s live has ups and downs and I’m pretty content with mine, but there are some things which I would like to experience, one of which is cruising around exotic islands – be it the Caribbean or the south Pacific – so I would like to swap places with someone doing that. I’d also like more than a day, but I’d skip on the ocean passages between the islands – for me, the joy is landfall and a new harbour!

Which 4 individuals would you love to have dinner with? Absolutely no question about the first one: Uffa Fox. I have many friends who knew him well, but I never met him. As well as being a brilliant sailor and designer, he was great company. Next I would probably go with Arthur Ransome and his wife Evgenia. I would be most interested in Ransome’s life in Russia and cruising in the Baltic in the 1920s – the fact that he played chess with Lenin and married Trotsky’s secretary (who had a pet snake but left their honeymoomn cruise because of a mouse onboard!). Finally I think I would go with Hilaire Beloc: writer, politician, sailor but quite a difficult person by all accounts – but I think Uffa would be a match for him and it would be an entertaining evening. I will prepare The Windmill for the meal and some very interesting conversations!

With Richard Botting at the 2019 Fireball Nationals

Hopefully this will give you more of an insight into our Committee. If you would like to contact any of our Committee members, please email and we’ll pass it on for you.