Quirky demonstrates a phenomenal memory. Well, almost … !
Have you noticed how bloke’s brains are selective when it comes to memories?
The male grey cells of my generation automatically soaked up all the important stuff … the specification of a Spitfire; all the words to Spike Milligan’s “I’m walking backwards for Christmas”; that Anita Ekberg was a staggering 42" 27" 38"; the dimensions and sail areas of all the boats you were going to own one day; and the road test figures of just about any open two-seater. But when it came to things like your mother’s birthday, anniversaries and stuff, the delete button seemed to kick in.
I used to frequent a sailing club in my single days where part of the attraction was not just the messing about in boats.
Further messing about was possible with a line of swinging sixties mini-skirted totties with helmet hairstyles who hung about the bar in the mistaken belief that sailing = yachts = wealthy blokes, ergo possible match. Or at least a bit of a spender.
At the end of the sixties, I was willingly taken alongside, boarded and swung to the moorings of matrimony. I took my new wife to the club one evening to find it almost deserted.
We struck up a conversation with a subdued couple of our own age. It appeared they had originally met at this very club bar. We got to reminiscing the delights of the off-season evening events the club used to hold and I recalled some of the film nights.
I rattled off that my favourite was the time when we not only saw a scratchy 16mm version of The Great Escape, (1963. Steve McQueen, James Garner, Charles Bronson, David McCullam, Richard Attenborough, Donald Pleasance, Nigel Stock, James Donald and William Russel) but somebody also brought along a short film about the 1962 Bermuda Race … “the colour was a bit off as lesser firms such as Truecolor and Color de Lux were trying to get in on Technicolor’s dominance”.
“The race was won by the 1928 schooner Nina, designed by Starling Burgess. Burgess was a prolific genius who also designed huge numbers of aircraft, motor cars and America’s Cup defenders, despite being married five times and obviously holding auditions for successors during this time.
“Anyway, Nina, a staysail schooner was built by Ruben Bigelow on Monument Beach in Cape Cod. She was 70ft overall, 59ft on deck, 14ft beam. 9'7" draft. She was designed to win the 1928 race to Santander, Spain, which she did in 24 days at an average speed of 6.7 knots. She went on to UK and became the first American yacht to win the Fastnet. But to win the Bermuda race at 34 years of age! (The skipper was 72, by the way.)
“That would be like the 1928 Le Mans winning 4½ litre 4-cylinder Bentley, which managed 154 laps in 24 hours, averaging 69.7mph, beating the winning Ferrari V12 of the 1962 Le Mans which averaged 107.7mph for 331 laps! Just astonishing.
“By the way, a Morgan +4 won its class that year and came 13th overall.”
The female of this couple was regarding me with glazed eyes.
“Did you see this film?” I asked politely ...
“Oh, yes,” she said stiffly.
And after a long silence.
“You took me to see it.”
*John Quirk has been writing about and illustrating the joys of messing about in boats for over half a century. He is the author / illustrator of Foul Bottoms, published by Adlard Coles and available from Boat Books in Crows Nest and from Amazon.