This year, we make a departure from the norm and make a joint award.
Some sailors are prone to modesty. The result is that you occasionally comes across a fellow member who, when they reluctantly give you a run down of their sailing career, you find that words fail you and your mouth hangs open. For example; a sailing career that has now totalled over a quarter of a million miles, five circumnavigations of the British Isles, four singlehanded return crossings of the north Atlantic in the OSTAR - a race founded by members of this Club. He has packed in two circuits of the West Indies and may be the only member of this Club to have done three singlehanded crossings of the Atlantic in one twelve month period. And he’s been round the world as skipper in the Clipper Race. His seamanship is without question. On one Atlantic crossing he steered by hand for the last 1,000 miles after autopilot failure. He remarks casually of boarding his Avon dinghy in force seven mid-Atlantic to fix his wind vane. This is how Mervyn Wheatley sails.
But it is a fact that those who stick their necks out the furthest, are the ones most likely to get their heads bitten off. And so it happened last July. In a terrible storm whilst heading for Newport, Rhode Island, a wave caused terminal damage to Mervyn’s yacht ‘Tamarind’ and he was forced to abandon ship, taking the trouble to scuttle her before leaving so she would not be a hazard to others.
We award this prize to Mervyn Wheatley not for the fact of the loss of his boat, but because of his exceptional displays of seamanship over many years.
The Medal for Seamanship is awarded to Mervyn Wheatley.
But this to be a joint award. Had it not been for seamanship of the highest order displayed by the master and crew of the Queen Mary 2, he would not be here to collect his prize and the Club would have lost one of its more colourful members. To manoeuvre a 345m ship alongside a 14 metre yacht and pluck a man off it in storm conditions