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EIGHT BELLS - Vernon Stratton

The Publisher

Aug 24, 2011, 8:15 AM

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EIGHT BELLS - Vernon Stratton

By Andrew Hurst, Editor, Seahorse magazine

Along with many, many other sailors of all ages, I was so sad to find out this week about the premature passing of Finn Gold Cup winner Vernon Stratton at the young age of 83. I anticipate widespread comment will follow from his beloved Finn - and more recently Illusion - fleets, but it is essential to also set down on paper just how much of Great Britain's current success in Olympic sailing is a direct consequence of seeds sown by Vernon's strong leadership back in the 1960s, 70s and early 80s.

Vernon Stratton was in charge of British Olympic sailing for the successful 1968 and 1972 Olympic Regattas and was on course to do a similarly good job as team manager in 1980 - before UK authorities bowed to peer-pressure and withdrew a strong British Olympic Sailing Team from the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow, along with our Equestrian, Rowing and Shooting teams.

A fine sailor himself, and married to another fine sailor - Pepe Stratton was a rather magnificent Firefly and Finn sailor in the days when such things were not usual - Vernon knew only one approach to managing sportsmen: pick only winners and then back them as hard as you can.

Vernon Stratton was not a man for management by committee; when Great Britain's 'on-paper' extremely strong 1976 Olympic sailing team raced in Montreal, it would not be presumptuous to suggest that they missed Vernon's strong hand and failed to deliver all of the medals of which they were beyond doubt capable.

Fast forward to 2011, and it was the success delivered by Vernon's sometimes-maverick Olympic stars, of which Rodney Pattisson was of course the most dazzling example, along with the magnificent and much-missed Reg White and a few others, that then inspired so many younger, talented British sailors to also 'reach for the stars'; whether in the Olympics, in offshore racing or even, dare I say in later life in the industry itself.

The success of Vernon's tight Olympic sailing family inspired, and subsequently the management skill of former RYA CEO, Rod Carr, a squad sailor under Vernon, later brilliantly melded that inspiration to deliver the funding and organisational structure that is today's remarkable British Olympic sailing legacy.

Along with countless sailors and friends of Vernon around the world, I miss my friend and sometime-mentor already, and would like to use this humble note to express my sincerest sympathies to Pepe, Richard and the rest of his close family, as well as to the many fellow photographers and advertising industry colleagues that Vernon was close to in his other, more artistic but equally successful endeavours.