I first met Bob Fisher through the Dunhill Finn Finders. One of our members Alan Johnson had won the competition, and Bob Fisher came up to Southport to present the prize of a brand-new fiberglass Finn. The next time we met was at the Dunhill Team Racing finals in Bassenthwaite Sailing Club, where we were all involved in a bun fight at the evening reception.
Cliff Rhodes and I become good friends with Bob and when Peter Squires came up with the idea of a Masters Sailing Championships for the Enterprise Dinghies, for helms over 40. It was thought we needed some publicity for the event, so we invited Bob to helm an Ent at this event. I loaned Bob my boat and crewed for him. As we walked around the dinghy park at the event it was amusing, as every time someone said hello “Bob” we were never sure who it was directed at and so both of us replied.
In the first race we got a cracking start being three boat lengths over the line, and so were disqualified. At the bar after this race Bob ordered four pints of lager. When I asked him who the other two pints were for, he said “Two for you and two for me.” The event was a great success and is still going. Bob, as the editor of the then “Dinghy” magazine, gave the event a glowing review and said I must come and sail with him in his yacht.
A few weeks later he rang to say did I want to sail in the Round the Island race round the Isle of Wight, and I jumped at the chance. However, I had to tell my normal helmsman Cliff I could not sale with him that weekend, to which he said I’d love to do that race. I then rang Bob back to see if he could fit Cliff in. He said he was not able to do this. Then five minutes after he rang me back to say he had thrown his wife off the boat, so Cliff could come with us. We had a great time learning to sail a J24, sailing around the island and ended up in the bar after the race. Our trip home from there was across the Solent Water, and to save weight on the boat for the race, Bob had removed the battery, and so we did the crossing with no navigation lights. Not recommended.
Our next excursion with Bob was sailing in the Tomatin Whisky series in Scotland, going from the Clyde down to Arran and into Lock Fyne. The first race was overnight, so Bob stocked up on provisions for the race, which would take some fourteen hours. As we set off, the winds were light and I spent much time lying on the foredeck looking up at the Windex on top of the mast. Sometime later the wind got up and it was everyone on the side of the boat. As it got windier the waves grew, and in no time at all I was feeling queasy. The final straw came when Bob brought out the hot flask containing spicy Indian food. I was sent below with a bucket. Bob was very impressed that every time he tacked I would change sides in the cabin, to maximise the weight to windward. Years later I was reading one of Bob’s books on big boat sailing in which he stated that spicy foods were not a good idea when on racing yachts. Well, Bob did not follow his own rules!! That long weekend was a great introduction to big boat sailing, especially with Bob being put up in a five-star hotel, while we slept on the boat. However, we could dry our gear in his hotel room, as well as have hearty Scottish breakfasts with him there. What we did learn on this trip was that the best cure for seasickness is to sit under a tree!!!
The following year Bob invited us again to sail at the Tomatin series. This time he had loaned a ”Jumbo Jay” and had the use of a new BMW 7 Series with a towbar. He was reviewing this car for the BMW people, to recommend it as a good towing vehicle. When he stopped off at Preston to pick up Cliff and me there, he found a black cat in the boat. This prompted him to tell us the story of his black cat, which Dee his wife had adopted. Bob’s condition for having this cat was that she was neutered. He took the cat to the Vet who said that the cat needed a vitamin injection at the cost of £50. This Bob had done and was told to come back in a few weeks. On his return the cat needed another vitamin injection. On the next visit to the Vet the cat was fine, but when checked he said the cat had already been neutered. Bob was not happy that a stray cat had cost him £100. Again, we had a great time at the Tomatin series, staying in the same posh hotel as Bob. Also, by this time I had found some plasters that you put behind your ear, to stop you being seasick for three days.
Our next big outing was at the WLYC 24Hour Race, as Team Saint Peter’s Fishermen. Via his contacts in the BBC through being the sailing consultant for the TV drama Howard’s Way, he organised a TV recording of the 24Hour Race. I had managed to borrow a GP14 from a friend. Bob sailed in the race in the team, alongside Cliff and myself, but he had also recruited a set of twins that were Olympic level sailors and several National Champions. I seem to remember we came 4th overall. But this was the year when the race was halted in the night due to the severe weather conditions and never restarted, so when we arrived to sail the boat at six in the morning the race had been stopped. The BBC had enough footage to produce a fifteen-minute programme, of which we have a copy.
In between times Bob invited Cliff and I to his wedding to Dee, in the Churchill War Rooms, and he and Dee came to my wedding in Southport.
A few years ago we thought that the 24Hour Race may not be continuing, so we asked Bob to come along. This he did, giving it a good ‘bill of health’ in Yachts and Yachting, helping us to carry it on beyond its 50th year of life.
My wife Lin has fond memories of Bob. When we put him up at our place and I was out sailing in the 24Hour Race, with him still at the Club House, he would ring her up and say he was lonely and would she come down to keep him company, only to find when she arrived, he had a pint in his hand and was surrounded by many of his adoring fans.
I salute you Bob to a life well lived.
West Lancashire Yacht Club
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