- April 30th, 2010
- in Yachting
RBVIYC Loses Capt of Sailing – A crowd of sailors, families and spectators stood in silence at the St Thomas Yacht Club as Chris Haycraft and Sharn Downing exchanged a faded BVI flag for a fresh one in honour of BVI sailor Guy Eldridge the day after he had a fatal accident at the Rolex Regatta. Eldridge’s Luxury Girl crewmates and other attendees watched the new flag rise to half mast then a shout of “Three cheers for Guy Eldridge” was heard, and the crowd saluted the Royal British Virgin Islands Yacht Club’s Captain of Sailing with their cups raised.
Guy was known for encouraging all to sail, regardless of their skill level or age. Former Yacht Club Commodore Clair Burke recounted, “When I first came to the BVI [eleven years ago], I took up Laser sailing, and I met Guy. He was a Laser sailor, and he was trying to get more and more people into dinghy racing. In fact, it didn’t matter what it was, he tried to get everyone involved in sailing.”
Chris Watters, former coach of the BVI Sailing Team, praised Guy as a “keen ambassador for the sport of sailing” and added that “he was always the first person I would ask if someone I knew wanted to sail in a regatta or at an event. I’d see if he had room on Luxury Girl.”
One of Guy’s aims was to break down the intimidation factor that is often associated with the sport. He would recruit sailors from Conyers Dill & Pearman, the law firm where he was a partner, to get on the water for the first time. “He’d have training sessions in the boardroom after work—downwind sailing techniques—things that people never realized,” said Clair. “For the Pizza Pursuit race, he was racing Luxury Girl, but he chartered a boat and hired a captain and got all his staff members out for the day.” But she added that he did everything in such an unassuming manner that people rarely realized how much he did. “It’s a huge void, and it will be a long time before—if it’s ever—filled again. He will be hugely missed once people start to realize all he did,” Clair said.
Guy Eldridge (centre) with his Luxury Girl crew on the podium at the St Croix Hospice Regatta. Photo courtesy of Rob Jones.
Clair recalled her interactions with Guy at the BVI Yacht Club. “When I was Commodore, he said that races had gone down, so I asked him if he would become Captain of Sailing, and he said yes.” Guy’s enthusiasm for the sport and his fresh attitude attracted new boats; additionally, “boats that hadn’t raced for years were suddenly coming back out again,” Clair said.
“He always put an aspect of fun to it,” said Chris. “Instead of just your normal, serious racing, he would include other things in each day of sailing—swimming races, beach barbecues—making more of a regatta scene.” An example of this was a simple alteration in course for the Halyard Challenge. Guy changed it from racing in the Channel to a race to Dead Man’s Bay at Peter Island. Participants took a swim break then raced back to the Yacht Club. “The start line for the race back was at Peter Island, and all these charter boats at Peter Island were watching. It was a simple change that got a lot more people involved,” said Clair.
Under Guy’s leadership, Chris said, attendance at RBVIYC events almost doubled. “He brought the social aspect into sailing at the BVI Yacht Club, and that’s what brings people out,” Chris said. “Even if you had a bad day of sailing, you still had a fun event.”
Guy Eldridge singlehandedly affected the lives of many people in the BVI by introducing them to sailing, making it more fun and approachable, and, in many of them, invoking the same passion that he had for the sport.