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Home / News / John Coyle receives RYA Lifetime Commitment Award - Congratulations
Home / News / John Coyle receives RYA Lifetime Commitment Award - Congratulations

John Coyle receives RYA Lifetime Commitment Award - Congratulations

Published 07:24 on 2 Dec 2019

Here are John Coyle's reflections on the day and also a look back on how the Club has changed over the long period he has been providing us with support.....

Last Friday 22 Nov. I stepped up to receive this award from The Princess Royal, I and many others who were similarly awarded for long term service to their Sailing Clubs. There are other awards for specific achievements, but it seemed that most of us were of a certain age.... During each award, a photo of the relevant Clubhouse was projected on the back wall above dais, but at no time was I asked how we managed in such a small space compared to some of the splendid clubhouses shown. The Ceremony was preceded by a very rapid AGM and followed by a gathering in the Great Hall of No.1 Great George Street, Westminster. During drinks Princess Anne chatted to recipients and guests, Celia was with me, and confirmed that yes we did live in West Wittering full time! A good lunch followed and we were well entertained by RYA Representatives sitting amongst us, my long Cruising background made conversation with several members interesting due to common experience and having visited many of the Clubs represented. An enjoyable day, despite an early start to get there at the required time.
So 'why?', you say, was I there at all. Current and immediate past Commodores, the two Johns, are to blame, I was advised in June this year that I was to receive it in November, was I happy to do so? Yes of course, if they (the Commodores) thought I deserved it, it would be very acceptable, and good for the Club to be represented at such a prestigious event. My association with West Wittering started after retirement from Corporate life, my choice of new location was governed by the fact that I had sailed out of Chichester to my cruising grounds for a number of years, and had often spent a day or overnight off East Head, so Snowhill was known to me, as the 'muddy bit behind the dunes'. My plan was to cruise as much as possible during summer, and enjoy the walking and necessary boat maintenance in leisurely fashion during the winter. In practice I soon found that lengthy cruising was unpredictable, and that I always enjoyed coming home to Chichester Harbour. Consequently my Cruising continued in small bites, and very soon I learned that Jeremy Samuels was anxious to drop his responsibility for the Club Boats.
So it seemed that a ready-made retirement job was mine for the taking! At the time 'the club boats' amounted to: a Tender, with 2 h.p. Suzuki (both still with us), an 11ft Dell Quay Dory with 30hp Evinrude outboard (no power tilt) for Safety Boat and an old Wayfarer dinghy with suitable flag gantry plus 4hp Suzuki to perform Committee Boat duty. The lack of Power Tilt on the Safety Boat was an issue for some, and the 4HP Suzuki always a problem for John Gregory I seem to recall!
The changes and improvements were gradual, but the Evinrude was first to go - sold to Adam the Fishmonger/fisherman. We bought a 25HP Yamaha, with power tilt to replace it, a popular move. At the time the Coyles were inclined to buy wine in 3ltr boxes (good on a boat) the bags that contained the wine proved good in holding air (once emptied) and being a little concerned as to the Wayfarer's integrity I used a number of these to fill the 'buoyancy' spaces fore and aft, it was never tested, but the boat went to Prinsted Sea Scouts some years later complete with same bags, all of which retained their air!! In 2002 I began research for a RIB to augment the Dory, after several test runs in a variety of RIB's we settled for having one made locally by Porter's at Emsworth, the boat was delivered at the start of the new season and became 'Yellow' because it was, though christened 'Peter Lord' after a late member who had done valuable work for the Club over the years (another one!)
Replacement of the Wayfarer was becoming the next important move, and Vice Commodore Robin Smith suggested we look at a Wilson Flyer. So we visited Bedhampton where Mr Wilson was building boats in his rather large back yard shed. The basic hull was delivered to our car park, and I fitted it with necessary cleats, handles, hinges etc., also made the wooden chest which still serves as tackle box and sit-upon. The flag gantry was partly Keith Martin's hang glider but has undergone replacement due to my carelessness in towing the boat and forgetting the trees outside Nore House!! I am rather chuffed that the flag gantry has continued to work so well for so many seasons. The Mariner 25hp was transferred from the Dory to the new Committee Boat. The Dory sold to the engineer, who took it off to Spain were it no doubt dried out eventually. And so we bade farewell to the trusty Wayfarer as it was towed out backwards on its way to a Scouting life, wine bags and all.
Next we needed a better boat to get everyone out to the RIB and the Committee Boat, so the Duraflex was next to arrive, the Wayfarer trolley modified for it, and the trusty Suzuki 4 continued in service, taking up to 6 volunteers out to do their duty. A 15hp Suzuki was acquired to give this boat more Umph when needed to augment the safety boats. The old Suzuki 4 made about 30% the price of the Tohatsu 4 that replaced it, not surprising really, since our engines do so few hours in their lifespan. By this time I was 10 years older but had and enjoyed the involvement.
An opportunity for a break occurred when Andy Taylor offered to step in, so I had a necessary new knee fitted, and sold my beloved Cruiser 'Harlequin'.. and had nothing to do!! The late Robin Smith, then Commodore declared me an Honorary Life Member and I felt well rewarded for my efforts. During the next 3 years the Club became more involved in Junior Training and another Rib was purchased, Orange, also from Porters, A Pioneer landing craft also made the lists and it seemed that we were creating a fleet of boats that would be essential but occasionally used.
Anna Hardy was doing a sterling job with Junior's and it was obvious that we needed more safety cover. The Pioneer was not a popular acquisition, and by this time I had stepped back into the role under John Gregory's Commodore ship. The Pioneer went to a very good home where it is still much loved, and a decision made to acquire another RIB. With my 'keep things simple' hat on, I went back to Ian Porter and arranged for BLUE to be built. I hope that any further boats are kept simple, because whoever has the job of looking after them will want it that way.

These extra years with John Gregory and John Watts were 'the icing on the cake.' I was sorry to I say 'enough' at the end of 2018, but frankly the amount of work now involved in keeping pace with the new busy programme demands more effort than one volunteer can reasonably provide without whole time assistance. Keeping our boats on the water makes it doubly difficult. Good luck, Jeremy Haynes, and don't forget that I can still do a bit if needed.

John Coyle

Last updated 08:03 on 4 December 2019

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