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Remembering Roger Fox – by Simon Collyer

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Alas, Roger Fox is no more, he has fallen of the back of the boat, gone to the great dinghy park in the sky, Roger is now the late Roger, is deceased, passed on, and no longer taking ‘phone calls.

Roger was a 1960’s then 70’s Firefly sailor with whom I a sailed 2.4 Championships with – for those interested in percentages. Later Roger was part of the scene at Brightlingsea Club Sailing, although he hailed at one time from Dell Quay, a beautiful location and Sailing Club to match, a way off Chichester Harbour, tucked away in the secluded Fishbourne Channel. One of my early memories of Roger was at Dell Quay. It was a grey, wet, still autumn afternoon, the sort that says winter is coming soon. Dank and dark by four o’clock, yet magical and peaceful in the stillness. We stood at the water’s edge and watched a 420 being expertly roll tacked up the river. ‘Who’s that Roger’ I said. ‘It’s Cathy Foster’ said Roger, whom I later sailed against in the 470 Class.

I was in my teens, however my life’s fortunes were about to change and so I member those times very fondly. Soon I would be sailing 470s against Cathy, Lawrie Smith, Eddie Warden Owen and a host other top sailors of that era.

One of the Firefly ‘Champs’, as Roger called them was a Classic held in Marazion, Cornwall. The event had a Dolphin called ‘Beaky’ who decided to get involved. One sailor claiming he was not laying the windward mark with ‘the mob’ on his hip, found the mark flipped over and a Dolphin was seen tugging the mooring rope. The sailor could now round the mark with the buoy flipped over. A female crew cried out ‘Shark’ and immediately fell overboard. By mid-week Beaky was a cause celebre, and by the championships end, everyone it seemed had a ‘Beaky’ story. How many stories were true I cannot say?

Racing was blown off one day and we all had a magic trek to Newquay to try our hand at surfing. It was raining, blowing and one of the best days of my life.

Back to the Firefly racing I remember screaming at Roger to motivate him as we blasted down one reach, in the hunt with boats going down like nine pins all around us. Only to have Roger hollering at myself down the next reach. We both used to sit out in competition with each other, wearing as many soggy jumpers as we could.
‘Go on Simmes’ used to shout Roger – he used to flick his bleached blond hair aggressively, over his balding palette – Rogers hair on top, having receded as far as the tide at Southport, alas never to come in again.

Roger had acquired an early copy of the Good Beer Guide and so in his 2CV with the Firefly on the back, we had searched on the way down for this pub that brewed the Uk’s strongest beer. Roger was rarely with a beer and fag in either hand, yet was remarkable fit considering. Both of us seemed to be able to absorb remarkable punishment in the bar, and yet get up and sail as if we had been on the bottled water all evening. Oh, for those days again.

Our next Championship was at Felixstowe Ferry was no less eventful. We were again pathfinder during the series, this time in the last race. Released by the Gate Boat we tacked onto starboard.

Hiking as hard as we could out of the tack we locked ourselves into the toe straps. Alas, a port tacker came across, not looking exactly in control. All I saw under the boom was a Firefly doing a violent windward broach bearing away. So violently in fact its spar hit our prize Reynolds mast and left Roger and I sitting out, but with only half a rig; the mast having snapped off, and the tip being now in the back of the boat. We collapsed laughing, partly in shock staring at our new ‘Junk rig’. At least we might be first in the showers.

Our last effort Championship effort together we were in Herne Bay in the late seventies. We had won an open meeting on the Medway earlier, and were lying fourth overall after a couple of races. As usual we were excelling in the breezier conditions. Alas, in our moment of glory neither Roger nor I had booked any extra holiday. We were robbed, no one had sunk us, nor were we in given the job as pathfinder again, there was no ‘Dolphin’ going to steal our thunder. We had to retire, this time because of PAYE, holiday rosters and bosses who missed our presence at the sales millstone.

Later in life, Roger was more absorbed, especially as his career prospered in the book publishing industry. He appeared more introspective and deeply thoughtful at times. Occasionally however we would reminisce about sailing the Firefly together and the great times we had in the Class.

Sadly for Roger a comeback is not on the cards. We had wonderful times and raced against some fabulous people. I am lucky to have sailed with Roger, who in his moment raced alongside some of the best Firefly ‘pundits’, and I shall certainly miss him.

Roger Fox Funeral 28th April 2015

The Deanery Church of St. Mary the Virgin
Deanery Street

No Flowers by request

Donations to:

Community Action Nepal

Nepal (CAN) is a UK based charity whose aim is to help the mountain people of Nepal. Founded by Doug Scott CBE, who in 1975 made the first British ascent of Everest, CAN is supported by mountaineers and mountain-lovers from across the globe. CAN’s Kathmandu office and Nepali staff make our projects happen on the ground. Funds are raised from donations, fundraising events, sales of Nepali goods, grants and Doug Scott’s lecture tours.

Simon Collyer