I have hugely enjoyed every trip on Thalassa and felt immensely secure. There’s nothing to beat the wisdom and experience of Richard combined with the tangible presence of guardian angels.
Michael Gormley

    Thalassatherapy – originally translated from the French as “being hosed down with Muscadet Sur Lie while eating crevettes.” Now reinterpreted in modern dictionaries as “treatment dished out by a 100 year old aunt who believes she is a yacht.” Personally I think it is more like being included in a glorious extended family headed up by an amazingly generous and wise skipper. Thank you Richard for everything you have given us all.
Adam Greenwood

    I remember joining Thalassa by chance in 1952, having dropped in to the Ocean Racing Club to see if I could join Foxhound for the Brixham-Santander Race. I ran into Alan who said “ Well, we have a place. I came in to find someone else but I don’t know him, so you can come along”. I had not sailed with him before but had met him several times after Hook races.

    The start from Brixham was very windy and as we were getting the sails ready, Alan looked at the luff wire of the yankee and said “I think it’ll do”. To me it looked rather rusty and of course it didn’t do. It broke as soon as we had rounded Berry Head and were exposed to the southwesterly gale. We returned to Brixham which was a great disappointment. “The old boat doesn’t do very well under staysail only” said Alan, and Buster de Guingand replied “But think of all those lobsters in Britanny”. So to Britanny we went and the crew included Sandy Sandison and Jon Walley.

    In 1961, we started on the St.Malo race but got into some bad weather off Bembridge Ledge which Beryl thought was too much for her so we returned to Cowes and later sailed directly to Dinard. We were safely anchored in Dinard roads and were having a very nice lunch ashore, overlooking the anchorage, when another yachtsman said “If that’s your boat over there, she’s going for a walk”. We looked over to Thalassa and in truth she was. With the wind from the northwest she was driving onto the rocks at the mouth of the Rance. We rushed down to the river and managed to get a launch out to Thalassa who was determined quite rapidly to go aground. Alan managed to start the engine quickly and I got the anchor up. One of the flukes was badly bent. We had got her under control and another anchor attached when she was within ten yards of grounding. I cannot remember whether the tide was ebbing or flowing but she would have been damaged because although the northwesterly wind was not strong, there was a fair sea running into the roads and up the Rance.

    By the time we made the return trip after cruising to the Ile de Brehat, the weather had deteriorated, there was a westerly wind and thick fog going up the channel. During the night, running in an east-north-easterly direction in thick fog across the Bay of Seine, I was on the helm, the wind was not particularly strong but there was enough of a sea to give waves with some surf. I was watching the waves rather idly at about midnight when I noticed there was one that was not breaking and was quite close. Then I realised that it was the bow wave of a vessel and I jibed very rapidly. To my horror a wall of steel glided past about ten yards away. We had heard a sound signal some minutes before, but it was not very near or loud and I did not think it posed any threat to us at all. We answered with our rather ineffective sound signal, but I doubt if the ship would have heard this over the noise of a big freighter going through a moderate sea. At that time French ships were not always fitted with radar, although we had all our reflectors out. This rather frightening episode was a considerable shock to me and to Julian Lang who was also on watch. We all put our life jackets on after it was over, but that was a good example of shutting the stable door.

    The funny episode recounted by Sandy Sandison in “To Sea in Carpet Slippers” about the fake shortening of the mast was typical of the sort of leg-pulling of Alan by his crew. To my mind the great contribution that Alan made to ocean racing was that he kept his crew together before, during and after the war, except there were some gaps due to casualties. They also introduced a lot of people to ocean racing who would not otherwise have been exposed.

    A bit more about a few of Alan’s regular crew:

    Buster de Guingand, as well as being a good navigator, was a ferocious Matador player (Matador was a game of Dominoes played on Thalassa) and quite a gourmet. He later became a Flag Officer of the RORC and having sailed with the Americans was responsible for the amalgamation of the American, so called CCA rule and the RORC rule for ocean racing. Sandy Sandison, the cook, who wrote “To Sea in Carpet Slippers” was in real life an executive in the Bank of England. His speciality was curried shrimps or prawns which he insisted “had to be peeled by the pregnant ladies of Ostend !”.

    Jon Walley joined Thalassa before the war when he was a medical student. He was a man of parts who played the penny whistle very well. Alec Clarke-Kennedy started crewing when he was at Cambridge after the war and helped Alan a lot. Sandy recalls how he first met Alec under the billiard table in the Crouch Yacht Club. Mike Vernon later became Commodore of the RORC. Others who sailed regularly were, George Mandow and Denis Burke-Collis.            
    Harry Banks, who died at a great age just prior to Thalassa’s centenary, owned an oyster fishery in West Mersea and was always at hand in her home port. Hector Stoker, a Mersea fisherman from an old-seafaring family which still exists there, was really Thalassa’s husband in the post war years, helping out when she was laid up in a mud berth in the winter and fitting-out in the spring.
Nick Greville