Eight Bells: Andrew Cooper
Published on January 15th, 2016
The Bermuda International One Design Fleet is deeply saddened by the recent loss of Andrew Cooper, one of the stalwarts of the Bermuda Fleet.
While I knew Andrew through his son Patrick when we were in our early teenage years, I really got to know Andrew once he started to sail regularly on “Solna II” in the mid to late 1980s with my father, Larry. A friendly rivalry on the water commenced as “Solna” and “Vrengen” (another IOD sailed by a group of teenagers including Patrick and myself) were always looking to be the first “Jews Bay Yacht Club” boat to finish (and ultimately, once we were older, be first to the Bloody Mary pitcher on the JBYC porch with bragging rights for the day).
We had a lot to learn from the more experienced crew, and were eventually managing to hold our own after more than a few seasons of bringing up the rear.
The real impact Andrew made occurred off the race course though, as we collectively learnt from Andrew and Larry how to maintain an IOD both in and out of the water. Watching Andrew coordinate one of the last fleet haul outs at the old Bert Darrell’s boatyard with cranes, stands and chocking is one of my clearest memories of Andrew in charge. I can still hear him (and see him using hand signals) directing the boats being lifted and placed on the ground. Andrew and Larry are the real reasons that “Solna II” (now sailed by Patrick) and “Vrengen” (still sailed by me) remain active on the water.
Andrew was a full supporter of the IOD Class in Bermuda from the 1980s when he started sailing on “Solna II” – right the way through the fall of 2015 when he was in the “Morris” boatyard in our garden helping to build scaffolding for work to be carried out on “Gaylord”. Andrew was always there with a smile and a ready hand, regardless of what needed to be done or the weather.
He was a fixture for every major event that the Bermuda IOD fleet put on, and I can probably find check lists from almost every race week since the 1980s that were filled out by Andrew. Every time we needed hands to fix things, whether a tiller needed to be re-glued, a mast needed to come out, or boats needed to be gone through, Andrew was always there regardless of the weather.
Andrew and Larry (with Martin Brewer and others) also instituted a training program when out sailing on “Solna II”. Recognizing the challenge that the fleet had in training new crew members (and noting that Patrick and I were more interested in competing against them as we got older), they invited new teenagers to go out sailing with them. They trained them, educated them in sailboats, did local regattas with them and even took them overseas to many IOD Class events, providing them lasting memories of the “Solna II” team.
Andrew was a consummate seaman. He was the go-to person for anything that we didn’t know about in the construction of boats, particularly where there was wood involved. His specialty was flag etiquette, and he wasn’t shy about letting any of us know if we had broken the rules! The only thing he wasn’t particularly good at on a boat was electrics – in particular bilge pumps!
We had any number of discussions regarding his sailboat “Monday’s Child” in particular, especially through the build up to a 1996 trip to St Maarten where Andrew somehow let a bunch of us sail “Monday’s Child” from Bermuda to the Caribbean and back. There were later discussions during the rebuilds of “Monday’s Child” after her unfortunate damage in a couple of weather events in Bermuda, and the last major work taken on following a major chain plate failure where we nearly lost the mast while out for a fun race.
While the fiberglass work was done by the boatyard, Andrew effectively stripped out the interior joinery and then rebuilt it after the boatyard was done. His patience and meticulous attention to detail is why “Monday’s Child” is in the shape she is today, and I am reminded of that as I look out from my window at home and see her floating proudly on her mooring.
Andrew was incredibly proud of his family scattered from Bermuda to Florida and Australia, and their wide range of interests. He would drop everything to help any of them, and typically had a laundry list of things to do on every visit. He adored his grandchildren – Lauren and Thomas in Australia and Ross and Gareth in Bermuda. He was their hero in Bermuda – from kite making to spending time out on the water.
I last saw Andrew at the Annual Governor’s lunch at the RHADC less in mid-December. He was as full of life as ever – deaf as a post without his hearing aids being on – but wearing his infectious smile that just made you feel like whatever happened, things would be okay. I will always remember him like that.
My heart goes out to all of the Cooper family, in particular his wife Tricia, and children Alisa, Patrick & Carola. He may be gone, but he will never be forgotten. – Craig Davis