Harken Derm

Eight Bells: John Thackray

Published on March 6th, 2019

John Thackray

John Thackray passed away on March 5 after a long battle with cancer, surrounded by close friends and his nephew from England. He was 73 years old.

Born in Kirkby Malzeard (UK), he grew up sailing in the English Channel and the North Sea area where he quickly developed a passion for the sea and the finer points of racing a sailboat.

During his racing career, he raced onboard the famous maxi boats of the day such as Kialoa, Running Tide, and Charisma. His racing resume was extensive with Atlantic and Pacific Ocean crossings, many Bermuda Races and major regattas around the world. He was a superb trimmer and often managed the boat as the chief boat maintenance worker.

In the 1997-98 Whitbread Round the World Race, then the seventh edition of the around-the-world sailing event, he was assistant shore manger on our Whitbread 60 Chessie Racing (above), the entry from the Chesapeake Bay and the first American boat finisher in the race.

While sailing Leg 5 from Auckland NZ to Sao Sabastiao, Brazil, through the treacherous South Ocean, Chessie Racing broke its’ donkey engine which was needed to shift water ballast and make fresh water.

JT, as he is known by the sailing community, scrounged the many parts required in Annapolis, also securing charts and other equipment in great need, and then flew to Chile, took a long cab ride to Ushuaia and met Chessie Racing offshore so it could successfully complete the leg to finish third. The extraordinary efforts of JT are remembered fondly by the racing team to this day.

In recent years, JT served as captain on Grand Slam, a 75-foot Feadship and several smaller competitive fishing boats. JT is a member of the Storm Trysail Club and the Royal Ocean Racing Club, and for many years was a member of the Annapolis Yacht Club.

Fittingly, his ashes will be distributed in his favorite seas off Miami, the Chesapeake Bay near Annapolis, and The Channel. A remembrance will be held in Annapolis at a future date. – George J. Collins

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