Former Club Commodore and Life Member Richard ELSTON “DICK” Passed away at home on 13th August, aged 86.
Dick Elston was Commodore at Hythe & Saltwood Sailing Club (HSSC) when it was home to a hotbed of Scorpion sailors and budding windsurfers. His wife Mary ran all the catering. Once his dinghy racing days were done, he and Mary loved touring around Europe in various campervans, and while at home in Hythe they were both avid supporters and fund raisers for the RNLI.
As a Ship’s Master he had sailed the world and was a master craftsman himself designing and building sailing parts. Friends including Adrian Smith, describes Dick as the sort of person who knew how to manage things, build them and make things happen. When he wasn’t designing new rudders, he was building his own house in North Road. Dick brought the Scorpion Nationals to the Club and enthused the youngsters into participating in dinghy sailing. Both Adrian and his brother were introduced to the Scorpion Class in a boat lent to them by Dick.
Adrian remembers, “The ‘evergreen Evil Edna’ (referred to by Dick’s best friend, John Mursell -below), was one of the Scorpions which Dick owned, was a really old boat which Dick resurrected and loaned to me and my brother Rob to sail at the Nationals. We surprised everyone with how well you could make an old boat go, with the benefit of Dick’s skill and hard work to upgrade it of course”.
Current HSSC Commodore, Marc Carney has very fond memories from a young age. He describes how Dick and Mary effectively ran the Club and therefore had a major influence on his own approach. Marc was thrilled when Dick asked him to be the Race Officer for one of the last Scorpion meetings to be held at HSSC. He says, “I was chuffed to bits”. Marc also explains how supportive Dick was of the introduction of windsurfing into Hythe, along with heading and assisting with the organisation of some major windsurfing tournaments.
Graeme Fuller recalls how Dick asked him to be Race Officer for the Moth Class European Championships when Hythe was selected to hold the event. Graeme recalls his trepidation at the scale of the responsibility especially as winds were blowing up to force 5, and there were over 200 boats on the beach, however, Dick was a calming influence and instilled confidence in his crew.
Dick started sailing Scorpions around 1980, with his first Nationals at Tenby in 1981, ably crewed by his son, Dave. Dick was the proud owner of five Scorpions during his sailing career: 1595 Getafix, 1760 Smoke on the Water – famous for the wooden hoop designed and made by Dick, 1857 Hooray Henry – the Turner boat used as a mould for some of the early fiberglass boats promoted by Steve Walker, 1891 Fire in the Sky, and the evergreen 127 Evil Edna.
Dick was an ocean going seafarer in his younger days, and a Master Mariner, spending considerable time in the Gulf and Far East. He enjoyed recounting the tale of how he and his wife Mary made the epic drive from Bombay back to the UK at the end of his appointment in the region. Thereafter he was involved in cargo handling, general port management and underwater pipelines.
His technical nous led to an unrivalled enthusiasm for applying his engineering and aerodynamic expertise in order to find innovative solutions to the design of dinghy fixtures and fittings. Of particular note was his approach to rudder design, where he was very keen on the Spitfire wing shape. One light weight version made of balsa wood had so much positive buoyancy that Dick became well known for his favourite sailing manoeuvre – backwards rolling over the transom while firmly holding onto the tiller as the rudder popped off.
President of the National Scorpions Association for many years, Dick, ably assisted by Mary, never missed a Nationals, and took it upon himself to design and run our Championship results system (in the days before off the shelf programmes were readily available), look after registration, and smoothly and calmly mastermind the prize giving.
As John Mursell says for us all, “All said and done, Scorpions, and all things salty, were a large part of Dick’s life. Our thoughts and sympathies are with Dave, Yvonne, and Euan, and the rest of the Elston family”.
Dick will be sadly missed by all who knew him.
Funeral service at Hawkinge Crematorium on Friday 4th September at 12.30pm. Current COVID restrictions apply. Enquiries or donations in Dick’s memory payable to R.N.L.I c/o W J Farrier and Son Ltd, The Island, Red Lion Square, Hythe, CT21 5AU. Tel: 01303 470346.