Robin Judah- member, Olympic sailor and friend. 26 Aug 2021
I first met Robin in 1951 at the Corinthian. He had joined the Club the year before. He had brought with him an International 14 but was soon seduced to join the Merlin Class which remained popular in Burnham until supplanted by the Hornets. Happy and mainly sunny Burnham Weeks are remembered lazily lounging in the Dinghy Park after racing (Robin undoubtedly having taken yet another gun and perhaps a celebratory Scotch). And from the evenings after there are some joyous images of a peripatetic jazz band in which Robin did blow a mean trombone parading along the High Street playing ‘the Saints go Marching In’. Or was it ‘St James Infirmary’ ?
Robin, although he later enjoyed racing a Hornet with Sue on his sliding seat stayed a Merlin man at heart sailing a succession of Ian Proctor designed boats (Mint Julip, Diki Diki and there was also a Zingaroo but after further thought I recall that was his Firefly). They were all named after Cocktails. He had joined Ranelagh SC at Putney and raced there but also trailed around the Country to compete with repeated successes in the Merlins’ Silver Tiller series. He was and remained for many years amongst the top echelon of Britain’s dinghy helmsmen. I referred to his ‘trailing’ but out of frustration with the 50mph speed limit applying overall to road trailers Robin had constructed a roof rack permitting the Merlin to ride atop his Coombs modified Jaguar Mark II. By this means he committed no offence when caught travelling at eighty along the M1 (truly unrestricted in those days) en route to wherever. It proved a case of Sucks Boo to the traffic cops.
Robin’s prowess as a dinghy racer had been honed mainly in team racing at the University of London Sailing Club which he had helped create after he had enrolled to read Physics at Chelsea in 1948. And after leaving University he and a few others founded Castaways, a club for ex ULSC sailors keen to continue their team racing. Robin brought these skills to the RCYC where he organised and Captained a team to compete in the top team racing event in the Country, the Wilson Trophy held at West Kirby. They won ! Robin was a loyal and distinguished Corinthian helmsman. He turned those talents to racing a Dragon and his further success in this Class culminated in his being selected to represent our Country in the 1968 Mexico Olympics held at Acapulco Bay. Sadly his and the UK ‘s hopes for a medal were dashed by a broken mast (in those days made of wood with rigging that required the finest of tuning) and the early promising and encouraging boat speed was lost.
Robin married Sue and they lived in London until moving with their three children to Bermuda. He became interested in art and admired much of the modern/contemporary work coming out of America. And an earlier interest in photography later developed into the use of his camera to create artistic images which proved to be worthy of publication and exhibition. London’s Ritz Gallery exhibited a series of studies of Bermudian roofs each of which at first sight gave an impression of an abstract painting. His book ‘Organic Abstractions’ saw collected together a series of images of flowers as never seen before. Taken with the closest of close up lenses from within the foliage of plants, the resulting photographs could again appear at first to be uniquely exciting abstract compositions.
A settled family life there saw Robin playing more Golf than engaging in competitive sailing. Gradually however he became involved in the regulation of sailing and the interpretation and application of the IYRU racing rules. He was made an International Judge and an on the water
Umpire. He was much in demand at major regattas and top match racing events around the world. The family’s happiness however was tragically shattered by the death of David their elder son and the effects of the tragedy were long felt.
Robin perhaps sought refuge in the varied worlds of his sports and art and photography. Burnham though continued to be the home he would return to each summer. He had his Squib fitted with a self tacking jib for single handed sailing. And here at Burnham he played golf with his friends but also sometimes alone at Creeksea, facing up to challenges he could at least choose to set for himself. Further tragedy was to engulf the family’s world when Ben their younger son died. Robin and Sue decided to return to the UK to be near to their daughter and her family. But Robin had by then already begun to show signs of the dementia which would inexorably progress and require his admission to a Care Home. He died there peacefully last week aged ninety one and (by another of fate’s cruel twists) only some two weeks after Sue had suffered a severe stroke from which she also would make no recovery. To offer their family our truly heartfelt sympathy seems somehow inadequate.
For those of us in Burnham who knew him and enjoyed his company the Summers to come will not be as complete as they once were. Our toasts to ‘absent friends’ will sadly now include Robin and Sue. The Club has lost its oldest and most distinguished member. Ann and I have lost the closest of friends.