MARABU’S DIAMOND JUBILEE
The story of the weekend celebrations in Portsmouth in 1995 to remember Marabu's 60th birthday, as told by one of the Marabu Syndicate's founding members.
What a wonderful way to celebrate Marabu’s 60th Birthday! For those members of the Syndicate
who were unable to attend – and I’m pleased to say there were not that many, they missed a really good treat.
Marabu was moored in the Camber and tied up right outside one of the best pubs in Portsmouth and, apart from the publican thinking it was ‘his’ birthday, she was able to sail three times on Saturday and three times on Sunday taking no fewer than 72 people sailing in addition to the crew.
Everybody enjoyed themselves on these short trips, which has helped us not only to increase our membership by some annual subscriptions but we also sold shares and generally generated an incredible amount of interest, particularly as Marabu looked really terrific dressed overall with every flag we could find.
On Saturday evening the Diamond Jubilee dinner was held at the Royal Naval Club and Royal Albert Yacht Club in Pembroke Road, Old Portsmouth. I don’t think any of us quite believed how lucky we were to be able to hold these celebrations in such a perfect venue. The building itself is steeped in tradition and although we originally thought of having dinner in the dining room, the numbers swelled so greatly in the weeks before the event that the Club allowed us to take over the ballroom where 112 sat down to dinner.
The general consensus of opinion from those who attended was that at £10 per head the meal was extremely good value, including wine and ended with the cutting of an enormous 60th birthday cake. The cake was splendid – it not only had a model of Marabu sailing across its surface but the cake itself was steeped in an entire bottle of brandy.
The Marabu Syndicate was very honoured in having some distinguished guests on the top table. Peter Whelan, the Secretary of the RNSA made an interesting speech giving us the history of Marabu during the time she came under the Royal Naval banner and as we all know, she had a particularly distinguished career. He mentioned how well she had done in one of the Fastnet races and, as a sideline, one story told how the entire fleet had become totally becalmed in fog. As this gradually lifted during the early hours of the morning Marabu was, apparently, the only yacht moving in the right direction with a complete set of lightweight sails! She went on to distinguish herself whilst the rest of the fleet languished in the doldrums.
He also mentioned that the first wheel steering which went on to Marabu was taken from an old lorry. For those of us who sailed in the very early days, we are not a bit surprised. The original steering was run by a series of nasty cables, which ran over the aft deck in some figure-of-eight pattern and caused some rather nasty accidents while the crew were handling the mizzen sail. All of that, however, is a thing of the past and today, as we all know, Marabu is a joy to sail and certainly for the past few years the steering has not let us down.
Also on the top table was Jack Dalmeny, the Hon. Secretary of the Royal Naval Club and the Royal Albert Yacht Club. We were also delighted to be able to welcome Peter Witcher and Tony Venables from Overlord, whose Diamond Jubilee is in 1996.
There are a great number of people, of course, who ought to be mentioned. The Commodore Barrie Smith paid tribute to the work of Patricia Lowes, Mary McDermott, David Isted and Rob Penny who had made Marabu look so smart. For myself, having seen Janet Kapp and Hazel Parker struggling with the table plan one realises just how much work went into arranging this party. The entire Committee had all done Trojan work and for those, like myself who simply attended the event, it was an occasion to be long remembered.
As a footnote, I would like to mention that John Kapp, whose speech brought Marabu’s history
‘up to date’ paid tribute to the founder members, six of whom were present at the dinner. I was surprised how few there were then, or more to the point, how many active members there are in the Syndicate now.
Marabu has sailed some 100,000 miles with the Syndicate. Had it not been for the incredible, untiring devotion that John put in to keeping Marabu afloat in those early years we would not have her today. She would arrive back in port from almost every trip with a broken this or a snapped that, a flooded engine or a flat battery and it was always John who spent the night in the marina mending these things so that she could say on the following day – and for as long as Marabu is sailed by the members of our Syndicate, John’s efforts should never be forgotten.
Mike Hetherington, 1995
Professional photography: Peter Dawney