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Eight Bells for Henry Kaye, and other sailing matters


Eight bells for the Mayor of Phuket

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So long, Henry. See you in Fiddler's Green. - photo © Guy Nowell

Dear Recipient Name

Sail World Asia is desperately sorry to call eight bells for a dear friend. Henry Kaye died on 08 March, after a long battle with various versions of cancer. “How are you today, Henry?” would usually provoke “I’m bloody awful, but I’m here, which is good, and we should have a drink.” I never heard him complain, and gradually came to imagine that this breezy and genial man was some version of indestructible. Sadly, not so.

Henry was an indelible part of the sailing scene in Hong Kong and subsequently in Phuket. He was a force of nature in his own right, and his departure leaves a hole in many hearts and a gap in the start line of many races and regattas. He was an innate entrepreneur whose skills ranged from tea trader to watch case manufacturer to furniture maker. Once, he gleefully informed me that he had just been offered a container-load of china dogs by the passenger next to him on a flight. “I think I’ve sold it already. Let’s have another drink and celebrate.”

And then there was the sailing. Henry never did anything by halves, and at different times was deeply involved in racing X-99s, Etchells’, Magic 25s, Firefly 850s, a Sea Cart 30 and – rather less successfully – a Sea Cart 26. I first sailed with him on his X-119, Lethal Weapon (known to all and sundry as the Blunt Instrument), with which he won the inaugural Raja Muda International Regatta in 1990. We were racing in Port Shelter, Hong Kong, and I was on the bow. “You get the guy… no, not you… oh, this is going to be confusing. Right – that’s the guy, and you are BRACE!.” So for the next 32 years my name was Brace – just for Henry, mind you.

Henry and Lethal Weapon also won the China Sea Race in 1992, back in the days of CHS. Henry was convinced that the handicapping system, which was meant to be completely opaque and involved some ‘secret sauce’, was actually transparent and could be manipulated. He ‘proved’ this by making some modifications to the boat, remeasured, and presto! came up with the desired handicap of 1.119. And of course the sail number was KH119. Voila.

There was a Phuket King’s Cup (1988) on Singha, another with Mamba in 2007 (Firefly 850), and then 2009 and 2017 with Thor (Sea Cart 30). To reveal why the appendages on that boat were painted orange would be impolite.

As a long standing member of the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club, Henry served as Vice Commodore and in numerous other official positions, not least as an occasional commentator for summer Sunset races. Only Henry could make a dog-slow light airs drifting match sound like the Grand National. He will be missed by all and sundry for myriad reasons, but of all because he was… just Henry.

Today, Friday 13th (yes he would have enjoyed that!) is Henry’s drink-up at Chergtalay, Phuket. “Dress: Cheerful”. I’m sorry that I can’t be there, but Covid-19 and governmental travel regulations have got in the way. I’ll shed a tear, raise a glass, and look forward to seeing you in Fiddler’s Green.

Sincerely, Brace.

So long, Henry. See you in Fiddler's Green. - photo © Guy Nowell
So long, Henry. See you in Fiddler's Green. - photo © Guy Nowell

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