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Simon 'Fumesy' Russell passes away

by Mark Jardine 6 Jan 13:29 PST
Simon Russell concentrating upwind during the XOD Central Solent Championships in 2006 © Eddie Mays / www.eddiemays.com

One of sailing's great characters has been taken from us by Covid. Simon Russell, known by all as Fumesy, suddenly passed away on Tuesday.

His sister Amanda said, "It is with great sadness we share the news of the sudden passing of my brother Simon 'Fumesy' Russell. He was much loved by his family, his girls and Audrey and a great many friends in the sailing and motorcar world. We are all absolutely devastated and in shock. He will be missed always and in our hearts."

He was known the world over in sailing, having raced in fleets such as the Etchells, Melges 24s, Ultra 30s, Mumm 30s, the X One Designs and many more.

Simon worked in the marine industry for over 25 years, most recently as a Director of Sportsboat World, after eleven years as Corporate Sales Manager at Musto, where he focused on growing the team sales business. Before that, he spent ten years at Jack Holt Ltd as a Technical Sales Manager in the dinghy and keelboat hardware division.

He crewed for Stuart Childerley in the Etchells, winning the World Championship together with Nik Pearson in 2001 at Lymington and then defending the title with brother-in-law Roger Marino in 2002, racing on Auckland's Hauraki Gulf.

Stuart said, "Fumesy had time for everyone and always knew somebody who'd be able to help when needed. It was only when you got really close to him, the friendship he provided and the attention to detail in his sailing was immense. We saw his determination to succeed in the Etchells, the XODs and everything that he does, but we'd all be happy to spend time with him in the boat park, bimbling on the boat, being so thorough in our preparations on race days. He had all the ingredients and characteristics of a world-class sailor, which became evident in the final results, but most of all it was just fun doing things with Fumesy."

"I remember during the 2001 Etchells Worlds we'd done a 10 out of 10 gybe in a massive squall, which Bob Fisher wrote about in his report of the event. What he didn't know was that Fumesy was head down in the boat, both spinnaker sheets cleated off, and he was just chatting away! He knew he'd put everything in as good a position as possible to get through it all, and the loads on the Etchells meant he couldn't play the sheets once the squall hit. We've chuckled about that story so many times. I'm going to miss his little chuckle."

Nik Pearson said, "After sailing with Stuie and Fumesy I basically retired from Etchells sailing. We won the Easter Regatta, the South Coast Championship, the Nationals and then the Worlds. After sailing with them I wasn't ever going to sail with anyone better.

"We were winning the 2001 Etchells Worlds by a country mile, but then had a bad day with an OCS and a 20th, meaning we had to finish within 13 places of Australian Cameron Miles in the final race. He went and did a horizon job with us back in the 20s, but we clawed our way back up the fleet to win the Worlds. I'll never forget that final beat as I was talking through the shifts, saying when we needed to tack, only to find Stuie and Fumesy were chatting about nappies! They both had young babies at the time, and that relaxed attitude is how you win World Championships. It was so good hearing his chuckle that always lightened the mood. He was one of those friendly guys that you were just proud to know."

Roger Marino, Simon's brother-in-law who sailed together with him in many events said, "He could be grumpy, opinionated and yet chuckle at the same time, which is why I loved him. That's what we expected from him and it kept us all grounded. One uplifting thought today, with the flood of messages which have come in, his mum has found the impact he had on others heart-warming."

Christian Brewer, fellow sailor in the XODs, who raced with Fumesy in the 1999 Mumm 30 Worlds, said, "He was always smiling. He was a fellow petrol-head with his Lancia Delta Integrale which was his pride and joy. Being around him made you feel good about life - he was such a positive person. He was so meticulous and did so much work on his XOD 'Swallow' before winning the Captain's Cup in 2007."

In total Fumesy won the XOD Captain's Cup three times, the trophy which (ahead of his first victory in 2002) he famously said was more difficult to win than the Admiral's Cup. His most recent victory was in the 2019 event, together with his great friends Richard Faulkner and Ben McGrane, making him the current holder of the famous cup.

XOD legend Stuart Jardine said of Simon, "He sailed in the right way; clean, courteous and always with a smile. We had many a battle with him out on the racecourse, but it was always accompanied with great chat and plenty of laughter. It was an honour to be asked by him to helm at the Mumm 30 Worlds in 1999. We will all miss him terribly."

Covid-19 has taken away one of the great characters of the sailing world far too early. Our thoughts are with all his family, Audrey, his daughters Marcie and Lucie, his parents, sister Amanda and his many friends.

Sail on Fumesy.

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