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Stuart Jardine passes away

by Mark Jardine 12 Nov 2023 06:00 PST
Stuart Jardine © Archive

One of the best known and most highly respected sailors in the UK has passed away at the age of 90. Lt Col. Stuart Jardine OBE won championships over a remarkable eight decades, representing Great Britain at both the 1968 and 1972 Olympic Games in the Star class, and winning titles in a wide range of dinghy & keelboat classes.

Born in Salisbury on the 23rd August 1933, just minutes after his identical twin brother Ado, he soon moved out to Basra, Iraq, where his father, Frier, held a position in the Colonial Service. The family then moved to Palestine, where he and Ado had their first experience of sailing, before returning to the UK before the end of World War II.

His early dinghy sailing was dominated by sailing with Ado. The 'Jardine twins' took to the double handed sailing classes with gusto, winning the 1950, '51, '53 and '54 Firefly Championships in F597 'Javelin' and the National 12 Burton Cup in 1952, '54 and '56.

In 1955, after attending The Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, Stuart joined the Royal Engineers, in an Army career that took him around the world, including witnessing the hydrogen and atomic bomb test on Christmas Island and postings to Singapore and Germany. He rose to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and was awarded the Order of the British Empire medal.

While some overseas postings were somewhat restrictive, the Army in no way slowed down Stuart's sailing, and in 1956 he won his first XOD Captain's Cup, sailing with Ado and Jane Pitt-Pitts. In 1959 he purchased his first Flying Dutchman, winning the French Olympic Regatta in La Baule, France. In 1960 he finished 2nd in the Flying Dutchman UK Championship, and was selected as reserve for the 1960 Rome Olympics, where the sailing was held in Naples.

Stuart went on to win the Flying Dutchman UK Championship in 1961, '62, '64 and '65, as well as finishing third in the 1962 World Championship with crew James Ramus, behind sailing legends Hans Fogh and Paul Elvstrøm from Denmark, and Rolly Tasker and Andrew White from Australia.

On 28th July 1962, Stuart married Mary-Ann, who travelled the world with Stuart during his Army career, having three children together, before settling down in Milford-on-Sea in 1982, where they made their home for 40 years. They say that behind every great man is a great woman, and Mary-Ann supported Stuart throughout his career, and occasionally crewed herself, during countless sailing events.

Having been posted to Germany in 1965, Stuart purchased his first Star class sailboat called 'SNAFU' (a well-known acronym used in the Army) in 1967, and was selected for the 1968 Olympic Games held at Acapulco, Mexico, where he finished 10th with crew James Ramus.

During a posting to Singapore between 1969 and 1970 he also won the 505 SE Asian Championship, as well as the Singapore Osprey and GP14 Championship. With two young sons at this stage, Lewis and Robert, he also started to build 'Economists' at Changi Sailing Club, which were, as the name suggests, a budget version of an Optimist, made out of a single sheet of plywood with sails cut from discarded sails from other classes. On a trip to Singapore during the 1980s, Stuart was very pleased to see a thriving Optimist fleet at the club.

Stuart was posted back to Germany in 1971, purchasing another Star and was selected for the 1972 Olympics with crew John Wastall, where the sailing was held at Kiel in Germany, finishing 7th overall and winning the first race. In the same year he also finished fourth in the Star European Championship. 1972 was also the year when Stuart and Mary-Ann's third son Mark was born.

In the 70's Stuart was posted to the Junior Leaders Regiment in Dover, followed by The Royal School of Military Engineering at Chatham and then the Army Apprentice College in Chepstow, where he coached young sailors, as well as sailing a Quarter Tonner 'Rampant Robber', Bosun Dinghies and Lasers. Next up he was posted to the Royal Engineers Diving Establishment at Marchwood in 1982, where he played a part in the raising of the Tudor ship, Mary Rose. In 1985 he was posted back to Chatham where he sailed a Half Tonner and a Laser. During this time he Captained both the Army and the Royal Engineers Dinghy Teams for many years, and won the Inter-Services Gold Cup thirteen times, which was held in Seaview on the Isle of Wight.

In 1988 he took on an Army J/24 called 'Chieftain' which started a long association with the class, first as a competitor and later on both the organisational and technical teams. The J/24 also proved to be a great boat for the Jardine twins to sail together again, with various crew, including sons Robert and Mark at various times. In his first year in the J/24 he finished second in the UK National Championship.

During the '80s and early '90s Stuart continued to inspire the younger generation of sailors, running junior sailing at Keyhaven Yacht Club, and then being Race Officer for the Optimist and Scow fleets at the Royal Lymington Yacht Club's Junior Regatta. Many top sailors who have come through the Club, credit Stuart with putting them on the road to success.

1989 was when he bought his own J/24 called 'Stouche'. He was also presented with a Silk Cut Nautical Award, as well as being awarded the OBE in the New Year Honours List.

Stuart's J/24 sailing continued in 1990 with a third-placed finish at the European Championship being the highlight. He went on to win the J/24 UK National Championship six times in total, as well as winning the 1995 European Championship at the age of 62 in a fleet of 82 boats with his twin brother Ado, Richard Dyball, Freddie Blencke and son Mark.

The 1990s also saw Stuart return to the XOD fleet sailing again, winning the Captain's Cup at Cowes Week in 1996, making it a forty-year gap between wins at the event. In 1997 he purchased X119 'Lone Star', which he sailed regularly in the Wednesday and Saturday series at the Royal Lymington Yacht Club, and added a further six Captain's Cup wins, with his final win being in 2009. A record which stands to this day in the class.

The mid 1990s also saw Stuart and Ado collect a hat trick of wins in the International Masters Regatta, held in San Francisco. The event attracts the best Masters sailors in the world, and the twins were incredibly proud to win the 1995, '96 and '97 editions.

Both the J/24 and XOD saw Stuart sail regularly with Christian Brewer, a sailor from Whitstable, Kent whose sailing he'd supported since Christian was a teenager, first crewing on 'Rampant Robber' and then on a string of top level half ton and ¾ ton yachts. Christian sailed with Stuart at all his major XOD wins, including the Captain's Cup wins from 1996 onwards, and famously when asked about why he wasn't aboard for Stuart's first Captain's Cup win, replied 'Because I hadn't been born then'. He goes on to comment how Stuart had played a huge role in mentoring his life from those early days.

Everyone who has sailed with Stuart will know of his whistling. Nobody was quite sure what tune he was whistling most of the time, and if he was sailing well he'd go quiet, but when things were tricky he'd whistle the Marseillaise, the French National Anthem!

In 2006 Stuart, Ado and Jane Pitt-Pitts reunited as a crew for the XOD Captain's Cup, fifty years after winning the event together. There was no fairytale win in this event however, as it was one of the windiest Cowes Weeks in history, which left them battered and bruised. But they still made it through the whole event with a creditable overall result, where many others were forced to retire.

He continued to sail the XOD until the Covid pandemic hit, and won his final major championship at the 2018 Royal Solent Yacht Club's Tattinger Regatta at the age of 84 in a fleet of 42 boats.

The last two years saw shingles rob Stuart of much of his mobility and he moved into care at Belmore Lodge in Lymington. He passed away peacefully on Tuesday 7th November at Lymington Hospital, having received superb care from the team there.

Stuart is survived by loving wife Mary-Ann, sons Lewis, Robert and Mark, as well as grandchildren Jamie, Arabella, Sean, Sam and Philippa. He will be sorely missed and leaves a huge legacy in sailing and amongst all who knew him.

Funeral and memorial details will be announced in due course.

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