Tribute: Sue Thomas

I first met Sue around 1996 and spent a number of wonderful weeks with her as part of the Minorca group. I was both surprised and honoured when Dave rang me and asked me to be the voice of Sue’s sailing world.  However, I am only the voice; Jane Middis and Rachel Miller contributed extensively (and encouraged me as I wrote it) and goodly number of OSC members responded to our request via Prompt for memories and stories. There wasn’t room for all of them in this short tribute that I delivered at her funeral, but we will find ways of sharing them.

I am here as the voice of the many sailors who have shared memories and stories with me over the last week. These are their words as much as mine.

Her skill, her zest for life, and her ability demolish every comestible in sight and never put on an ounce were the threads throughout the emails I received. For one so slight and so slim, Sue’s capacity for biscuits was legendary.

Although they were often admiring her prowess from somewhere in her wake, muttering ‘damn, she’s got past me again!’ as she disappeared over the horizon towards the finish line.

She was…

  • self-effacing, bright, fiercely competitive, there were stories of many a tussle out on the water;

  • And yet someone you could sit quietly with, by the pool on holiday chatting or reading;

  • genuine and honest, with a wonderful smile and a zest for life;

  • one of the people who you looked for when visiting the club to pass the time of day with, and share a few sailing stories.


She was always…

  • willing to help, to teach, to encourage, never grabbing the limelight;

  • generous with her encouragement, support and advice;

  • but never her biscuits!


She could…

  • handle any just about any boat in pretty much any wind conditions, despite looking  as though the next gust would blow her away;

  • but her favourite, her boat of choice for 20 years, was the Lightning, a single handed dinghy;

  • in that she beat nearly every other Lightning sailor in the country at one time or another;

  • and, because everyone mentioned biscuits in their messages and emails to me, eat her own weight in cake.


But she wasn’t only focused on sailing, only interested in being out on the water winning.

She served as club secretary in the late 90's, and then joined the wonderful team that made up my first committee when I became commodore in 2001 – there had never been so many women involved in running the club! And when she married Dave she got him involved as well, helping to develop the rescue and powerboat side of sailing as well as learning to sail himself.

On the day she was taken ill, she had spent the day at the club, on race duty, not sailing, just doing her bit, helping to run the racing for others – and chatting with Jane about the plans for this year’s trip to Minorca in May.

Those trips to Minorca hold so many happy memories for many of us. She celebrated many birthdays and  even part of her honeymoon with Dave in Minorca. Sweeping the board, positively rattling with medals at the end of week prize giving, and celebrating with giant goblets of gin and indulgent deserts.

Lively lunches in the garden by the pool sharing stories of the morning’s class; leisurely tea’s comparing race positions over the famous Minorcan fluffy cakes and endless pots of tea;, dinner in local restaurants – Sue lived every minute to the full on those holidays.

Sue, you will be with us on those trips as long as any of us can still get in a boat, and ‘do you remember that time when Sue…’ will thread through every conversation over tea, fluffy cakes, gin… and biscuits.

Your name will live on through the many trophies you won, Nationally at Lightning events as well as locally. The current commodore tells me that the club intends to create a lasting memorial later in the year.

But, although we knew Sue primarily as a sailor she was much, much more than that so I’d like to conclude with a quote from one of the emails I received, from Karen,  another of those remarkable women who joined me on the committee all those years ago:

"If we had more Sue’s in the world it would be a better place - and for that we must celebrate her life and be thankful that we had the honour of knowing such a beautiful soul."

Kate Saffin 28/1/19

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