It had long been a
tradition that the RAF Gan sailing club responded to the British High Commission
in Colombo to attend an annual dinghy race.
1975 was no exception
but there was a problem. When I arrived in Gan in early June 1975 there was a
strong sailing club with many qualified racing helms. Over the next months Gan
was slowly running down and the helms left one by one. This left me as the only
qualified RYA 'B' helm and a bunch of very enthusiastic, but inexperienced,
When the challenge was
communicated to me by the C.O. I explained the situation and we decided that the
only thing to do was intensive training over the month that we had.
As a 'B' helm I could
qualify people but there was no time for the niceties and formalities. We
formulated a team of eight people and crammed every minute of daylight sailing
that we could to gain as much racing experience as possible.
When the day came we
boarded the 'Whispering Giant' Britannia and flew off to Sri Lanka. It was a
terrific flight NNE from Gan so we could view many of the other atolls before
the Maldives disappeared to port.
Landing at Bandaranaike
airport was quite an experience. We queued at the customs and immigration
trestle tables where suitcases were being turned upside down and searched before
then being unceremoniously swept aside to be repacked by the owner. We were
getting worked up to protest when we were approached by a couple of people
asking if we were from RAF Gan. On finding that we were our suitcases were
promptly wheeled outside into 3 or 4 BHC chauffer driven cars. We were whisked
away in style with everyone thinking we were Very VIP's indeed.
We were accommodated
with members of the sailing club. Taff Tovey and I stayed with a terrific
gentlemen who owned hotels and the local Lion brewery. The house was on the
outskirts of Colombo and was just magnificent. We had all brought gifts for our
hosts and we gave the litre bottles of spirit over which is what had been
advised as this was very expensive, not that particular host would notice that!