One of the founding fathers of the Finn class, Vernon Stratton died on Saturday 20 August, 2011.
Though his first boat was a Firefly dinghy, it was in the Olympic Finn class that Vernon Stratton made his name, and he made the class his life. Even at 80 he was still keenly interested in the Finns and he remained a stalwart supporter of the class he had helped to put onto the world stage.
During his life he took part in three Olympic trials, in 1952, 1956 and 1960. In 1960 he won the Finn Gold Cup and represented Great Britain at the 1960 Olympics in the Finn class. He often commented that he would have preferred to have gone in 1956, to the windy venue of Melbourne, rather than the light wind venue of Naples. He was one of the fastest strong wind sailors of his day.
Later he became secretary of the International Finn Association, from 1961 to 1964, and then its President from 1964 to 1971. He was also heavily involved in the British Finn Association over many years. Later he led three British Olympic teams and was instrumental in laying the foundations that led to the success of British sailors that continues to the present day.
In 1956 he established the Finn class on a secure international footing after persuading Tiny Mitchell of the Royal Corinthian Yacht Club in Burnham on Crouch to present the class with the Finn Gold Cup. This became the class world championship and is today it one of the hardest and most sought after dinghies trophies in the world. His vision for the Finn Gold Cup led directly to the formation of the International Finn Association later the same year, and the future of the Finn was secured.
Perhaps his greatest legacy to the class though is his leadership through its early measurement issues and the appointment of Gilbert Lamboley as the Chairman of the Technical Committee. As well as completely rewriting the class rules, Gilbert developed the innovation that is the revolutionary ‘Lamboley test’, which is used to control the weight distribution within hulls. Every sailor today still benefits from these standards, knowing that all boats are as alike as possible.
Vernon was a keen and accomplished photographer. He was the third editor of the international magazine, FINNFARE, from 1967 to 1971 and many of his Finn photos litter the pages, as they still do in recent Finn class publications. He captured the uniqueness and beauty of the Finn in a way that many of today’s photographers cannot repeat.
Over the years, Vernon Stratton was involved in every aspect of the Finn class and on all levels from grass roots encouragement to Olympic competition. He will always be associated with the Finns and will always be remembered within its ranks.
IFA President of Honour Gerardo Seeliger wrote, “He was a great, generous, passionate contributor to the Finn in the early days, and I remember him very vividly.”
“Vernon was a tall, strong athletic figure, a true British gentleman with a perfect Eton accent, expressing peaceful energy, who created respect and admiration, he was able to motivate and impassion us, the young sailors at that time, similar to Paul Elvstrøm.”
“Vernon, as a persuasive Brit, helped to get Andy Zawieja convincingly and promptly out of Bermuda police detention the day the resourceful Andy - coming, on a low budget from the then communist Poland on a cargo ship that dropped him and his Finn two miles off the Bermuda coast - sailed peacefully, but quite unconventionally, in his PZ 521 Finn, into the Bermuda Harbour. Another Vernon story.”
“We will keep Vernon in a very high place in our memory, part of probably the best time in our lives.”
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