By the time he bought Jester from Blondie Hasler in 1962 when she returned from her second OSTAR, Michael Richey had already led an interesting life. Born in Britain, he spent his youth in Albania, Switzerland and France before returning to England to finish his education. Upon leaving school he apprenticed with sculptor Eric Gill. A pacifist by nature, he joined the war effort in 1939 doing duty on the minesweeper HMS Goodwill. She was "blown up" in 1940, Mike then trained as an officer and was commissioned, and spent most of the war at sea on anti- submarine patrols in the North Atlantic, but also other missions which took him from Antarctica to Russia. He spent a year with the Free French Navy, a year aboard an armed merchant ship and became adept at astronomical navigation, which became a passion. He left the Navy in'46 and in '47 was appointed chief executive of the Royal Institute of Navigation, serving there until 1980. He also founded the 'Journal of Navigation' and was editor until 1985.
Michael took up ocean racing in the 1950's and found success. In 1964, with some urging from his friend Francis Chichester he bought Jester and continued her campaign in the transatlantic race until 1988 when he had to abandon her during the crossing. A trust was formed to replicate the boat, this time with a cold molded hull and Mike continued to race her in the OSTAR (which chaged it's name to the Transat). He was entered into the Guinness Book for crossing the Atlantic in the at the age of 79. Or 80. Accounts vary. Jester also ran the OSTAR in 2000 by special invitation, as the minimum length had been raised to 30'.
Trevor leek, current owner of the second Jester, reports that Michael Richey is now 92 and very much with us. Roger Taylor allows as how he sees Mike about once a year. I asked him about Mike and he replied that "Mike shows us that, with the right yacht, age is no barrier. He did his last Transat at age 80, I think." Hope for the rest of us.
Although Hasler, Moitessier and Lewis were larger-than-life inspirations to all singlehanded sailors 'of a certain age', so much more interesting personalities than the competitive, corporate drones of today, one has also to admire Richey. Arguably a finer navigator even than Moitessier, he's an educated, cultured guy with impressive elan: he always took a good cellar to sea, putatively to celebrate his birthday – but hardly any of it made it to that anniversary, let alone the other side of the Atlantic. It's a shame he never wrote a book. He certainly deserves one written about him A project, possibly, Thomas?
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