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News at Whitstable Yacht Club

Club News

Gavin Barr, January 5th 1931 – January 2nd 2021

We’re sorry to announce that Gavin Barr passed away on January 2nd. You can view a short biopic on Gavin and Caroline made by Gavin’s grandson a few years ago at, and below is a message from Richard Maltby:
In the passing of Gavin Barr we have lost a most remarkable person, a great sailor and a true gentleman. A master of many arts, not least in making a slow boat go fast, his influence was as considerable as it was unique. Within the unfailing consideration, humour and gentleness of his manner there was inner steel to his nobility of character. By his death from Covid-19, so cruelly and undeservedly contracted in hospital following hip surgery, the club has lost a great man and the widely felt pleasure of his wisdom, kindness and company. 
Born in East Lothian and a lifelong rugby supporter of Scotland, educated at Dartmouth, sailing and going to sea went together for Gavin as cadet and subsequently Lieutenant Barr in the Royal Navy. When Caroline, his beautiful wife, was recovering from polio and being advised of the benefits of a hot climate, Gavin resigned his commission and entered the Colonial Service. As a district officer his engineering and administrative ability served in helping to construct the infrastructure basis for Zambia, a country for which Gavin retained great affection and where one of his sons continues to live with his family. On return to the UK to work for an engineering company and also the Church Missionary Society, Gavin and Caroline made their home at Charing, bringing up three children. Sailing led to membership of Whitstable YC and progression from racing a Merlin Rocket to Wanderers, most successfully with his boat “Thistle” (W 1282). 
With Gavin at the helm and Mark Skipper as crew, this fantastic partnership achieved an unparalleled run of success in Wanderer Open and National championships. In his 80s Gavin was still winning open events and was featured in a BBC SE News programme on sailing with presenter Natalie Graham on board his boat. Generous in his advice, Gavin’s technical sections in the Wanderer Class Owner’s Association website enhanced by his hand drawn diagrams provide all the guidance for “Sailing Faster”. WYC members were extremely fortunate in having Gavin at hand and always willing to give us his time and advice. Under his captaincy Wanderers became a significant club fleet, the Whitstable Open became a regular event, nurturing national champions in Paul Yeadon and Liz North. In 2019 to mark their appreciation the class purchased and donated the Gavin Barr trophy, a replica of a Wanderer in stainless steel wrought by a Whitstable blacksmith. 
Gavin’s talents as a musician and performer, entertaining us with his guitar playing and slightly risquée songs brought laughter and appreciative rejoinders to Wanderer and club gatherings. We will also miss his great sense of humour, company and wit. I shall cherish his funny comments in emails. It was always lovely to see the undemonstrative but profoundly felt devotion between Gavin and Caroline in all that they did. Our deepest sympathy on their loss in such terrible circumstances goes to Caroline and the Barr family.