Peter Bateman

Just read in the latest Seahorse Magazine that Peter Bateman had died of cancer. Just wanted to relay an incredible Peter Bateman Fireball story that I keep with me. It is going on 12 midnight so forgive any lapses in memory.

It was the CORK regatta in the early 70's. It had been a breezy week and if I remember correctly Peter had a clear lead in the Fireball fleet. The last day of racing dawned in the midst of a violent storm. I was hunkered down in the Kingston Yacht Club (the International 14's were based at KYC) with a crowd of restless sailors waiting for the races to be cancelled. Sheets of rain would obscure the yacht club jetty and we were watching the anenometer as squalls would hit, pushing wind speeds in the 40's. We were cheering the anenometer as it hit new highs and one vicious gust drove it near 60. It was equivalent to a thunderstorm squall that had decided to camp over Kingston for the morning.

In this maelstrom, there appeared a ghostly apparition of a sail; most of us dismissed it as a grey, rainy, obscured trick on the eyes. But this apparition grew more distinct and we could no longer dismiss it as it made it to the yacht club basin. Some crazy bastard was sailing in this gale!!

It was Peter Bateman and crew in their Fireball. They had sailed over from Fort? (forgive my ignorance on Canadian geography) where most of the CORK dinghies were based. He pulled up nonchalantly and, in rain that was still zinging horizontally, inquired, with that typical British reserve, whether there would be racing that day.

In my many years around this sport, I have never witnessed such a display, which could be characterized both as one of the greatest demonstration of seamanship in a dinghy and also as one of the most foolhardy.

Nevertheless, in my mind, it was the greatest in-your-face, one- upmanship, you bunch are a bunch of wusses, come out and play if you dare, throw down the gauntlet challenge I have ever witnessed in sailing

I never introduced myself to Peter and I don't know if anyone did ask him about his jaunt over to the yacht club but that episode will always be part of my sailing lore.

The Int 14's did go out for their long distance race that afternoon in bright sunshine and 30 knots. As a pickup crew I just remember the 6 or so capsizes on the first reach before we retired. Just a handful finished and it was captured on film by Warren Miller.

Contributed by Rod Mincher, May 2 2000


Additional comments by George McKim:

I don't know if it was that particular CORK Regatta, but I was at a CORK regatta in 1970 at Kingston, racing fireballs. I was 16 years old and sailing US 995. I remember hearing that Peter Bateman would be racing at this Fireball North Americans which was exciting because he was the current World Champion at the time. There was an even younger Fireball sailor there at CORK from Florida, O.H. Rogers, who was the current US champion at the time at the ripe old age of about 15. We had put our boats up and had tied them down after a day of practice the day before the first race, and O.H. Rogers was talking trash to several people about how bad he was going to beat Peter Bateman in this regatta and he didn't care if Peter Bateman was the World champion and so on and so forth. There was this one unassuming looking guy standing there just listening to O.H. talk trash and none of us knew who he was because he had not introduced himself when he had walked up to listen to O.H. carry on. After O.H. finished talking trash (in a friendly competitive way) about beating Peter Bateman, the unassuming guy stuck out his hand to O.H and said in a thick english accent "Hi, my name is Peter Bateman". You can imagine how hilarious it was and how embarrassed O.H. might have been, but I think it illustrates how humble Peter Bateman was even though he was a great Fireball sailor and World Champion and what a good sense of humor he had. O.H went on to finish 2nd out of 55 boats and guess who won? You are correct sir - Peter Bateman. Yours truly finished 7th after crashing and burning on a shaky gybe at the reach mark in extremely stong winds for a DNF in the last race. Hey maybe it was that 40mph day that you were referring to