Wednesday 6 January 2021

Hare, and there

So, I break off from sorting out the airing cupboard (how come there are so many pillowcases in there? Do they breed?) to view a big motor yacht gliding into Oneroa Bay, and straight away get a connection with a couple of boats of quite a different sort (but one exactly the same age), plus Prince Andrew, a round-the-world sailor, and Bluff.

First, the boat: 58m long, and now called the Dancing Hare, it was built in 1986 for the Saudi businessman cousin of recently murdered (and dismembered) journalist Jamal Khashoggi. It was later bought by media mogul Robert Maxwell, who named it Lady Ghislaine after his daughter. He disappeared off the yacht near the Canaries in 1991 when big trouble was looming for him - jumped, pushed, fell while peeing in the nude? - and his (or maybe not his...) body was later found floating in the sea. Nobody's telling who currently owns or is using the boat, but it's been hanging around NZ for a few months now.

It's an obvious link from the yacht to Maxwell's daughter Ghislaine, and then from her to Jeffrey Epstein - was it suicide? or murder? - and from both of them to Prince Andrew. Now that's a story we're all going to be horribly fascinated to follow, when they finally get around to the trial. But, the royal non-sweater with a sailing ship? And all of this with me?

Right. Back in - also - 1986, when I was living in England, our loose group of regulars at the White Hart Inn got involved in organising fun events to raise money for the pet charity of one member, Liz (whose handmade Christmas tree decoration present to me I packed away today for another year). The aim of the Jubilee Sailing Trust is to enable the physically handicapped to enjoy sailing on the ocean, in the company of able-bodied people. We helped raise money to build a sail training ship, the STS Lord Nelson, a three-masted barque, and were then invited to attend the naming ceremony in Southampton in July. The Patron of the organisation was Prince Andrew, but the person performing the actual naming was Miss Sarah Ferguson - as she still was, just, their ill-fated wedding coming a fortnight later.

It was all very grand - I wore a hat! - with band, anthem, prayers, Rule Britannia and so on, and then after the naming ceremony there was a lunch at long tables, and the host on ours was Sir Alec Rose. He was knighted - despite not being the first - for doing a solo circumnavigation of the world by sail. That was back in 1967 in the 11m Lively Lady, during which he had to call in at Bluff, way down south, to do some unplanned mast repairs. His previous port of call, incidentally, had been Melbourne, where PM Harold Holt came to see him sail in, and who later that day went swimming and disappeared, presumed drowned. Bit of a theme here, eh?

Even 20 years later, Sir Alec was lapping up any adulation that might come his way, and made sure to tell us all about his adventure - but he was jolly enough, I suppose. Preferable to seedy Andrew and his mates, anyway. And the whole connection is certainly a lot more interesting than tidying bed linen.


the queen said...

The most amazing thing to me is that a group of regulars at an inn occupied themselves with a charity — because I assume an “inn” is a bar. Bar regulars here are not given to charity. Trivia, yes. Perhaps by inn, you mean a small hotel, but how would you all be there at the same time?

TravelSkite said...

No, it’s a classic English country pub - small, cosy and patronised by a core group of locals, from farm hands to, in our case, a(nother) knight, all cheerfully mixing and familiar with each other. Sunday lunchtime the high point of the week. Quite common to have friends there you have known for years, but never been to each other’s homes. No need.


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