Michael John Harris, or Mike as we all knew him, passed away peacefully on the 11th April 2020 from pneumonia after a short illness.
Mike was introduced to model yachting at an early age and would regularly go to Lightwoods Park, Birmingham as a small boy to sail. He became a member of Bournville in 1952 and won the junior shield the following year.
His love for sailing took him to do a Naval apprenticeship in Portsmouth after passing the exams. Although, when reading the initial part of the letter saying he was ninth on the list, he said,” Oh well never mind.” When his Father continued to read the letter, he was ninth out of three thousand. Not bad for a lad who went to Handsworth Technical College.
His apprenticeship at Portsmouth was where he met Roy Gardner and Peter West. He continued to sail at Southsea and Gosport and Peter took him under his wing and he began to sail with Peter and achieving success with him at the 1959 Vane A Nationals at Fleetwood, sailing Moonraker, as his mate.
As with all apprenticeships, there the usual number of high jinks. Whilst working on a warship out at sea, Mike came out of the hatch and woke up two days later in Portsmouth Naval Hospital with a perforated ear drum and a banging headache. No one had warned that they were going to test the guns and fire a dummy shell; a loud bang and he was blown across the deck. He was at the time the only person to be sunk by the Navy in peace time. He was on a target ship and the test torpedo was supposed to pass under the ship but no. Mike always said that either the ship dropped into a wave or the Admiral, whose daughter he was dating at the time, may have accidentally got the torpedo gyros slightly wrong.
He completed his apprenticeship and made his way back to Birmingham and worked as wood work teacher before settling into middle management roles until he retired. He re-joined Bournville and continued his success at Club, District and National level. During the 1960’s he became Friends with Bill Sykes and they sailed together for a long time, with Bill producing and Mike sailing with Bill with a lot of success.
It was on a night out with Bryan Jones he met Janet and they were married in November 1969. True to form Mike, Bryan, and Chris Dicks all went for a sail at Bournville the morning of his wedding. Morning suits and wellies were the attire.
Mike and Janet had a son Chris in January 1973 and the family went off sailing to events with Mike to support him. In 1975, the Vane A World Championships were held in Fleetwood in very non-Fleetwood conditions. With determination shown by the winner of the previous week’s Marblehead World Championship, Mike became World Champion at the age of 33. His name was finally on the Holy Grail of the time – The Scrutton Cup.
Mike was also famous for his Vane 10 having a Viking funeral at Leeds & Bradford. After his boat was damaged beyond repair, it was stripped down, a temporary rig put on, filled with petrol, pushed out and set fire to.
Mike and Janet added to the Harris Family, with the birth of their daughter, Kate. The Family again travelled around the country with Mike whilst he sailed. Mike continued his success within the Vane scene and finally won all the Vane National trophies and was presented with a Golden Pole for his success. This has only been completed by three others at this time. A small and exclusive club.
His love for the sea was still there and once the family were big enough, and Janet had learned how to swim, the family started off shore sailing holidays. Trips around the Isle of Wight, the Channel Islands and Brittany, France were enjoyed by all. Mike arranged trips for the younger members of the MYA and their friends through various trips that always had interesting stories. Be it a young man asleep with Vaseline, ginger nuts, a page three from The Sun newspaper and a camera, all this whilst in the middle of the Channel in a storm. Mike arranged these trips with others, but without the support and shopping trips from Janet, they wouldn’t have been as successful.
Whilst Mike slowed down sailing on the water, his last success was at the 2008 Vane Marblehead Nationals with Bryan Jones. When they sailed together, their knowledge was unbelievable.
He was a member of Bournville Club for over 63 years and was part of the club committee in various roles, finally standing back from his Trustee role in 2019. He was one of the few club measurers who could get the maximum amount of sail area on a displacement boat by giving a little bit of advice on what to do to gain this. He also enjoyed his Wednesday morning trips to the club with one of his grandchildren, but collapsing the pram was a challenge they all struggled with at the club.
Mike was on the MYA council from 1972 until 2017 as District Councillor and then as a MYA Trustee. His dedication to the role on council was part of his passion. He was also part of team that set up and continued to run and then support the Midland District Council until his passing. As a Trustee, he knew how to take the tough decisions for the best interests of the both the MYA and Midland District.
During the later part of his life, he became Janet’s primary career due to Janet’s illness and he did this with his usual enthusiasm. They both discovered a passion for Cruising the World. Find a cruise and off they went; something which they both loved.
In early 2018, Mike had a fall whilst at home and sustained a neck injury and crushed two of his Vertebrae around his spinal cord which left his mobility very limited. Undeterred, Mike showed positivity in this tough time which was amazing to see. To walk and drive a car again were his goals. He still was up to date with events on the water and his final visit to an event was with his children and grandchildren to Bournville to watch a PRACC event there. Still able to give advice to anyone he spoke to that day.
Towards the end of 2019, Mike and Janet were finally reunited at a Care Home and were together until Janet passed away in December 2019. He was not able to attend Janet’s funeral as he was in hospital with an illness. After a stay in hospital from late February, the family were informed that the pneumonia had not responded to medication and they were sending out of the hospital and back to home. Mike’s children found it difficult to see him, but came up with ways to talk to him until his passing.
Mike lived his life in a positive way. A family man, a husband, a font of knowledge, who had time and advice for anyone who asked or needed it.
He will be dearly missed by his children Chris and Kate, and his grandchildren Josh, Ben, Charlie, Noah, and Emily, all of whom he was deeply proud of. He is now with his soul mate and wife Janet.