Gordon Keeley 1928 - 2018

Gordon Keeley 1928 – 2018

“Gordon was a lovely man, one of nature’s true gentlemen” was the first reaction to the news of his death published on the Model Yachting Association website. Although his first love was rugby, he became a great supporter of model yachting in his late 30s. We were introduced at the Newcastle Model Yacht Club in Exhibition Park, when I was an architectural student in 1967.

The conversation soon got around to new designs and he asked me to design a vane Marblehead that he could build himself. He wanted something ‘special’ and not a standard glassfibre boat, which was becoming popular down south. His building of this boat from scratch demonstrated great skill for working in wood and metal and he enjoyed racing his POPCORN, that was one step up from the most advanced around.

Gordon’s father lived at Thornton Cleveleys in Lancashire and so Gordon was always coming over from his home in Durham, and then Harrogate, to see his dad and to visit the model yachting lake and club on the Fleetwood seafront. He supported the racing there and in the early 70s was the first sailor to appreciate the full potential that the lightweight A boat revolution, initiated by the Clockwork Orange, would have for husband and wife teams.

He asked me to design another lightweight ‘special’, so that he would be able to race his boat with his wife, Margaret, acting as the mate. He made an absolutely beautiful job of planking this boat with diagonal strips of veneer. Today PIPEDREAM, as he called her, is still in perfect condition, so smooth that you cannot tell whether it is a wooden or a glassfibre hull. The idea of a husband and wife racing together was a success and with Margaret he often raced PIPEDREAM at Fleetwood.

In the strong winds of the 1973 A class National Championship there was one memorable race when there was really too much wind, even with the smallest sails set. In this heavy rain squall his lightweight PIPEDREAM was racing one of the heaviest boats in the fleet to windward. This was a true David and Goliath situation! Both boats were going backwards and forwards across the lake apparently not making any progress against the wind. This battle was watched by other competitors huddled together in the lee of the scorer’s hut to get out of the rain. Gordon and Margaret succeeded in winning the race, much to their great delight.

Another success was sailing as a mate with MYA chairman, Peter Maskell, and winning the A class National championships in 1985, 1986 and 1987.

He regularly raced radio Marbleheads and 10 raters with the Claro Model Yacht Club at a local lake near Harrogate. When he moved down to Chard in Somerset he was a great supporter of the Yeovil and District Model Boat Club, becoming part of their race team for running open race meetings etc. In 2000 he volunteered as the Principal Race Officer for the A class Championship at Gosport, doing a very good job with his quiet, but firm voice, stature and authority, ensuring that the country’s premier event ran smoothly.

Gordon was a very kind, warm and generous man, always encouraging others to take up the sport that he loved. He gave away his models and materials to friends whenever he moved house and had to empty his garage. Towards the end he entrusted me with his 3 favourite boats to find good homes for them. He was delighted to hear just before he died that his BOTTLE boat, that he had helped to become a Millennium Product, was being much enjoyed by an enthusiastic 12 year old in Waldringfield, Suffolk.

Gordon will be greatly missed by all those who had the good fortune to know him.
Roger Stollery, 2018-10-17

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