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Obituary: Tony Blachford – award winning sailor

ONE of the UK’s most successful sailors, award-winning Tony Blachford, who was also heavily involved in the Lymington community, has died aged 74.

Tony, who was renowned for his knowledge of sailing and natural seamanship, had a world-class career and also worked with and advised the best technicians in the sport.

Locally, he was heavily involved in the community. He was a former commodore at the Salterns Sailing Club, vice-commodore at Lymington Town Sailing Club, and captain of racing and rear commodore at the Royal Lymington Yacht Club.

Tony was a former commodore at the Salterns Sailing Club
Tony was a former commodore at the Salterns Sailing Club

He also served as vice-chair on the Lymington Harbour Commission for two full terms, using his knowledge and expertise to navigate a fractious and challenging time for the river’s various communities.

Tony, who was born in the town, was supported and encouraged into sailing from an early age by his parents, Ted and Sonia.

He began sailing at Salterns Sailing Club, with his father selling his car to buy his first boat.

Aboard Saracen in 1975
Aboard Saracen in 1975

Tony’s early years were spent learning his craft aboard Moth dinghies, skills which saw him invited to Thailand to coach the King after having raced together.

Aged just 14, he won his first national event to become class youth champion before winning the 1966 national championship aged 17.

From Moths, Tony went into the larger Osprey class, where the Lymington fleet displayed a strong presence nationally.

Tony was crewed by brother-in-law Brent Strickland, and this started a long sailing family partnership that was to last many years.

Tony receiving the world championship trophy from King Olav of Norway in 1975
Tony receiving the world championship trophy from King Olav of Norway in 1975

Together they raced three campaigns in family ownership under the Smokey banner, winning one silver gilt bowl as runner-up for the Round the Island race, and were multiple winners over many years in other events.

Tony dominated the Osprey fleet, winning four national championships from 1974 to 1977, as well as winning the Travellers’ Trophy across the same period.

Soon Tony was recruited to join John McCarthy’s racing team aboard his boats Saracen and Solent Saracen.

In 1974 he came sixth at the One Ton Cup in Torquay, and in 1975 this campaign culminated in winning the competitive Three Quarter Ton Cup in Hanko, Norway.

This was the first time a British team had won a level rating world championship outside the UK and saw them presented with trophies from King Olav of Norway, with whom Tony subsequently raced, along with his son King Harald.

Tony also competed in the One Ton Cup in Marseille in 1976 and was one of the top helmsmen on the Fastnet Race in 1979.

Tony had joined Phil Crebbin’s Soling campaign, along with Mark Dowland, for the 1980 Olympic regatta in Tallinn.

Despite having the speed and talent to win the trials, they missed out on selection when the Royal Yachting Association boycotted the games over the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

He founded Captain Watts Chandlery in Lymington, which he ran with sister Carole in the High Street building which had previously been used as his parents’ hairdressing business, Blachford’s.

He married first wife Titch in 1983 and they welcomed their son, Christopher, in 1985 – whom Tony always felt his greatest achievement.

Tony went on to train Admiral’s Cup Teams in their lead-up to selection in Spain, Norway and Italy, also winning the Gotland Rundt and Skagerrak Cup with Scandinavian teams.

He met his second wife Deborah in 1993 as part of the British Blind Racing Team entry in Australia.

Tony was the sighted tactician in the team and won a gold medal with blind sailor, Richard Hawton-Fawkes.

He and Deborah married in 2005 and enjoyed many happy times, both on and off the water, and were frequently seen racing together as well as motorboating and travelling around France in their motorhome.

Described by his family as “more than just a sailor”, Tony was heavily involved in the local community through his roles at the local sailing clubs and as vice-chair of the Lymington Harbour Commission.

Tony was a founding member of the Royal Lymington Yacht Club’s cup committee, serving as the event’s principal race officer.

He was also a member of the Lymington RNLI, serving as crew, coxswain and ultimately the organisation’s launching authority.

Away from Lymington, Tony qualified as an international race officer and served as the principal race officer for many prestigious international events including the Heineken Regattas in Sint Maarten.

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