Chris Butler, 1932 - 2019

A Brief Autobiography Chris Butler 2008.

Around 1950 I was beaten up by the Kray brothers who needed to demonstrate they had the right to kick my dog, fortunately they had not yet learnt to be really violent; however my nose has never been quite the same since. I concluded life could be better that this.

Born in Bethnal Green, in London's East End, in 1932, I survived childhood pneumonia and the London Blitz, receiving my main education during the war and the years immediately after. Due to the war I was unable to sit the '11 plus' so was selected for an intermediate grade of school between Secondary and Grammar School. Leaving school at 15 in 1947, I was accepted as a junior draughtsman into a West End firm of patent agents on the personal recommendation of the Headmaster of my school - of which I am still proud - and stayed there for five years. There I met a lovely and brilliant young secretary from Kensington, and proposed to Georgina on Coronation Day, 1953. We were together for almost 50 years until her death. Our two sons, born in England, now living in Wales, provided us with three beautiful Granddaughters.

In 1954 I learned of a new material, Glassfibre Reinforced Plastics. It was discovered just before the war but was still a very new raw material. I experimented and applied it to manufacturing motorcycle accessories. Since I was fourteen I had been hyper-actively keen on motorcycles and motorcycle sport. Until I retired after twenty years from the sport of cross- country motorcycle racing owing to just too many injuries to my right knee, I had become fairly well known as an international rider, though well below world championship standard; however, I could claim close friendship with many champions by the end of my riding career, including the making of special components for their competition and racing motorcycles.

By 1957 we had developed our small business based on GRP and moved from our marriage home in Cheshunt, Hants, back to the East End in Hackney; living above the shop and factory. In time, needing more factory space, we moved to Haverhill in Suffolk. Whilst there I designed and built some 200 specialist motorcycles, and after retiring from motorcycle sport in 1968 took to building racing sailing dinghies including the Olympic Finn, the 505, Cadet, and later, small 'cruiser-racer' sailing yachts.

In 1970, again needing more factory space, this time for the Achilles 24, we moved to Swansea and in the course of time built over 1500 boats including the Achilles 9 metre, the 840, Sparta, Rescue Craft for oil-rigs, fishing boats, and the dinghies. A self-taught sailor, I took up racing; and on my fortieth birthday I commenced my first major yacht design; the Achilles 9 metre sailing yacht. A new life began at 'Forty'!

By 1984, in one of my own yachts I had competed in five major single- handed races, always finishing, and gained two wins, one of which was in the Single-Handed Trans-Atlantic Race, OSTAR, at that time the most important race in the international calendar - even including the Olympics - with the fastest crossing ever within the race rules in a 30 foot yacht; a race well known for its high attrition rate. I was the first man in the world to have designed and built a production yacht, racing the prototype to a win in OSTAR. The race was first held in 1960 and won in 40 days by Sir Francis Chichester. My first attempt, in 1976, took 39 days. My second and third Single-Handed Trans-Atlantic races both took 30 days. My Trans-Atlantic win was in 1984, at the age of 52; the other win was to the Azores and Back in 1979.

In 1989 our business moved into building submersible fire-resistant craft for the North Sea oil rigs before we semi-retired, closing the business, though I carried on yacht surveying for a while.

For some years I assisted my beloved wife during her long illness until her sad death in 2002.

Now, I include among my activities classical music, about which I am passionate, oil painting, and my dog.

I still want to circumnavigate the world solo. Sadly, I fear, my age and arthritis will not allow that.

But I can still dream. I can still dream.

No comments:

Post a Comment