Life
6 Nov 2019 12:07pm

On the right tack

Lifelong sailor and yacht race judge Peter Jennings tells Peter Taylor-Whiffen why, after his family, the sea remains his dearest love

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Caption: Photography By Richard Ansett

When you’re out in the Channel, in the middle of the night, it’s lonely – only the crew, the boat and the elements,” says Peter Jennings. “It breeds the same sort of camaraderie I imagine existed among soldiers in the trenches.” Jennings has a talent for sailing – he has captained a number of racing boats and trialled in a Soling for the British Olympic team in the 1970s, later qualifying and serving for 20 years as a Royal Yachting Association National Yachting judge. “I love competition,” says Jennings, now 73.

“And after so many great experiences I wanted to serve the sport, so I became a judge to assist with the resolution of racing rules disputes between sailors. This involves examining evidence brought by the parties in much the same way as happens in court.” Jennings, who has also served as a flag officer in both the Royal Thames Yacht Club and the Royal Solent Yacht. Club, discovered his passion for the sport as a boy while on family holidays on his father’s native Isle of Wight.

It was a hobby he kept up after setting sail on an accountancy career, with articles at Deloitte before becoming corporate finance manager at Lloyds International, spending a decade as a senior corporate finance director at Guinness Mahon and then a six-year stint as executive VP and MD at Interallianz Bank. “From the moment I qualified I’d loved the idea of being a merchant banker – an investment banker now, of course,” he says.

“I really enjoyed the cut and thrust of doing takeover deals, capital market transactions.” He set up his own practice in 1993 – “I enjoyed being able to choose to work on projects which interested me and with people I liked” – which included work as an expert banking witness in fraud disputes and as a consultant in overseas government central banking, before his retirement nine years ago.

He keeps his hand in as trustee for a couple of local charities – “I know what questions to address” – and also enjoys a regular game of golf. “I was blessed with hand-eye co-ordination and the ability to hit a ball – it’s something you have to be born with and I was lucky.” But his main love – aside from his wife Celia and their four sons and five grandchildren – remains the sea. He moved many years ago to Yarmouth, on the Isle of Wight, where he also serves his community as a voluntary watchkeeper at the National Coastguard Institute’s Needles station.

“You need to know the sea, be able to read charts and use the radio,” he says. And he still goes sailing, when he can. “We are all like Meccano and as you get older, bits fall off and need screwing back on,” he laughs. “So it’s not about speed now, but I still love it. Last year a friend asked me to help move a yacht across the Aegean. It became a taverna crawl from one island to the next. Wonderful!”