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RIP: Robert (Bob) Berk

It is with great sadness that I have to report that Bob died at home with family in Faversham last Saturday, 15 June 2024. He died of cancer while suffering from dementia but he still knew who was with him at the time. I have been in touch with his daughter Holly over the last couple of years and she hoped that we could share some memories of Bob for the OGA membership. Bob was born 25 February, 1939.

Typically we knew Bob as the ‘Master Sailor’ of both ‘Crow’ and ‘Dirty Girty’. I say ‘Master’ as he was always the man to try to beat but alas that was seldom possible. He knew all the tricks from the design of a craft to the sailing of it! He started with the Gaffers in a small open boat called ‘Phoebe’ around 30 years ago. Then he decided that he could design and build a Gaffer Beater. He did that with his much famed ‘Dirty Girty’ which to this day still beats us all. 

When ‘DG’ became too painful for him to physically sail (and that happens to anyone who sails her) he bought a lovely clipper bowed gaffer called ‘Airlie’. He continued to beat us with that one too, thus proving that he really was a skilled sailor as well as designer. With Phil Bolger’s design and influence, Bob had ‘Crow’ built by Spirit Yachts and she was a masterful craft with so many special ‘Bob’ features. By this time he had met and fallen for Lena Reekie. Together they sailed ‘Crow’ and her Dauntless ‘Linnæa’ with her characterful dog Matey. ‘Linnæa’ featured as the backdrop to Lena’s wake, held at the Faversham boatyard, led by Bob on what was a very windy weekend.

Bob started his career at the BBC as a set designer being involved in various very well known programmes we all love, as do many of our Young Gaffers! These range from episodes of Colditz, Monty Python, Survivors, Dad’s Army, Top of the Pops, Rosie and Jim and the Teletubbies. Quite a roll call and probably a list never called in Gaffer circles. Bob was a shy and retiring chap when it came to talking about things other than sailing with us.

Truly, Bob was a great designer and sailor, character and ‘racer’. He will surely be missed by us all.

Pete Elliston, OGA East Coast Area Secretary