Obituary: Mike Evans, superb Norfolk sailor and Olympics veteran

Mike Evans

Mike Evans (pictured) died aged 85 - Credit: SUBMITTED

One of the country's most distinguished and successful racing sailors and advocates of the sport has died at the age of 85.

Mike Evans was an honorary member, past president, and multi-race winner at the Norfolk Broads Yacht Club (NBYC), where he was a member for more than two-thirds of a century.

He was a familiar face at the club, based on Wroxham Broad, and became a mentor for many of the top sailors in Norfolk, indeed the country.

Mr Evans, who was born in Leicester, lived in Norfolk only a few hundred yards away from the club. He was married to Broads-born wife Anne Thrower, who crewed him for most of his life.

His involvement with sailing goes back to his earliest days - he started at the age of five - and his most notable achievements included a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Royal Yachting Association (RYA) and his position as secretary general of the International Yacht Racing Union (IYRU).

As a young man, he had an outstanding sailing record; winning the Enterprise Nationals in 1958 and going on to win the National 12 Championships in 1961 and 1962.

Mike Evans pictured on Alder Kitten

Mike Evans pictured on Alder Kitten - Credit: SUBMITTED

Off the water, he played an important role in helping to establish Queen Mary Sailing Club in London, acting as chairman of a five club consortium and becoming the club’s first commodore in 1972.

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Mr Evans joined the RYA Council in the 1970s, fulfilling the role of chairman from 1985 until 1987, when he became chief executive of the IYRU until 1995. He also served both organisations in roles from secretary to president.

At the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games he managed the UK sailing team - which won a bronze medal - and was responsible for the Olympic campaigns at both Seoul and Barcelona.

Over the decades much of  Mr Evans' focus has been on the Broads.

In 1988 he was appointed to the Broads Authority, and its Navigation Committee, serving as vice chairman and continuing until 1995.

He also served for more than 14 years as independent chair of the authority’s Water Recreation Liaison Panel and on the Broads Forum.

In 2003 Mr Evans became chairman of the Norfolk and Suffolk Boating Association, and president in 2008.

Mike Evans (centre) pictured between friends next to the Gold Cup

Mike Evans (centre) pictured between friends next to the Gold Cup - Credit: SUBMITTED

At the NBYC, he was class captain of the Yare and Bure One Design (YBOD) racing boats - known as White Boats - and was renowned for winning the Gold Cup, the top race award for YBODs, more times than anyone else.

A long-standing trustee of the club he invited and welcomed the Princess Royal on two occasions, including in 2008 for the centenary year of the YBOD fleet.

He was YBOD class captain in the 1980s and was one of the most successful White Boat sailors. He, Anne, and others raced his number 90 Alder Kitten for many years, later a Norfolk punt, and Mr Evans was very generous with his time and expertise in encouraging those who asked for help to get their boats to perform better.

The epitome of that was with the coveted Gold Cup, which he won eight times. A mentee of Mr Evans’ for nearly half a century was Ian Tims, now a major champion too.

Mr Tims said: "I spent many hours watching Mike tune his various boats and win many races.

"He became my idol and influenced my life greatly, teaching me life and sailing skills along the way. I loved listening to him, especially when he talked about how to make the boat go quicker.

"I saw small tweaks make big differences but most impressive was how he could see the shifts coming from down the broad. I soon realised this was by far the most important factor when sailing on the broads.

Mike Evans on Alder Kitten

Mike Evans on Alder Kitten - Credit: SUBMITTED

“In 1983, we sailed together on Barton Broad  in a Norfolk punt in the Ramuz Trophy. We had a dingdong with Norman Blowers before we eventually took the trophy back to NBYC.

"The following year when Mike was attending the '84 Olympics in Los Angeles as team manager, he was kind enough to lend me Alder Kitten. This was my very first Gold Cup experience, which after a bad start, I managed to pull back to a credible third. I was so chuffed he offered the boat to me.

"I remember Mike winning his first Gold Cup in 1987 and how excited he was to get his hands on the trophy.

"For the next 20 years, Mike dominated at Wroxham and won the Gold Cup eight times, winning the last time in 2006 when he was 70. We had many sailing battles over the years and with us both being equally competitive sometimes tempers frayed but these were soon lost ashore in the bar."

Mr Tims has been described as "one of few to rival Mike’s sailing abilities".

On matching Mr Evans’ Gold cup wins, he added: “It was typical of Mike that he greeted both myself and crew in 2015 with a firm handshake and genuine affection. He commented how proud he was. That still means so much to me. A true sailing legend."

Mike Evans died on Friday, February 25. He was a husband to Anne and father to Philippa, now deceased.

A celebration of his life will be held at St Mary’s Church, Wroxham, on Friday, March 18 at 12.30pm. Donations, if desired, to Parkinson's UK c/o Wroxham Funeralcare inc. Broadland Funeral Service, 102 Norwich Road, Wroxham, Norfolk, NR12 8RY.