Geoff Pack

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The Independent Online
Geoff Pack was one of the most influential figures in the world of yacht cruising. A larger-than-life character, physically and intellectually, he worked for the magazine Yachting Monthly in various capacities for 19 years (as editor from 1992 until his death) yet also managed to fit in three transatlantic cruises, the last with his wife and three children under five.

He learned his sailing on the Sussex coast on his parents' Iroquois catamaran, and cut his own cruising teeth as a teenager, undertaking hair-raising passages in an elderly and heavy dinghy, camping overnight under a canvas awning.

He first applied for a job on Yachting Monthly in 1978, aged 19, but the then editor, Des Sleightholme, turned him down - "to my everlasting shame". A second opportunity arose soon after and he joined as a trainee. No sooner was he on the strength than he was planning his first Atlantic crossing with his new wife, Lou Lou. They set out in 1980 in a frail-looking 30ft Wharram catamaran called Foreigner. A feature of the boat's design was cross-beams lashed together with rope. In mid- Atlantic the ropes began to fail and the boat started to break up. Showing characteristic quick-thinking and inventiveness, Pack partially rebuilt the boat while under way and successfully completed the voyage.

Faced with the need to earn a living, he talked his way into a job as a charter skipper. He and Lou Lou became one of the most popular teams in the Caribbean and Geoff quickly rose to be the senior skipper at Stevens Yachts, the second-largest charter company in the Caribbean at the time, at the remarkably young age of 24.

A year later, though, determined to cruise the West Indies in his own boat, he returned to the UK to fit out a more suitable yacht. He chose the Rival 34 Euge and set off for the second time in 1983. The voyage which followed became a classic of its kind and Pack wrote the book Blue Water Countdown (1992, first published in 1988 as Ocean Cruising Countdown), based on his experiences. It has become essential reading for all yachtsmen planning a life as a water gypsy.

During this time he had been contributing many freelance articles to Yachting Monthly and on his return in 1985 he was offered a job as the magazine's projects editor, later rising to be assistant editor. For five distinguished years he wrote many influential articles and built up a unique network of contacts at home and abroad. Among his major achievements was his successful campaign against marina over-charging.

But the lure of the open oceans was too deeply in his blood to keep him shore-based for long. He began refitting a 40ft Apache catamaran, to reflect his cruising philosophy that technological simplicity and detailed planning are the best protections in deep waters. He had planned a circumnavigation over five years but got no further than Trinidad when a telephone call brought him back to Yachting Monthly in 1992 as the magazine's sixth editor. He said the decision to return was not an easy one but "it was an offer I simply could not turn down".

He stamped his own personality on the magazine, with an on-the-water practicality and authority. His editorials reflected his deep insights into the world of the off-shore cruiser and also his sense of humour. One month he would fulminate against liferaft service agents, the next he would recall practising sailing manoeuvres while floating on his back in a local swimming pool - those who knew his physique will appreciate the image.

Despite his reputation as a blue-water yachtsman and journalist, Pack was equally happy pottering in small boats and dinghies with his children. In addition to Kiskadee, his offshore cruising yacht, he also owned a 22ft weekender in which he had many undignified adventures in his home waters of the Solent.

I spent several years producing the magazine's boat-test reports with Geoff Pack. We were known throughout the industry as "the heavyweight team". This was partly a comment on our combined avoirdupois but also a tribute to Pack's remarkable knowledge and understanding of what made boats good or bad. He was one of the best-read yachting writers I knew, with an encyclopaedic knowledge of yachts, yachtsmen and the sea.

Geoff Pack was diagnosed as suffering from lymph cancer in October last year. He tried hard to remain active right to the end. His last sail was 10 days before his death and his last piece of writing will appear in the July issue of Yachting Monthly.

James Jermain

Geoffrey Gerald Pack, yachstman and journalist: born Brighton, East Sussex 16 March 1958; married 1977 Louise Birch (two sons, two daughters); died Winchester 28 May 1997.

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