IN HIS "Comment" on 21 December 1997 Alan Watkins wrote on my sailing: "It could be argued, however, that these expensive nautical activities, which were mysteriously financed to provide him with a different 'image', were equally remote from popular concerns." This can only be taken to imply that I was induced by outsiders to take up sailing and financed by them in all probability from abroad. There is not one scrap of truth in any of this.

The only person who induced me to take up sailing was an instructor on the pier at Broadstairs, my home town. I accepted his invitation because I had decided to give up golf after I became leader of the Conservative Party, as it was no longer possible to separate politics from the game. I financed every boat I had myself. My crew, recognised as one of the best in the country, was entirely voluntary and I never paid them a penny.

Sir Edward Heath MP

House of Commons

London SW1