Sir Peter Johnson Bt

Yacht-racing doyen
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The Independent Online

Peter Colpoys Paley Johnson, writer, publisher, and yacht-racing administrator: born London 26 March 1930; succeeded 1975 as seventh Bt; married 1956 Clare Bruce (one son, two daughters; marriage dissolved 1973), 1973 Caroline Hodsoll (one son); died Lymington, Hampshire 24 May 2003.

Peter Johnson was a leading figure in the world of yacht racing, where he played a significant role in the development of the rules of yacht racing from the 1970s to his death. He also established the World Speed Sailing Record Council, the global authority for the ratification and recording of all such feats, and was a prolific and often controversial journalist and yachting historian.

Born in London in 1930, he was educated at Wellington College and the Royal Military College of Science, and then followed his father, Lt-Col Sir John Johnson Bt, into the Royal Artillery, retiring in 1961 as captain. Between 1965 and 1973 he was a director of the yacht-fittings company Sea Sure and from 1971 to 1981, when it was sold to Macmillans, of Nautical Publishing Company, publishers of such books as This is Sailing (1973) by Richard Creagh-Osborne, which has sold 360,000 copies in 13 languages.

In 1975 he succeeded his father as seventh Baronet, "of New York" - the baronetcy, granted in 1755 to William Johnson, superintendent of Indian affairs in North America, being one of the few British titles to have a territorial designation outside the UK and Ireland. And in 1986 he left Nautical to write full-time, his many books including Ocean Racing and Offshore Yachts (1970), Guinness Book of Yachting Facts and Feats (1975), Yacht Rating (1997) and, last year, The RHY Book of World Sailing Records.

Johnson first took to the water in 1944, and thereafter owned and raced intensively a succession of racing yachts. We sailed many miles together in the 1970s and 1980s when we campaigned our respective OOD34 (Offshore One-Design 34) class yachts Innovation and Checkmate II in an effort to promote the class. This included the gruelling 1979 Fastnet race in which 15 people drowned. In 1982, in my yacht Blackjack, we competed in the two-handed Round Britain Race.

He sailed the last of his 10 Fastnet races in 1999 at the age of 69. Latterly he sailed in yachts befitting his age and would sit close to the helmsman advising on tactics and navigation with his trusty hand-held GPS always at the ready.

Johnson served from 1965 to 1968 as Captain of the Junior Offshore Group (Jog), founded in 1950 originally to race out of Newhaven, and from 1979 to 1983 as its President. He was on committees of the Royal Yachting Association and the Royal Ocean Racing Club, and was Chairman of the International Technical Committee (Rules Committee) of the Offshore Racing Council. Until recently he was Chairman of the World Speed Sailing Records Council.

He had been Chairman of the Yachting Journalists' Association and, from 1971 to 1981, Yachting World's Ocean Racing Correspondent; he continued to contribute articles to the yachting press until a few months before his death.

Rodney Barton

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