OBITUARY : Duncan Munro Kerr

Click to follow
The Independent Online
With the death of Duncan Munro Kerr, the sport of sailing has lost one of its ablest administrators and one who had been expected to play an even greater role both nationally and internationally in the years ahead. He was lost at sea in the early hours of 13 August; he had been competing in the yacht Trocar in the Royal Ocean Racing Club's Cowes to Rotterdam race and was 27 miles off Ostend on the final leg of the course to Rotterdam when the accident occurred.

During his early years, Munro Kerr had shown little interest in the sailing that was to become the dominant recreational interest of his adult life. Instead, he spent much of his free time during his school years riding. He devoted a gap year after Marlborough College to his showjumping career, which culminated in his participation as a member of the British Showjumping Team in competitions in France, Poland and Zimbabwe in 1974-75.

On graduating in Law from Bristol University, he decided to follow in the footsteps of his late father, Andrew Munro Kerr, and was called to the Bar in 1975. Munro Kerr joined what were then John Edwards's chambers in Queen Elizabeth Building, Temple, as their first pupil, in January 1976. He remained there throughout his career as a barrister.

Having started in common law, most of his career was devoted to criminal work, specialising more recently in commercial fraud cases. He had been selected earlier this year for appointment as an Assistant Recorder, due to commence sitting in 1997.

Shortly after graduating, Munro Kerr had been introduced to the sport of offshore racing by a flatmate from his Bristol days, Nick Playfair, who was looking for crew for his 37ft 1966 Sparkman & Stephens One Tonner, Clarionet. It was to this sport that he was to devote most of his leisure time for the remainder of his life, through which he met his wife, and which led to what was tantamount in recent years to a second, parallel, career as a yachting administrator.

Munro Kerr crewed on Clarionet from 1976 to 1979 and was a co-owner from 1982 to 1984, competing in many of the Royal Ocean Racing Club's races in the Channel and on the east coast. During those years, Clarionet won its class in many of the races and the 1982 Class V Season's Points Championship in both Open and Restricted divisions.

Munro Kerr first met Catherine Greville in the Island Sailing Club in Cowes during Cowes Week in 1978, when she was already an experienced offshore racer, having competed in her first offshore race at the age of 11 with her father, Nick Greville, in Trocar, a 34ft Holman & Pye sloop.

Munro Kerr became a co-owner of Trocar with his future father-in-law in 1985. They won their class in the Royal Ocean Racing Club's Fastnet races of 1985 and 1989 and came second in 1987 and 1991; they also won the 1987 Class V Season's Points Championship in both Division One and the Restricted division, among many other successes.

Munro Kerr served on the main committee of the Royal Ocean Racing Club for the first time from 1982 to 1986 and as a Rear Commodore from 1986 to 1988. He was chairman of the Channel Handicap Committee in 1987, a member of the Admiral's Cup Management Committee from 1988 to 1989 and chairman of the selectors for the English team for the Commodores' Cup in 1994 and 1996. He was elected to the main committee for a second time for the current year and was widely considered to be a likely future Commodore of the Club.

His performance in committee and as a flag officer of the club led to his election as a member of the council of the Royal Yachting Association, the national authority for the sport of sailing in the UK, from 1988 to 1991 and from 1992 to 1995. He also served on many of its committees, and was a member of the Royal Yacht Squadron, the Bar Yacht Club and West Mersea Yacht Club.

At an international level, Munro Kerr had been a member of the Offshore Racing Council since 1990, responsible for the United Kingdom, Ireland and Hong Kong, and a member since 1990 of the Constitution Committee of the International Yacht Racing Union (now the International Sailing Federation), the top administrative authority for sailing worldwide. As Vice-Chairman of the Constitution Committee since 1994, he had been active in completing the recent restructuring of the union's constitution and in updating its regulations.

Duncan Munro Kerr was a handsome man with a first class brain and a keen wit. He was always kind, totally honest and utterly loyal to his friends. He owed his considerable success in his legal career, in his riding and sailing and in his work as a yachting administrator to these qualities, together with his physical and moral courage, his high standards and his unflinching pursuit of excellence.

Colin Campbell

Duncan Munro Kerr, barrister and yachtsman: born Woking, Surrey 24 January 1953; married 1985 Catherine Greville (three daughters); died 13 August 1996.