Sailing: Tragic death of a talent and a friend

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The Independent Online
I won't actually remember John Merricks for his sailing. A strange thing to say, perhaps, when his achievements over the last couple of years have been so outstanding. Together with Ian Walker, as Team Merricks/ Walker, John Merricks started a revolution in British sailing that has been a long time coming.

Individually they were talented, together they were dynamite: second at the 470 World Championship in 1996 was bad luck - they should have won. A silver at the Olympics last year was hard-earned.

But it has been during this last year that the versatility of the Merricks talent was fully manifested. Because in six short months the partnership took on the Mumm 36 class - one of the most competitive classes in offshore keelboat sailing - and conquered it.

Forget the very average result of the British team at the Champagne Mumm Admiral's Cup in August. Remember that Team Merricks-Walker were at the top of the Mumm 36 class; before this year John Merricks had never even sailed a boat in the dark. What's more, if you were to speak to any of the sailors who were part of their Admiral's Cup crew, they would tell you that they had a blast doing it and that John Merricks was always at the epicentre.

Which is how I will remember John. I have sailed with him, I have sailed against him. But sailing aside, I'll remember the passion we both shared for playing electric guitars very loudly and very badly. I'll remember him for the irreverence he showed, and I frequently shared, at formal functions. To many people John Merricks was a prodigious sailing talent. To me he was all that, but he was also a friend. I'll miss the friend, British sailing will miss the talent.