For many in the Topper world Helen was not only a wife, mother, grandmother but binding us all together was a real friend. It is always so sad when someone you hold dear passes away and yet it is at the same time an opportunity to give thanks – thanks for a rich life of fulfilment where Helen was at the heart of the Topper Class.
This has been echoed many times in the tributes that the family has received all capturing the same spirit with phrases like, “a lovely person”, “truly professional in all she did”, “kindness itself ”, “a great ambassador for the class”, and “a lady like a fond Auntie to countless young sailors” occurring time and again.
Helen was the ITCA (GBR) Class Secretary for 23 years and even when she retired from that position, she still maintained her links by continuing as ITCA International Secretary for several more years where she had built up close links.
Becoming Class Secretary proved to be a sharp learning curve, with all the many aspects of dealing with insurance, committee meetings, manning the Dinghy Show stand, enquiries at all times of the day and night, publicity, the editing of Topper Times and banking all falling under her remit. At the end of her first Nationals in 1983 she was so tired one night that she plunged into the bath without realising she was still wearing her clothes!
Helen would be seen going round the dinghy park and introducing herself and welcoming all newcomers. Also she wouldn’t hesitate calling on her contacts within the big names of Topper sailing at the time to ensure its success.
Helen’s skill and efficiency became taken for granted, ably assisted by Alan her husband. She was always there for everyone and was well loved and respected by all age groups. Helen truly helped to establish Toppers as the “Friendly Class”.
For many years Helen was central to the ethos that ensured the Topper embraced all ages and which allowed equal opportunities for all to do well. The mix of ages developed a mutual respect, set standards of sailing to aspire to and taught and policed a respect for the rules.
Helen was also keen that at the Nationals and Worlds there was a strong social element, whether it was a ceilidh or a games night, entertainment from different national groups or just a well-run BBQ. All ages letting their hair down in this way all added to the cohesion of the class and encouraged otherwise shy youngsters to join in.
For Helen there were other times of great personal sadness which she faced with immense fortitude and still kept a ready smile for all who sought her advice.
She was quite simply a lovely lady who is sorely missed.
Roger Cleland, former Chairman ITCA (GBR)
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