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Saturday 6th January 2018

Having been invited to Geoffrey Pidduck's 80th Birthday party happening today, which he humorously informed me was his wake, I sat and chuckled, equal parts delighted and absolutely horrified. It gave me some pause for thought as Geoffrey unbeknownst to many is one of the reasons we are doing what we do in Antigua, and all the things that have erupted from it over the years.

How you may ask? Well one fateful day in January 2003, we made our last trip to Antigua as vacationers, and visited then Pidduck owned Tradewinds Realty. We spent a few hours with Geoffrey and it was then that we got an inkling for his love of challenging conversations as well as his love of sailing, the environment and of course Janie and the Dogs.

We returned to the UK and about a month later, having politely thanked him for his time, we received an email that would set us on course for years to come.  ‘I might have a business idea for you’ wrote Geoffrey.' That business was and Geoffrey at the time was a sleeping partner in the business.  And the rest as they say is history!

Having been in at the beginning with us quite literally, especially in the early days, Geoffrey took it upon himself to challenge our strategy, make usually excellent suggestions about what we should do,  and, he is and has remained until this day one of our greatest supporters, and for that we cannot thank him enough.

An amusing highlight from our early days were the famous ABMA meetings in the run up to the 2004 elections when Geoffrey would proudly announce,’ I’ve got the Balls for St. Pauls’.! To this day I am not sure how serious his proclamation was.

It is only years later as my own role in Antigua Sailing Week, the Antigua and Barbuda Marine Association and the Caribbean Sailing Association have developed that I realised just how passionate about Sailing Geoffrey is and was. When we worked on the book to celebrate 50 Years of Antigua Sailing Week Geoffrey was of course on the list of people we wanted to include. He submitted his own piece because his writing is as entertaining as his speeches. I remember him telling me how he had had to spend a long time on what to write because his memories were so enormous and he decided he wanted to especially focus on the youth aspects of the race and importance of the Antigua Yacht Club Youth Programme and the National Sailing Academy as to him they are such critical parts of how successful sailors in Antigua will continue to be.

His first Antigua Sailing Week was in 1970 and up to 2017 he raced in 48, and as an octogenarian has plans to race in 2018 God willing, His first time was as a crew member on a Swan 411, Quest of Paget owned by Bermudan Jerry Trimmingham. At this point Geoffrey was living in Canada but by 1982 he relocated back to Antigua (he was born in Dominica by the way) and since then he has taken a huge interest in helping to develop and support Antiguan sailors. He proudly talks of sailors such as Karl James, Shawn Malone, Greg Athill, Annik, Bishop and Ashley Rhodes, Louise Tillotson and Small Bob all having been crew on his boats.

His support of Antigua and the industry however is not just on the water, but off the water he has been President of the Antigua and Barbuda Marine Association, Commodore of Antigua Yacht Club, President of the Caribbean Sailing Association, served years as an international judge travelling at his own cost around the Caribbean to support other regattas and to this day is President of the Antigua and Barbuda Sailing Association.

It is in that role I have most of my interaction with him these days, and his passion for ensuring that the association, also the Member National Authority, plays its rightful role in supporting and developing the sport of sailing in Antigua and Barbuda is awe-inspiring.

I recently made the mistake of complaining to Geoffrey about one of my many volunteer positions and how time consuming it is. His answer, no sympathy at all was, ‘And so it should be. You volunteered for the role’. He’s from the old guard, you say you are going to do it – so do it – or get out! He walks the walk and talks the talk to this day.

I’ll finish by recounting one of my favourite stories he told us many years ago. To paraphrase, ‘I had a client who was staying at the Hawksbill Hotel and he drove over to meet her ( I believe a potential investor but I could be wrong and it doesn’t really matter). He said he arrived at Hawksbill and on enquiry at reception he was told she was on the beach. So off he set walking along the beach, and he walked, and he walked, and finally found her at the nudist beach, of course stark naked. Laughing out loud I asked him, what did you do? ‘Took my clothes off and lay down on the sun bed next to her and asked, how can I help you?’. No doubt with his arms behind his head and a huge grin on his face!

Geoffrey thank you for your friendship, guideance and laughs so far and for the many more to come. You are a great role model of how to get on and live life to the fullest. I only hope I can get to your age right now, with my hips intact and shall aspire to be able to swing them still just like you!

Fair winds and following seas.

Alison Sly-Adams

To read more about Geoffrey's sailing career check out this excellent profile on All at Sea

Geoffrey at the helm of 6 metre modified Biwi Magic. Photo Paul Wyeth, Antigua Sailing Week 2017

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