THE END OF AN ERA: SIR PETER HARRISON, WITH LOVE FROM ANTIGUA
Wednesday 23rd June 2021
Sir Peter Harrison, owner of three-time Lord Nelson Trophy winning boat of Antigua Sailing Week, Sojana, died suddenly at home last week.
The news sent shockwaves through the yachting communities in Antigua. He sailed in Antigua for nearly 30-years and through his foundation the Peter Harrison Foundation, donated significantly to the building of the marine industry in Antigua and Barbuda:
In 2009 his boat first made an impact by setting a new record for the monohull elapsed time record on his new Farr designed 110 ft ketch Sojana for the Round Antigua Race. The record was set at 4 hours, 37 minutes and 43 seconds and remained unbeaten until 2018.
In 2011 Sojana Won her first Lord Nelson Trophy. Following the win Sir Peter decided to celebrate by assisting with a significant project with National Parks and almost single handedly funded the restoration of Clarence House.
Photo by Ted Martin
He then went on to support the funding of the new Superyacht Dock within Nelson’s Dockyard, which once built, became the new address for Sojana while in Antigua.
Commissioner of National Parks, Ann-Marie Martin said, ‘Clarence House remains a living testament to his love not only for English Harbour but Antigua and Barbuda. She went on to say, ‘Sir Peter was a major contributor to this countries development and I wish to on behalf of the board and management of the National Park and indeed the Government and people of Antigua and Barbuda convey our condolences to his family and friends on his passing. He will be sadly missed by all of us,” Mrs Martin stated.
In 2017, Sojana returned after a refit and celebrated Sir Peter’s 80th birthday on the night before ASW officially started and often through the years celebrated his birthday racing.
Alongside this, during his many stays in Antigua he met Elizabeth Jordan who had begun work on founding the National Sailing Academy. In 2014 the Peter Harrison Foundation bought the Academy its first bus which enabled the school to pick up children to attend the afternoon schools programme thus allowing the impact of the academy to grow. In its new location on Dockyard Drive at the time, the Foundation then went on to purchase two of the three RS Venture Connect boats which remain in commission to this day. The boats are used for sailing lessons to the differently abled children and adults of Antigua and experiences to the severely disabled as well as being an excellent learn to sail boat for children and adults of all abilities.
Sailing in the RS Venture
By 2019/19 the NSA needed to develop further to support the growth of the sailing programmes and the Foundation again significantly supported the new disabled facilities which were developed including the washroom and the ramps.
Of his contribution, President of the National Sailing Academy, Elizabeth Jordan says, ‘The NSA is saddened to learn of the passing of Sir Peter. Through the 'Peter Harrison Foundation', he has supported the Academy since its inception and there are many disabled children and adults in Antigua who have benefitted from the help given by the Foundation to promote our 'Sailability' programme which is still fully subscribed - even in these difficult times.’
By this time Sojana was back on form and again won the Lord Nelson Trophy in 2018 and 2019 ensuring that Sir Peter entered the history books along with only 3 other owners/skippers to win the Lord Nelson Trophy 3 times. These include Larry Ellison, Tom Hill, Peter Holmberg and John Thompson. As the current reigning winner of the trophy, he will be sorely missed when ASW returns in 2022.
He was featured in the video produced on winners in the last 10 years for the 2021 Virtual ASW.
President of Antigua Sailing Week Alison Sly-Adams says, ‘Sir Peter was such a great character. He was always competitive and loved to win and always acted in a sportsmanlike and gentlemanly way. His financial impact was huge on our sport and industry in Antigua but what is even more impactful is the legacy he left with so many people. Since his passing so many people have reached out to me to tell their story of when they met or spent time with Sir Peter.
Lorna Saunders, past Race Manager of Antigua Sailing Week worked with Sir Peter in 2003. She recounts her experience.’ We all know how charitable and generous Sir Peter was to such a variety of people and organisations. One such occasion was at a charity raising dinner for the children's hospice "Naomi House" in Winchester, Hampshire. Whilst discussing ways to raise much needed funds for a house to accommodate terminally ill young adults (and assisting their siblings and parents), Peter raised his hand and said no problem, we could borrow his well known Farr 50 "Chernikeeff" to use as a platform to raise funds utilizing the famous RORC Fastnet Race.
I was appointed skipper of his fine racing yacht for this event, leading a fearless bunch of twelve women including a petrified female TV presenter. In the 6 months of training and then subsequently a successful race, I got to know Sir Peter and his amazing team very well. How he managed to remain so well informed of our progress and often with wise words of advice was quite beyond me. He genuinely cared very much about all of us and how the fund raising for the charity was progressing.
Thanks to Sir Peter's kindness, over the following 3 years we raised in excess of GDP 340,000 for the charity which contributed enormously to a beautiful new house being built for the young adults. His enthusiasm for just about everything yachting was totally infectious and has had such a positive impact on so many far and wide. Here in Antigua we shall certainly miss him, his joie de vivre and generosity.”
To read the story written about Sir Peter’s History and published as part of Antigua Sailing Week: The First 50 Years click here.