Background to Tom Cunliffe

I’ve been sailing all my life

I started back in 1961 when my Dad shoved me and a pal off on the Norfolk Broads in a 22-foot gaff sloop with no engine. That way you either learn fast or come to grief. I was fourteen and I was lucky. Since those days I’ve sailed most things from Firefly dinghies at University when I should have been reading law, to big gaff schooners.

I’ve been Mate on a coasting merchant ship and run yachts for gentlemen. I’ve operated charter boats, delivered all sorts of vessels, raced at quite high levels and have been teaching sailing intermittently for thirty-five years. I’ve been a Yachtmaster Examiner since 1978.

For forty years traditional boats were my passion. ┬áMy wife Ros and I have sailed them all over the Atlantic, from southern Brazil to Iceland and from the Caribbean to Russia, with a number of trips to the US and Canada thrown in. I love traditional craft, but I’m happy sailing anything that does the job properly. Now I have a modern classic which takes us off for three months in the summer to such destinations as Finland and back.

Family commitments in the mid-1980s started me writing and lecturing about the sea. My first commercial article was about star sights. It was published by Yachting Monthly where I have a seamanship column to this day. On the strength of this and the advance for Topsail and Battleaxe, I came ashore after living aboard for many years. These days I operate from a cottage in the New Forest. The arrangement suits me well because it gives me somewhere to grow roses and to keep my motorcycle, but I still sneak plenty of time out to go cruising.