BSC people: Gordon Alder

When did you start sailing?

My earliest sailing memories are from the age of 10. The very first experience was on a clinker yacht called ‘Kate’ which belonged to Ian Graham, a member of the club in 1970.

In 1972 my Great Uncle Trum Hutton (pictured) invited me to crew for him in his Flying Fifteen ‘Mermaid’. So started my membership of Burntisland Sailing Club. From my parents’ house I could see Uncle Trum’s house. This allowed a red and green board signal to develop. Green board in the window, we were going sailing! Red board in the window….no sailing today. I also kept a keen eye on the Kinghorn Bottle works chimney to see what the wind was doing to the issuing smoke.

At 18, I purchased ‘Mermaid’ from Uncle Trum and, not long after, acquired a second Flying Fifteen from Stuart Nisbet, who was a member for a number of years. So I ran with the family boat, a classic wood build and a “plastic” which required limited maintenance.

Having raced Flying Fifteens, I got invited to race the “big stuff” both on the west coast of Scotland and down in the Solent and English Channel. With racing both north and south, my networks grew. Eventually I was part of a small group that worked with a disabled charity shifting yachts about on the Med.

Preparing and Sailing ‘Sonas’ a Moody 29 over to Norway and back was certainly a magic moment. I have been blessed with so many other opportunities including racing on ex America Cup yacht ‘Stars and Stripes’. 2021 is my 49th year at the club, I’m looking forward to many more years on the water.

Where to start? There are so many and, like all sailors, we can tell a good story. Briefly through the years… which as you would suspect starts with the Flying Fifteen from the age of 12. Leading the Scottish Championships at BSC — great for a young lad learning the trade. On the starting line at the British Championships with 110 other boats. Seeing 110 boats at Burntisland Regatta as a youngster. Travelling Scotland and England and racing at different venues and meeting new people. Sinking in a Flying Fifteen. Racing in a gale at the Scottish in Oban. Preparing and sailing ‘Sonas’ to the twin town of Flekkefjord and back home again. Winning the British “Fire and Emergency Services Championships” 3 times and still learning the trade. Being able to introduce non sailors to my world and getting them to do more.

What’s your BEST sailing experience?

What’s your WORST sailing experience?

So many hair-raising moments! Sailing a Flying Fifteen in a full gale. Coming back from Limekilns Regatta as a teenager and being unable to see the Flying Fifteen in front due to the height of the waves. Saving the day when a boat owner “lost it” during 63kt winds on the west coast of Scotland. Same again when my helmsman during a night passage misread the compass and we were in touching distance of rocks off the west coast of France. He woke me to say “I’m not sure where we are !!!!” The noise of crashing waves was deafening. On another occasion, I was on a yacht that I’d chartered, when I became aware that a nearby yacht had lost its steering and their VHF was down. On board was a person with a suspected heart attack. In a moment of high drama, I had to jump on board, quickly assess and decide (happily, the casualty lived to tell the tale). Memory further reminds me of the time when we lost a crew member overboard. There was a mighty gale coming up the north channel on the west coast. The man was hit by the boom and his 16 stone was catapulted over the side. He was losing his thoughts and starting to hyperventilate. I went into the water, stripped him, and we hoisted him out.