Tribute to our former editor John Goode, 1950-2021

John GoodeTributes have poured in from across the marine industry after the former editor of Sailing Today, John Goode, died on 15 May, aged 71, following a short illness.

John was editor for much of Sailing Today’s first decade, from 2001 to 2007, the magazine having been founded in 1997, and from the outset he imbued the title with his energy and knowledge.

He had gone to sea aged 14 with the merchant navy and was possessed of a level of seamanship matched by few in the sailing world.

More than that, he was first-class educator and he took genuine enjoyment in helping people become better sailors.

His step-by-step articles in the Sailing Todays of his era became widely known for their practical, real-world advice.

Thousands of people still use the “John Goode’s Cockpit Plotter” which he designed, as well as his instructional videos, most featuring John sharing his know-how with pipe clamped in mouth.

During the early years of his editorship, the small team was up against media giant IPC, situated in a towerblock in London, but John thrived off the competition and stuck ruthlessly to his guns that the reader must be served first for the venture to be successful.

Staff got to know him as a relentless perfectionist with a minute attention to detail. He cared, literally, about every word in the magazine and insisted that every sentence could be understood by any level of sailor.

The production process was often drawn out – he would spend hours crafting a single paragraph – but the end result was superlative advice in a clear format. It wasn’t long before Sailing Today became a force to be reckoned with.

John was an astute judge of character and he gathered round him similarly knowledgeable writers.

He had done the same when, after a profitable period of his career building motorway fencing, he bought a sailing school in Hamble.

John Simpson, who was chief instructor at Southern Sailing, said the idea was it would be a place “where anyone could learn practical seamanship skills and not just waft about yachting”.

John’s staunchly real-world approach to skippering and crewing saw Southern Sailing become one of the best-regarded and busiest sailing schools in the country, at one point putting out 50 instructors week.

One of the many whom John assessed was Dame Ellen MacArthur, who visisted Southern Sailing for her RYA Yachtmaster Instructor ticket before she set off on her round Britain voyage in 1995.

John took delight in retelling the story of how he and fellow assessor James Stevens agreed to give Ellen the ticket, once she had completed the voyage.

In her book, Taking on the World, Ellen writes: “John Goode was a great character, with his spiky, greying hair and old reefer jacket, smoking his favourite pipe. He was incredibly sharp and had an acute sense of humour and I warmed to him immediately. He was a doer, not a pretender. You will never meet anyone who calls a spade a spade to a greater extent than John.”

John had close friends at all levels of society and it was to the delight of all that in nobody’s presence did he lessen his famously salty language and manner, a manner that belied a wily intelligence and clear-sightedness.

He was a campaigning editor and remained rightly proud of his long series of articles with the QC Sir Patrick Sinclair, who subsequently became a lifelong friend. John asked Sir Patrick to examine Crown Estate claims on the seabed, which were causing mooring holders in estuaries around the coast untenable fee hikes.

Sir Patrick’s articles on the nature of the Crown’s interest in the seabed in Sailing Today were a high-point in marine journalism and typical of John’s interest in protecting the underdog.

In the latter half of his career, John became a sought-after instructor for merchant mariners, he was voted a fellow of the Royal Institute of Navigation and did much work behind the scenes for different aspects of the marine industry.

Many visitors to the London and Southampton boat shows will have been unaware that John was behind some of the most popular practical displays, always gleeful to be including ‘real sailors’ and ‘real boats’ among the new craft on show.

Meanwhile he carried on instructing and most recently he taught sailing in the Ukraine.

Sir Robin Knox-Johnston said: “With the sad news of the death of John Goode we have lost one of the characters in UK Yachting. Merchant seaman, magazine editor, excellent trainer, John always thought outside the box. He was a bit of a maverick and had a profound dislike of stupid, unenthusiastic or incompetent bureaucracy, so tended to get things done in his own way. He got things done.

“John was a good friend, great company, an instinctive seaman and someone I trusted with a boat. In fact he was one of the very few people I have ever trusted to take Suhaili without me aboard.”

Tom Cunliffe said: “There really was nobody like John. In the days when we served together as Yachtmaster Instructor Examiners back in the late 80s, he and Rosie had a parrot in their kitchen that seemed to have a better idea than we did about who was going to pass and fail. John was simply the best when it came to ditch-crawling in the pitch dark before GPS was thought of. He once said to me that if you didn’t crunch a few crabs under the keel you weren’t trying hard enough! He’ll be sorely missed.”

Dame Ellen MacArthur said: “I think it’s fair to say that those lucky enough to have sailed with John will not have forgotten that experience. He was a character to say the least, and with it a great teacher of seamanship. He knew how to push people, when to insert humour into a challenging situation and how to really test your skills. The seafaring community has lost a great friend.”

Max Liberson, good friend and author of ‘The Boat They Laughed At’, said: “A tremendous man. He had so much enthusiasm and that rubbed off on people. He was one of those rare individuals who had no problem with sharing his wisdom. Sailing has lost one of the great people.”

John (second from right) taken to heart by another group of students, eating out during a stint instructing in the Ukraine

Long-time friend and colleague, surveyor Ben Sutcliffe-Davies, said: “He has left his footprint all over the industry. We’ve inherited so much knowledge from him. So many people have copied his articles. His death is an incredible loss to the whole of the sailing world. He was an absolute gent and a legend.”

Close friend and colleague John Simpson said: “His drive and fun pushed on many to emulate his example and he will be well missed by very many fine young sailors here in UK. Certainly, by me as his chief instructor for a few years at Southern. His shining sense of fun will be missed by so many people.”

Co-author of the East Coast Pilot, Dick Holness, said: “Captain John, as we all referred to him, was the nicest chap you could wish to meet. Besides the magazine and his excellent Southern Sailing school, he worked tirelessly to encourage and enable ordinary club sailors to support National Boat Shows. The world of sailing is an emptier place without him.”

Group editor of Sailing Today with Yachts & Yachting, Rob Peake, said: “At Sailing Today we will be forever in John’s debt, for the huge energy he poured into the magazine.

“John took great personal pride in all his work but he rarely sought credit. He was happier in the background, bringing others on and putting things in place to benefit the wider sailing community.

“So many of us have benefitted from his instruction afloat and his truly brilliant articles on seamanship and pilotage. Many of us still use his ‘cockpit plotter’ today.

“We are much the poorer for the loss, but so much the richer for the knowledge that he passed on and for the great laughs that he gave us.”

John leaves Rosie, his wife of 49 years, and children Sam and Patrick.



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