Written by the past XOD Class Secretary Tina Scott
Monday 31st May 2021 is the 100th birthday of Tom Tait who earned the title “Father of the Class” in the Centenary year of 2011, when he sailed his own boat X181 Xtravagance at the age of 90 in the blustery Centenary Race on the Thursday of Cowes Week and gave a speech at the Centenary Dinner in the evening.
Tom joined the XOD Class Association in 1973 as co-owner of X121 Curlew and X150 Pepper and started sailing regularly at Itchenor. Before long he was at the front of the fleet and in 1981 when he happened to hear that the one-year-old X181 was for sale, he bought her and renamed her Xtravagance as he already had more than one boat.
Also in 1981, he was elected Itchenor Divisional Captain and, as a chartered engineer, became increasingly involved in the technical aspects of the Class. At the 1982 XOD AGM, he proposed sail measurement checking by the Divisions, with sails being marked with an X stamp, date and signature and also proposed the acceptance of slab reefing.
In 1983, he raised awareness to the Yachts & Yachting editor that the XOD Class with over 80 entries at Cowes Week surpassed all the other keelboat classes in their league table of National Championship entries, the nearest being the Flying Fifteens with 51, and the XOD Class has been included in the Y&Y league table ever since.
After his tenure as Itchenor Divisional Captain ended in 1984, he worked with the Technical Advisory Committee (TAC), Class Captain and Official Measurer to facilitate sail measuring, liaising with sailmakers and IYRU measurers to devise template drawings and procedures. He also identified the need to have an official XOD Class sail drawing and to have it incorporated into the Handbook.
In 1985, as a member of the Royal Thames YC, he realised that the RTYC Model Room, full of notable yachts in half models around the walls, had one important omission. No XOD! Tom donated an XOD half model to the club and it is still there hanging in the Model Room.
In 1986, Tom was nominated TAC Chairman and served for 15 years. At the AGM that year, he gained approval for the local use of epoxy glues and fillers and a year later proposed (along with no less than 17 other technical AGM resolutions!) bringing in a minimum boat weight which continues as a requirement to this day. During those years, Tom was part of a team continually assessing the effect of epoxy use on the hull and he oversaw the deliberations of the pros and cons of epoxy coating, leading to later decisions by the Class on the use of epoxy, which has no doubt helped to preserve many boats.
From 1988-1995, he was an important adviser to the Class Captain and Official Measurer on the waterline length of newly built boats and on their modification to Class specifications. He then turned his attention to underweight iron keels and calculated the number, diameter and depth of holes that needed to be drilled on different keels, so they could be filled with lead to bring them up to specification. Having a clear understanding of the XOD Class Rules and Specifications in effect since 1964, he then re-formatted them all to create the new XOD Class Constitution and Rules, which became effective in 1998 and remain in force.
After stepping down as TAC Chairman in 2001, he continued sailing Xtravagance at Itchenor and being involved with Class activities. He regularly attended Class AGMs and was always the one to stand up at the end to propose thanks to the Class Captain, Committees and Representatives. He was nominated an Honorary Member in 2010.
TOM, thank you for all you have done for the Class over so many years, you are indeed the FATHER OF THE CLASS, and we wish you a very HAPPY 100th BIRTHDAY.
Congratulations Tom Tait
100 years old today after a lifelong love of sailing
Written by past Commodore ISC Ted Roose
Tom first learned to sail with his father on a lake outside Berlin. At the age of 14 he emigrated to UK with his younger brother Dickie.
After the war the two brothers set about building their careers and in due course established their own business, which became very successful making medical products. Sailing was not their priority at this time.
We next hear of Tom coming to Chichester Harbour, to sail from Bosham SC in an Albacore dinghy. He switched to Itchenor Sailing Club and joined a syndicate that owned an X One-Design, a class of racing keel boats to which he became very attached over the years. He bought a house in Itchenor and raced enthusiastically with his new colleagues.
When the owners of the local boat yard wanted to retire, Tom was amongst the leading lights at Itchenor Sailing Club who organised fellow members to buy Haines Boatyard so as to ensure there were continuing facilities to care for and store their classic keel boats. After a successful fund raising, the Haines brothers were able to retire happily and the future of the keel boat fleet was secured. After a while, Tom was appointed Chairman of Haines, using his technical and business skills, to lead the company for a very successful 17 years.
Meanwhile the X Class had recognised the talent in its midst and appointed Tom to be Chairman of the Technical Committee, a position he held for fourteen years. The purpose of the Committee was to ensure that wooden boats, built over a period of more than eighty years, by many different yards, conform to one-design rules. This made boats as equal as possible. The difference in performance is then in the skill of the crews. Not an easy task, but the renowned competiveness of X boat racing is testament to the success of Tom, his predecessors and successors.
But what about his sailing? Tom had become devoted to the Class, loving the boats and the people who sailed them.
He splashed out on an almost new X One-Design boat that he called Xtravagance.
He met Carole, who became his second wife and first mate in a very successful partnership. Over the years, Tom’s name as winner has been engraved on more XOD trophies at Itchenor, than I imagine will ever be achieved again.
To relax, Tom enjoyed playing a very energetic game of tennis and Heli-skiing.
He hung up his sailing boots when he was 92 and continues to live happily in Itchenor.