It's hard to imagine a cruiser event on the Yare without the diminutive figure of Bill Jenner, lounging across the tiller of his beloved Dragonfly, or strolling down the bank gossip-bound for the next chat session with one of his many friends.
Bill died this Spring, aged 83, but was still cruising and racing in 2003.
Bill had set himself twin targets for 2005. He was going to make it back on the water with Dragonfly, and he was going to make it through to this June which was his and Jacqui's 60th wedding anniversary.
But his illness returned in force to rob Bill of both his targets and all of us, of a splendidly cheerful companion and dogged fellow competitor.
Bill came back from WW2 after his RAF discharge to find Broadland sharing Britain's immediate postwar slump. The family boatbuilding and hire company, Jenner's of Thorpe, had been sold off, and was soon to disappear.
Bill and brother Jack worked, scrimped and saved, until by the early 60s, they were able to establish Maidencraft, as a worthy successor to Jenner's. It's operational practice became a by-word for personal friendly service, and attention to detail. It was in the late seventies that I enticed Bill and Jacqui, together with their delightful little river cruiser, Hiawatha, into Coldham Hall Sailing Club. With his usual humility, Bill said he 'wasn't really terribly keen on the racing bit,' but he'd 'give it a go'. Over 20 years later, after mopping up every cruiser trophy that Coldham Hall, and subsequently the YSC, had to offer, Bill's 'go' was still going strong, and no club prize-giving passed without him on his feet.
In time, Hiawatha fell victim to Bill's sporting ambitions, and in any case Bill had a lifetime love affair with the classic designs from Ernest Woods. Eventually, myself and others were placed on red alert, to report the availability of an Ernie Woods boat for purchase. And it had to be just the right boat at the right price. The legacy of those frugal postwar years, left Bill with a fierce dislike for wasting hard-earned cash. All those factors came good with Dragonfly, a sweet boat which responded particularly well to Bill's laid-back handling skills.
At yachting events, Bill was nearly always the greeting skipper; the first to arrive and recce the mooring most suitable for convenient access for Jacqui, and of course their beloved dogs. Once that job was done. he was there for everyone else, whether it was equipment loan, help with a repair, or just advice.
He'll be seriously missed and long remembered.
TC 10 May, 2005