Obituary: Rev. Chris Courtauld (1934-2014)

It is with great sadness that we have to announce the death of one of the two founders of the Ocean Youth Club, Rev. Chris Courtauld, on 11th January 2014 aged 79.

Kit Power writes: “The Ocean Youth Trust was founded (as Ocean Youth Club) in 1960 by Chris Ellis and Chris Courtauld who both loaned their boats, Theodora and Duet, to the new charity. Chris Ellis died in 1997 and now, with the death of Chris Courtauld on January 11th 2014, OYT has lost the last of its “Founding Fathers”. Chris remained a Trustee of OYT from its foundation in 1960 until 2000 when the new regional charities were established. He was passionate about the value of sail training and took a deep and continuing interest in everything that the OYT was doing.

“Chris was the elder son of Augustine Courtauld, usually known as “August”, who had been a member of the British Arctic Air Route Expedition to Greenland in 1930-1. August was manning a weather station on the Greenland icecap, when blizzards buried it in snow and he was stranded there alone for five months until eventually the relief party were able to find him. He passed his time developing ideas for the boat which he would buy when he got home. He found the boat, at Burnham – a beautiful 1912 50 foot yawl. She was called Gaviota II, a name which was quickly changed to Duet, and Chris made many childhood cruises aboard her, later taking command himself during his university years on cruises to the Mediterranean, the Baltic and to Scotland. When August died in 1959 Chris inherited Duet. He owned her for the rest of his life and the boat and her welfare was a continuing passion over his 54 years of ownership.

“After University, Chris was ordained and was the Chaplain of the London Hospital and later Vicar of St Paul’s Knightsbridge in London. When he retired, he and his wife Elizabeth lived at Levington on the Orwell river in the house which had belonged to Arthur Ransome. Through all this time Duet was on loan, first to OYT and later to the Cirdan Trust, which still operates her. In 2012 she celebrated her centenary with a round Britain voyage and an entry in the Fastnet Race.

“Chris had the misfortune to contract polio while he was at school and all his life he suffered from the effects of this. There can scarcely be anyone who has more successfully ignored such a crippling and increasing disability. He was always positive. There were never any complaints. He never lost his marvellous sense of humour. His pleasure in exchanging anecdotes and his interest in the doings of others, especially if they involved boats, never faltered. Few people who knew him have not been inspired by his ability to overcome adversity with such unfailing and infectious cheerfulness.”

Emma Ellis, daughter of Chris Ellis, adds: “Thanks to the dedication and generosity of Chris and the Courtauld family, Duet is the longest continuous-serving sail training vessel in the UK. For over half a century – including 33 years as the flagship of the OYC – she has been providing life-changing experiences and has introduced literally thousands of young people to the sea who might not otherwise have had the chance. The difference that Chris Courtauld made to so many young people is a tremendous lasting legacy for which we are enormously grateful.”

The funeral for the Rev. Chris Courtauld will be for close family and friends only: there will, however, be a memorial service held at St. Paul’s Church, Knightsbridge, for anyone who wishes to pay their respects. Please email if you would like more information on this.

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