Somers Payne, the quiet genius of Cork sailing, has died at the age of 87. From a long-established Munster sailing family going back several generations, he was raised in a household where Corinthian sport afloat was a natural part of life – his father had been a noted international medallist in the International 12s, and was renowned as one of Cork Harbours most talented helmsmen when Somers was born.
He was christened John Somers Payne, but there was no way he was ever known as John or Jack. To people of all ages and in all walks of life (for he was very much part of his community), he was simply 'Somers' - quiet and friendly, unassuming in everyday life, yet very positively an ace in a boat. The records will show that in an era when Olympic aspiration in Irish sailing was a lonely calling, he doggedly kept at it in sailing a Finn, and represented Ireland with credit in both the Melbourne Olympics of 1956, and the Rome games in 1960.
But it was in the focused local enthusiasm of National 18 racing in Cork Harbour that he was most truly himself, and he was able to transfer this skill in style to national and international championships, winning more National 18 titles than any other skipper. He was also much in demand as a helmsman on keelboats, and listed Admirals Cup campaigns among his many accomplishments.
Our sympathies are with the family and friends of Somers Payne, and with his many shipmates, who cherish the fond memories of a quiet man with a pleasant sense of humour who was an asset to any boat he sailed on.