Plas Heli

The Welsh National Sailing Academy and Events Centre

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This article was written  in 2021 to recognise Richards contribution to sailing, Pwllheli, and our club -  when awarded with a lifetime contribution award at the Clwb Hwylio Pwllheli Sailing Club  prizegiving evening in December 2021. We republish here an edited version in memory of our dear brother and friend Richard.


Richard started sailing at a very early age and is one of Gwyndaf Hughes oldest sailing pupils, a relationship which we know they both cherish.

He built his first dinghy from kit in the living room at home, competing in championships travelling from venue to venue, with the red mirror dinghy, Madryn, on top of his mother’s Mini. No fancy campervans in those days!

He lost his mast on Llyn Tegid, Bala when the boom of a GP 14 crossed in front on port in front of Madryn in the School Championships. Gwyndaf managed to get permission to use the Bala School craftworkshop to carry out temporary repairs (with jubilee clips) so that "Madryn" could proceed with the championship the following day.

Family boating started on "Gay-anna" with his father Huw, who is also a former Commodore, and with his brother Stephen, also a former Commodore. Keel boats started very soon after on a Halcyon 26 "Reward", but Richard wanted to go faster so there was then "Rev De Mer",  "Gwobr Aur" a Shamrock and then "Panache" a Contessa.

Richard left school and took up an apprenticeship with North Sails and returned to Pwllheli to work for Brian Smart at ‘Sail Care’. Shortly afterwards Richard ventured and purchased the business. ‘Sail Care’ became ‘Tudor Sail Makers’. His white waterproofs were the height of sailing fashion for a while, and his sailing kit bags are still seen and cherished by many. He designed and built some fancy spinnakers for winners such as Greased Lighting, Mererid, and Megalopolis - all ISORA race winners. He built several suits  for Panache. A few of his sails are still in use today.

He sailed his first ISORA race  in 1976 with Anthony Jones and completed a RORC Fastnet race in 1977 and 1981, and with many more to follow, including  one on  Panache with an all Pwllheli Crew including Gwyndaf.

Richard’s dream however, was on long distance offshore racing, and he wanted to compete in the round the world Volvo race.

His dream came true when he was offered the Skipper role on British Steel 2, the Flagship for the ‘British Steel Round the World Challenge’, a race around the world the wrong way, against the prevailing winds and currents.

Things looked great, winning the first leg to Rio,  and a   highlight of the stop-over was to meet the infamous Ronnie Biggs, the great train robber!

The second leg took the fleet past Cape Horn. Shortly after Cape Horn, and just before Christmas, the mast came down because of a fault in the forestay fitting on the stem head. The rest of the fleet was alerted to the fault and many boats were fitted with new masts at the next stop-over.

Now the story of his 3000 mile struggle to New Zealand/Australia is well documented. Fuel was replenished from a ship en-route. A stop in Chatham Islands where he was given a mast on condition that he dug it up from the ground in some scrub land. The much smaller mast was however lashed onto the remains of the boom that had been retrieved from the Ocean.

What is not known however, is his heroism being in the water for hours on end, cutting the rigging that was endangering the boat itself. The crew of British Steel continue to meet every year, on the anniversary of the dismasting almost 30 years ago. School children across Wales learnt all about geography by following Richard’s track. These positions were radioed in, no gps and chart plotters then!


Richard Tudor Award

Richard with Falmai  receiving the clubs lifetime contribution award 2021

The next big adventure for Richard was as skipper of Nuclear Electric, another circumnavigation as skipper. He was the toast of the town when Nuclear Electric was tied up to the pontoon on the marina. There were so many people wanting to see this fantastic vessel that the pontoon almost sank, and people had to be limited.

Nuclear ElectricRichard Tudor - Skipper of Nuclear Electric

These two circumnavigations were massive achievements for a young man.

Richard then led expeditions to the Artic Circle and to many other warmer and more exotic places.

He was also part of the Team Phillips experimental trimaran which sank in the North Atlantic and he and the crew were rescued by a passing ship, just as the boat fell apart and sank. He ended up in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

He competed in Regattas around the world, was part of the Corwynt Cymru Team winning Cork Week and the 704 mile Round Ireland Race.

He still holds the record for the best time ever on his Three Peaks race win in 1998 and was a winning skipper on the Round Britain and Ireland race.

Richard formerly opened the Pwllheli Marina in 1993, and the plaque is in the reception. He was a director of Porth Pwllheli, a consortium of local people wanting to develop Pwllheli into a world-renowned Marina, it is maintained to this day that this forced the hand of Dwyfor Council to develop what we now know as Hafan Pwllheli. Less known is the plaque above the raw sewerage filters; he performed the opening ceremony of the state-of-the-art sewerage works at the old club near the Gimblet

Then it was his time to stop living out of a sail bag.

He was asked to set up a new Marine College in Pwllheli – something he had campaigned for. Richard worked as a lecturer and manager at Coleg Meirion-Dwyfor - Pwllheli Hafan Campus for many years. His students learnt the skills of Marine Engineering, and many have continued their connection with Richard from all around the world.

His anchor was now firmly ashore, and he met Falmai, and along came Daughter Leus and Son Iago, both ultimately sailing with CHIPAC and also on keelboats, with Iago a popular member of both the Jackknife and Sgrech Bach crew, something that Richard was very proud of. In addition to Iago and Leus, Richard also  has two loving children from his first marriage, Owen and Sarah, who have both been a tower of strength to the family, and last year  welcomed a gorgeous grandson, Leo into the family. Richard was very proud of all his children, and excited about their plans and goals for the future.

Richard has been a member of the sailing club from the time of the very first building, we are now in our fifth home, he has seen all five club buildings as an active member.

Richard was Commodore in 2000 to 2002 and president in 2006 - 2008 and an active member of the club’s management committee, giving us all his experience and advice which was always highly valued.

Richard was instrumental in bringing the One Ton Cup to Pwllheli in 2001, the images of that event still resonate - a massive event in the sailing world.

Richard and Iago on J125 Jackknife

He has worked tirelessly on the Welsh National Sailing  Academy and Events Centre project, which all started in 2003, and an active board member of Plas Heli, a community enterprise, a role which is of course voluntary. He has been  involved with all aspects of Plas Heli’s development, and rolled his sleeves up cleaning the floors, cutting the grass, repairing and maintaining  and upgrading the ageing ribs, preparing and arranging for events, inflating racing marks and ensuring we are all ready for these events, large and small, and setting the mood lighting in the bar!

In the bar we will often be treated to tales of adventure, he will often drop place names into a conversation such as Antigua, Palma and San Tropez, this is done not as a boast, and in the same way that we would talk about Abererch, Porthmadog and Sarn. His geographical and navigational knowledge was truly exceptional, and we enjoyed discussing Jet streams and weather systems over a pint (or two!)

A qualified Race Officer, Richard  really enjoyed  race management, he said  it is a practical way of giving to others what he has enjoyed for so long, and was awarded a prized ISORA jacket in Dun Laoghaire last November for his support to ISORA and race management.  He co-ordinated the setting up of our famous automated race starting system with the computer voice giving competitors a count-down to the start, now also fitted to committee boat Heli.

Richard has taken on the responsibility of ensuring that the racing marks are laid and retrieved every year and prepared the material for our annual calendar for many years, and always advised on layout and drew our tidal curves.

Richard loved  sailing and jumped  at any opportunity to be on the water. He was a member of the Jackknife team on that fantastic race from Dun Laoghaire to Dingle in 2019 where top speeds were achieved on the spinnaker run down to Tuskar, something that will stay with all of us forever.

In 2018 he sailed on the J80 Jac Y Do and taught us all so much about sailing a small boat against the larger boats in the Autumn series - Astonishing skills and boat handling and sewed the seed for the sport boat and crane project we now enjoy here in Pwllheli.

It has been fantastic seeing  Iago and Richard sailing together. It is extraordinary to have three sets of father and sons, Andrew and Sam, Richard and Iago and Stephen and Thomas, all competing together on Jackknife  over the last 10 years, truly memorable!  

His contribution to our sailing  boating  and club in general,  is phenomenal -  what we take for granted would not be possible without the work that Richard has done, quietly, without fuss, and  often late at night.

At the 2021 dinner, we had the pleasure and honour of reading a letter from one of sailings greats, Chay Blyth , which we repeat below:

“Richard was skipper of British Steel 2 in the British Steel Challenge Round the World Yacht Race. He was one of only 12 skippers to be chosen from over 200 applicants all of whom had the same necessary Yacht Master qualifications to apply.

He was an inspirational leader, deeply respected and loved by his crew. They suffered one of the ultimate misfortunes in a Yacht race of losing their mast in the Southern Ocean at a point virtually the furthest from land of anywhere on the planet. In adversity the true mettle of people comes out. When the rigging needed cutting from the yacht it was Richard who went over the side with bolt cutters to free the debris from the yacht. Richard had the technical expertise to know what had to be done. He got the yacht and all his Crew back safely from the depths of the Southern Ocean safely to the Chatham Islands and then on to Wellington.

He never asked his crew to do anything that he wasn’t prepared to do, and hence the lasting respect that all his crew still have for him. They were highly competitive but also had great fun on the way, a tribute to the personality of their skipper who had the sailing talent to win the first leg of the Race, from Southampton to Rio.

A truly remarkable and outstanding sailor.”

Sir Chay Blyth

Rest in peace brother and friend

Stephen Tudor and Mark H Thompson - 2021 and edited 2024

TUDOR - Richard

On the 31st of December, 2023, peacefully in the company of his family at Bryn Beryl Hospital, Pwllheli, aged 64 years, Richard Tudor passed away. The son of the late Huw and Gaynor Tudor. A loving partner to Falmai, a special father to Owen, Sarah, Leus and Iago and a proud and kind grandfather to Leo. A dear brother to Stephen, John and Anna and a brother in law to Carys ,Gwenan, Nia and Iona. He was a loved and greatly respected Uncle to many. He will be missed greatly by all his family and friends.

A public service will be held at Capel y Drindod, Pwllheli on Friday the 12th of January at 1 o'clock, and a burial to follow in the Cemetery in Llanbedrog.

Flowers for immediate family only.

After a Funeral Tea at Plas Heli - the home of Clwb Hwylio Pwllheli Sailing Club - All Welcome - Croeso i Pawb



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