Obituary for Pepe Stratton by Caroline Peel

Pepe Stratton (1931-2022)

Pepe was a true product of Heathfield where ‘no’ is not an option.  Her energetic approach to life was one of ‘Let’s get this done’ and she nearly always did.

Pepe’s sailing career started at Itchenor Sailing Club, where she was a formidable helmswoman in Fireflies.  Her first Firefly was called Trout, and subsequent motorboats bore the same name.  She was an Olympic triallist in the Finn class but, since girls were not considered for the squad in those days, she obviously did not make the team.  There is a wonderful story that when in a Firefly with Jonathan Janson, history does not relate who was on the helm and who was crewing, they had a massive fallout.  Jonathan threw Pepe overboard, the boat capsized and when the nanny boat appeared, with their parents on board, they were still having a blazing argument!

She met Vernon Stratton at Itchenor in 1948 where they were both sailing Fireflies and married in 1952.  James, Richard, Charles and Sarah-Jane soon completed the family.

Whilst living in Berkshire in the ‘60s, she threw herself into running the local Girl Guides as County Commissioner.  In ’64 there was a world-wide fundraiser for the Guides in Windsor Great Park, and she was at the forefront of the organisation.

Pepe’s Bembridge life started in 1957 when her parents, Sir Geoffrey and Lady Lowles, bought St. Helens Station after it had been decommissioned by British Rail.  They also bought ‘Vera’, No. 17 Redwing, from Sir Hugh Dawson.  Pepe became a part owner with her mother in 1966.  ‘Vera’ was sold to Dr. Swinstead in 1968, when she and Vernon became heavily involved with the Olympic campaigns.  In 1985 they re-joined the Redwing Fleet by buying No. 18 ‘Red Gauntlet’.

When Vernon became RYA Olympic Sailing Manager in 1967, Pepe became his assistant and they formed a formidable support team for the 1968 Olympics in Acapulco.  The following year she was elected the first Lady Member to the RYA Council, and was also the first Lady Member on the Racing Protest Committee.

On moving full time to the Station in 1985, Pepe threw herself into making the garden glorious.  She was an expert and excellent gardener, with a succession of red setters to help her.

The St. Helens Nursing Association benefitted enormously from Pepe’s involvement.  She initiated the annual fund-raising party which was a huge success and is still a yearly event.

Pepe became a Flag Officer of Bembridge Sailing Club in 1990, as Rear Commodore Wine and House, and was the first Lady Commodore in 1994/5.  She insisted on very high standards.


Both Pepe and Vernon were huge champions of getting the younger age group in boats and were very supportive of the innovations in the Dinghy Club.  She was a huge support to Vernon when he introduced the Illusion fleet, encouraging yachtsmen from other clubs to come and sail at Bembridge.  They hosted great model yachting parties on the pond during the winter fuelled by lashings of soup and hot sausages.  Pepe was a very generous hostess.


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