Generous, warm, knowledgeable, modest and ever the gentleman, superyachting legend and former owner of the 75 metre Leander, Sir Donald Gosling has died at the aged of 90. BOAT International reflects on his life-long love affair with yachting.
Sir Donald's love affair with the sea started aged just nine when his mother used to take him to the Round Tower in Portsmouth to watch the warships coming and going. From that point, yachts, ships and the sea dominated his thoughts, and enrolling in the Royal Navy was the logical outcome.
After a spell of active service at the end of WWII and beyond, Gosling found himself on civvy street following the post-war cuts in the Navy. With the transition to land and training as a surveyor came the hankering to get back on the water, and with the help of a few savings, his first “yacht” followed shortly after: a three metre clinker-built boat with an inboard engine, which he kept on the Thames.
A successful business partnership with Sir Ronald Hobson meant Gosling was soon able to trade up, and in 1953 he acquired Elizabeth Gertrude, a fine yacht launched in 1935 that had been built for Lord Rothschild. In 1960, he built his first custom yacht – the 22.9 metre Silver Goose.
It was the first of many yachts that would bear the Goose name, and she was followed in 1972 by the first, 35 metre Brave Goose – built by Toughs of Teddington on the River Thames – her name changed after a promise made to his son who had shown great courage going through an operation as a child.
Another Brave Goose – 41.7 metres and also built at Toughs – followed in 1986, and at the same time Gosling acquired the 48.8 metre Katalina, which he deployed to the Caribbean. No sooner had he sold Katalina – deciding two yachts was a headache – then he sold Brave Goose, and was suddenly without a yacht. However he had fallen in love with the 49.25 metre Edenforth, and bought her in 1988.
In 1990 Peter Insull asked him to go to a shipyard in Germany, which was making the transition from warships to yachts. There, he saw a 2,000 tonne yacht under construction and bought her, imposing his own wishes on the build. In 1993, Leander G (after HMS Leander – Gosling’s Navy posting) was launched and has remained a staple of the superyacht scene ever since, welcoming both charter guests and Royalty.
Appointed Vice Admiral of the United Kingdom in 2012, Gosling also held a long association with charitable causes, particularly the Royal Navy. He served the White Ensign Association for over 40 years, including as president, and in 1992 created The Gosling Foundation.
The Foundation provides help to a wide spectrum of causes with priority given to the Royal Navy and HM Forces, the police and law and order. The Foundation became known for joining forces with the UK Government providing a substantial grant to save HMS Victory for future generations to appreciate. Sir Donald remained a trustee, vice patron and president of other charitable trusts including the Greater London Fund for the Blind, The Labrador Rescue Trust, Chatham Historic Dockyard, The Hobson Charity and the Bernard Sunley Charitable Foundation.
Gosling’s passion and enthusiasm for the sea – whether enjoying Leander, cruising the Thames on his canal boat Maisie, or going out for a blast on the newest Brave Goose, a 17 metre Sunseeker – and for yachts in particular, made him as a true legend in superyachting.