Remembering Keith Robinson and Christian Bickert

25 January 2018

Remembering Keith Robinson and Christian Bickert
It is with great sadness that Sail Training International must announce the deaths of the secretary and legal advisor to the charity, Keith Robinson, and Vice President of Sail Training Association France, Christian Bickert.

Keith and Christian were long term friends of Sail Training International. Both worked tirelessly to ensure the messages of international friendship and understanding and the development and education of young people through the sail training experience reaches the widest audience possible around the world.   


Keith Robinson (above, left), Company Secretary to Sail Training International and its subsidiaries, died on 11 January after a relatively short battle with cancer. He leaves a widow (Vanessa), sons (Simon, Ben and Alex) and four grandchildren.

Keith was a Partner at Sherrards (a London law firm) and a member of a number of company boards, but sail training had been a major and consuming part of his life over several decades. 

His first sail training voyage was a present for his 40th Birthday which was on one of the schooners operated by the UK’s Sail Training Association (STA) and chartered by the Chilterns Branch of the STA of which he went on to become a leading member. He became Company Secretary to the STA in 1993. On its formation in 2003 Keith became Sail Training International’s Company Secretary, a position he held until his untimely death.

Keith was also the Chairman (Thor) of The Thunderers, a somewhat eccentric and eclectic dining club with a tenuous link to Naval Engineers.

Keith was more than a Company Secretary to the Board and subsidiaries of STA and STI. He often dedicated office space, resources and an inordinate amount of time to the mission work of the Charity. Perhaps most importantly he made it his business to ensure that all discussions began and ended with this mission in mind. Sail training for those less fortunate resided at the centre of Keith’s personal commitment of time and energy. Keith was himself experienced in the world of sail training and he understood how profound the experience of time at sea in a tall ship could be. He converted his own passion for the experience towards a commitment to young people worldwide.


Doug Prothero, Chairman of Sail Training International stated “We extend our sincerest condolences to the Robinson family.  We know that the time Keith spent supporting our work was often time away from his family, and for this we are eternally grateful. He shall be deeply missed as a great friend, colleague and mentor both personally and professionally”.


Chris Bickert (above, right) passed away peacefully in his sleep on Thursday 11 January 2018 following a short illness. Chris was 84 years old.

Chris was great champion of sail training in France and a friend of Sail Training International.

It’s thanks to him that Les Amis des Grands Voiliers, the Sail Training Association of France, is today an association that is known and respected. He was Vice President and representative to the International Committee of Sail Training International.

“Chris was one of the mainstays of our association; the man everyone turned to for information and guidance, and his presence had a reassuring effect on everybody around him.  Working with him was a real pleasure because I knew that whatever happened, he would always carry through to the completion of his tasks … you always knew where you were headed with him, you were on the right course … a true workaholic, he spared neither time nor effort, and it was unthinkable for him to just slow down and take it easy,”

Michel Balique, President, Les Amis des Grands Voiliers - Sail Training Association France 

Chris was greatly appreciated for his confidence and professionalism by his friends at Sail Training International with whom he enjoyed working so much.  

He made an outstanding contribution to the success of sail training events in the French ports hosting the Tall Ships Races and Regattas including Cherbourg in 2005, Toulon in 2007 and 2013, St Malo in 2012 and Le Havre in 2017 and the forthcoming events in Bordeaux and Dunkirk. He also served as a Race Chairman for the Mediterranean Tall Ships Regatta in 2013 and in Le Havre, the final port of the transatlantic Rendez-Vous 2017 Tall Ships Regatta.

In addition, he served as a Director on the board of Tall Ships Races International Limited, and on other STI boards for many years.

He worked hard to place French trainees on many different international vessels on an annual basis and was renowned for having twice the energy of people half his age.

At the 2017 annual International Sail Training and Tall Ships Conference in Bordeaux he was awarded the Lifetime Achievement for Sail Training Award in recognition of his outstanding work for Les Amis des Grands Voiliers and for Sail Training International.

We extend our condolences to his wife Annick and family members. 

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