The Rich and the Famous - Part 1

The Rich and the Famous - Part 1

I had promised myself to keep this blog catering to the masses, speaking to the 75% who are those who end up owning boats with household incomes under $100,000.  But for kicks, I thought I’d describe those who I have met, others have seen, or have seen close by, or simply have an interesting tale during the 50 years I’ve been hanging around sailboats.  These don’t occur often, but they do leave a memory –

Ted Turner walked by me twice at a sailing event.  In the early 1960’s he was married to one of my friends who is a legend on Lake Michigan.  I sailed on Dora IV that was later sold to Turner, renamed Tenacious, which he sailed, and won, the infamous 1979 Fastnet Race in England that was pounded by the equivalent of a hurricane.

Gary Jobson was Ted Turner’s navigator when they sailed, and won, the America’s Cup in 1977.  This launched a media career for Gary and is one of the bigger names in sailing in the U.S. today.

Mr. and Mrs. Charles Walgreen, Jr. tied their new yacht “SIS-W” up at the dock and were roaming around when they were pointed out to me.  You know these people, they have a drug store on every corner!

Steve Fossett non-stop around the world balloonist, non-stop around the world airplane pilot, glider pilot, cross country skier, mountain climber, Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Racer, Swam the English Channel, Hawaii Ironman, Boston Marathon, Ultra-Marathon, etc. and sailor.  He bought a multi-hull to sail the Chicago Mackinac Race, set the course record and came to the winner’s dinner where I met him.  All I can say is that he has the biggest barrel chest (extremely fit)  of any guy I ever met.  Later I emailed him when he was in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean sailing in an event called “The Race” on his 105′ catamaran, he was very kind to answer at sea.

Roy Disney, nephew of Walt Disney, was a sailor and I helped him run a presentation in Evanston on ‘A Century Across the Pacific,’  a film he underwrote on his favorite sailboat race – The Transpac.   I drove him to the edge of Lake Michigan explaining my favorite race, the Chicago Mackinac, and offered if he had the chance to bring his boat to Lake Michigan, he should do this race.  At this event we shared a day together, not once did I see a cell phone with him.  I was lucky enough to ask the right question about his new airplane.  I sat back and heard what it is like to buy, fit and fly a BBJ for an hour and a half, without interruption.  His boat Pyewacket did come to Lake Michigan soon after and holds the elapsed time record for monohulls today.

Stan Honey is not a household name, but his product has been seen in most households.  That yellow first down line in football is his, as well as the trail behind the hockey puck (short lived), baseball tracking used to show where the pitch crosses the strike-zone, the telemetrics bubbles that point to the cars in NASCAR, as well as the TV graphics seen in America’s Cup 34.  Stan is also the Worlds preeminent racing sailboat navigator and navigated both Steve Fossett and Roy Disney’s sailboats including holding the Chicago Mackinac elapsed monohull record.

Parris N. Glendenning, Governor of Maryland.  In 2000 the Star Class World’s Championship of which I was a competitor was held in Annapolis and we were all invited to the State House, meeting many State Senators, Representatives and the Governor.  This State recognizes that the Maritime Trades are a robust industry and work to support growth in the maritime trades.

Michael R. White, Mayor of Cleveland in 1990 the Star World’s Championship of which I was a competitor was held in Cleveland.  The opening ceremonies included a proclamation from the Mayor welcoming us to his fair city.

Sir Lynden Pindling, Prime Minister of the Bahamas in the 1985 Star World’s Championship invited the competitors to his home.  We started with a receiving line, and when meeting the Prime Minister, I asked him, “So where would someone from the Bahamas go for a vacation, the Bahamas?”

Sir Durwood Knowles, when you look in the dictionary under the word “Gentleman” you’ll see Sir Knowles picture.  He was a Pilot for ships coming and going from Nassau, Bahamas.  He would go out on the Pilot boat to the ship who dropped the Jacob’s Ladder (rope squares) over the side and climb it to bring the ship in safely in the waters Sir Knowles was familiar with.  Sailing is an Olympic sport, and he at first won a Bronze medal, and later a Gold medal in the Star Class.  He was the first Bahamian ever to win a Gold medal.  Through his years of promoting the Bahamas in his sailing travels, as well as becoming a household name in the Bahamas and a national hero with his Gold medal, the Queen of England knighted him with “The Bahamas’ Order of Merit.”  It’s pretty sweet, I have a 35+ year friend who is a knight!

Hanke Gratteau while working at the Chicago Daily News was given an assignment to get on a boat and sail the Chicago Mackinac race.  The owner of the boat I was sailing on, accepted Hanke on board.  She ended up writing a 3 day series on her experience, with all of the crew named at one point or another in the articles.   Later she wrote for the Chicago Sun-Times, the Chicago Tribune and became the Managing Editor for News at the Tribune.

Gary Comer when I first met him as an Ad Man in Chicago.  Later, he started a boat hardware store extending it into catalogue sales nationwide up at Elston and Fullerton in Chicago.  He named this store Lands’ End.  He stopped selling boat hardware and converted to selling clothing and now you know the rest of that story.

Peter Harken one of the titans in the industry of sailing.  He and his brother Olaf invented pulleys for boats that have much less friction than pulleys of the past.  They incorporated their technology into an array of products including cleats, winches and many other things making boats easier to sail, and with maintenance dropping precipitously when using their products.  Peter is a fun guy to hang at the bar with!

Paul Cayard gained notoriety having been a helmsman in the America’s Cup and having won many World’s Championships in sailing.  In a mark rounding in the World’s Championship in Stars in 1985, he cut inside of us with his 2,000 pound boat bumping into the side of our 2,000 boat with my butt cheek pinched in between.  “Ouch” is not a strong enough word!

Dennis Connor gained a lot of fame when he won, then lost, then won the America’s Cup.  He did an American Express commercial eons ago.  He also won the Star Class World’s Championship which gave him his initial fame.   I met him and sailed against him in a few regattas.

Michael Esposito is a writer and production man at the Chicago Tribune, having been an advocate for sailing writing at the Tribune for many years continually convincing editors, that space for sailing is needed in print.  He’s also the one who convinced me to write this blog.

Gordon Lightfoot the Canadian ballad singer raced his boat for a few years.  He came in for the Chicago Mackinac race.  My brother-in-law went down to the harbor to look at the fleet and saw this guy standing looking for someone to help fold his sail spread out on the grass.  My brother-in-law offered to help, that guy was none other than Lightfoot.

Bob Seger bought a racing sailboat, and sailed it successfully for a few years and was Detroit based.  I didn’t run into him but heard of many other sailors who did.

John Rousmaniere is a sailing author having penned such books a Force 10 (about the infamous 1979 Fastnet Race,  America’s Cup Book, The Annapolis Book of Seamanship and others).  We served together as volunteers on the US Sailing Safety at Sea Committee.

Buddy Ebsen of “Beverly Hillbillies” fame was a multihull sailor on the West Coast, while I did not meet him, he did have a famous quote everyone who sails should remember, “When on a multihull, never cleat the sails.”  These style boats can flip upside down and by letting go of the sail quickly when the boat starts to roll over, you might prevent it from happening.  Having it cleated takes to long to undo and can contribute to causing the the boat to flip.

Julian Guthrie is a writer for the San Francisco Chronicle, and recently wrote the book “The Mechanic and the Billionaire” on the pairing of Golden Gate Yacht Club (headed by radiator mechanic Norbert Bajurin who I met as well) and Larry Ellison, 5th richest person in the world in order to hold and possess the America’s Cup.  She came to Chicago this year promoting this book and we spent a few minutes discussing her career.

Just start sailing.  You’ll never know where your adventure takes you.  I never expected to meet so many interesting people (many not listed).  My email address book contains close to 1,700 names, and most of them are sailors.  It is amazing how I have friends far and wide across the country and the world just by getting out there and I invite you to start your journey too.

Type your email address in the box and click the “create subscription” button. My list is completely spam free, and you can opt out at any time.

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  • Great post! Thanks for sharing!

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