The Rich and Famous - Part 2

The Rich and Famous - Part 2

Readers enjoyed the sightings made in Part 1, so I thought I’d add a few more that have popped into my mind since then –

Bob Bitchin – He developed a magazine, TV show and website called ‘Latitudes and Attitudes,’ in which only marine related advertisements were allowed, he didn’t even allow rum advertisements.  Readership grew to 75,000 with sort of a cult following.  Bob is this huge man, with tattoos and earrings, a biker in his previous life.  We did a little work together.  How did he get that name?  Bob said, “If you remember the 1960’s, you weren’t there!”  This was the name that Cheech and Chong gave him.  Today he has a new magazine, “Cruising Outpost Magazine.”

Tito Bacardi – The Bacardi Rum company sponsored a Star class event called the Bacardi Cup which started back when they had their operations in Cuba.  When Castro converted the country to Communism in 1959, the Bacardi family fled and set up operations in Puerto Rico, later moving the headquarters to Miami, then later re-establishing the Bacardi Cup in Miami.  Tito came around every year.  He was a very nice guy, always with a firm handshake and a smile.  One year I asked him, “Why is the Bat the logo of Bacardi?”  He said, “Back in Cuba we aged the rum in casks in caves, and the bats hung from the ceiling.”

William Schanen, III – Publisher of Sailing Magazine, is a friendly, but serious guy, and has been racing around Lake Michigan on his boats “Main Street” for eons.  One time he was coming into Port Washington, WI harbor going full speed on his sailboat.  The water cops pulled him over and gave him a speeding ticket.  The crew had t-shirts made with the speeding ticket printed on them with the caption, “There’s no speed limit on Main Street!”

Bill Parks – One of Chicago’s Olympians won a Bronze medal in sailing Olympics in Roma, Italy in 1960.  I crewed for him a couple of times around Chicago.  He recommended that I become a “judge” in sailboat racing, which I did, and have enjoyed since.

Patrick Haggerty – had a series of boats called Bay Bea, a few of which were built at Palmer Johnson in Sturgeon Bay, WI.  Pat ended up buying Palmer Johnson during the same period he was president of Texas Instruments busily creating the transistor and microchips back in the day.  Today, a major Lake Michigan trophy is dedicated in his memory.

Robert Willis – Chicago’s most recent sailing Olympian, went to Waymouth, England Olympics sailing his RS-X windsurfer in 2012.  I organized a few presentations of his Olympic experience at Strictly Sail Chicago in 2013.

Hank Rowan – a graduate of MIT started a metal heat treating business.  One day he picks up the phone, and it is a local community college fundraiser.  Hank says, “I know of your school, it teaches my workers and their family members, I would like to give you $1,000,000.”  The fundraiser says, “You must meet the School President.”  They meet for lunch, and Hank says, “I’ve been thinking about this, and have decided to give you $10,000,000.”  The President says, “You must meet the Board of Regents.”  A dinner is set, Hank walks in and says, “I’ve been thinking about this some more, and would like to give you $100,000,000.”   Today the school has been renamed and is called “Rowan University.”  Somewhere a MIT fundraiser is kicking themselves that they didn’t make that one phone call!  I sailed against and talked with Hank many times.  A very unassuming guy just blends into the crowd and doesn’t stand out.

William Pinkney – Chicago’s own, and the first African American to sail around the world “solo” via the southern route.  He was the first captain of the replica of Amistad that was built at Mystic Seaport, CT and traveled extensively with this vessel.  A very motivational and focused man.

Doug Devos – He and his family have had a series of boats called Windquest.  In Bar Harbor in Harbor Springs, MI, I struck up a conversation with a sailor (they sort of stand out with the way we dress) and after talking for a few minutes, we introduced ourselves.  It was Doug.  We had raced against each other for years sharing our memories of hard fought battles, though hadn’t met previously.  He and his family own Amway Corporation.

Percy Wood – is a name from the past, at one time he was the President of United Airlines.  I had dinner with him and asked how he ascended to the top?  He started in the maintenance facility in San Francisco, and just continued to get promoted.  I always liked the guys who worked their way up, rather than stepped into it with some fancy degree.  Percy also was a target of the Unabomber and was very lucky that the bomb did not cause serious injury when it exploded in his home when he opened the package.

Mike Kelsey – is the President of Palmer Johnson in Sturgeon Bay, WI that builds world-class yachts.  They originally built boats out of wood, and transitioned to aluminum figuring a way to bend and shape aluminum panels in complex curves.  They developed quite a reputation for building high quality aluminum yachts.  A quick visit to their facility 2 weeks ago, taught me that they are now building in Carbon Fiber – very cool!  Mike is a really nice guy, easy going, and a good talker.

Jim McHugh – you see his name plastered all over Chicago.  One of the biggest if not biggest general contractors in the region.  Be builds roads, bridges, skyscrapers, schools, you name it, he’s probably done it.  The first airplane I ever flew in was his in 1965, right out of Meigs Airport on Chicago’s lakefront where we went to Muskegon, MI to get his boat and bring it back to Chicago.  I’ll never forget it!

Mark Reynolds – is my favorite world’s champion.  He is really nice, relatively quiet, always jumps forward and is helpful.  Within the sport his name is relatively well known.  He won two Olympic Gold medals in sailing in Barcelona, Spain and Sydney, Australia, with crews Hal Haenel (a really easy going guy) and Magnus Liljedahl (a really fun party guy).  When Mark was in his teens, he came from California and stayed at our house for a National championship he was participating in, well before his name went big.

John Burnham – Previous Editor at Sailing World magazine, we collaborated on an article on Crew Over Boards on Lake Michigan that was published in Sailing World.  He knows the publishing business by the numbers.  Today he is a writer at

Richard “Dick” Stearns and Lynn Williams – Silver Medalists in Olympic sailing in Tokyo, Japan in 1964.  Dick is a really wonderful guy, and a sailmaker for eons.  I always found it fun to go to the sail loft and hang out.  Lynn was an inventor who made his own money, but it didn’t hurt that he married a DuPont.

Bill Buchan and Steve Erickson – Bill is a three times world champion, and an Olympic Gold Medalist in sailing in Los Angeles, CA in 1984.  In his third World’s Championship, we were competing against him in Nassau, Bahamas when in the fourth race (1st race in a double header day), his mast broke.  He and his crew removed the remnants of the mast and sails, put it aboard a local powerboat and Steve rushed ashore to drop the wreckage off and pick up their spare mast and sails.  He took it back out to the sailboat, they installed the mast at sea, hoisted the sails, just barely making the second start and got a 5th.  They cleaned up in the last race winning the World’s title.

Buddy Melges, William Bensten and William Allen – Buddy is a household name in the Midwest building sailboats in Zenda, WI (near Lake Geneva, WI) for a long time.  He has won World’s Championships, Won as skipper in the America’s Cup, and with Bill Bensten and Bill Allen, they won the Gold Medal in the sailing Olympics in Germany in 1972.  Buddy is laser focused all of the time, Bill Bensten is a thinker, and I sailed a Chicago Mackinac with Bill Allen and he has tremendous focus on sailing fast.

Paul “The Pope of Sailing” Henderson – Paul sailed a number of small boats, and twice competed in the Olympics for Canada.  Paul was the first non-European to become President of the International Sailing Federation.  A plumber by day, he is outspoken, straight forward, you know your place with him, type of guy.  I met him sailing Star boats in Miami, FL, he is easy to talk to, as long as you agree with him!

Joe Londrigan – Won the Star World’s in 1993 in Keil, Germany.  Our families have been friends for decades.  We shared a house with he and his family in Nassau, Bahamas at the Star World’s championship in 1985.  He also was the 1993 USOC Male Athlete of the Year for sailing.

Torben “Turbine” Grael – is a World’s Champion, a Brazilian, and a five-time Olympic medalist, won the Volvo Ocean Race, won the Pan American Games, and won the Louis Vuitton Cup (America’s Cup semi-finals) as Tactician in 2000 and then was second in the America’s Cup that year.  I’ve sailed against him many times, in many events.

Ed Adams – stayed at our house when he won the 1987 Star World’s Championship in Chicago.  He surprised me when he was there.  I flipped on the lights in the dark living room one evening and he was on the floor doing stretching yoga type moves after a day of racing.  He has won in Snipes, J/24’s, Lasers, Lightnings, amongst other boats.  Today he is a writer and professionally coaches many sailors.

Colin Beashel – we bought our current boat from him, and she is still fast.  Colin is Australian having won a World’s Championship in Portoroz, Slovenia  and an Olympic Bronze Medal in Sailing in Atlanta, GA in 1996.  Just a nice guy!

George Szabo – A world’s champion in the Star Class, from California is the most laid back, easy going, mellow guy I’ve met who sails at the highest levels in the sport.  He has the Californian sandy blond hair look.  I helped organize an event where we hired George to coach the entire fleet during a weekend of racing.  His coaching did well for us, one week later we won a race in a National Championship using the techniques George had recommended we try.  His coaching works!

Get into sailing, and meet the hero’s in the sport.  There’s a ton of nice people to meet!

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