Oct 5, 2009, 9:58 AM
Post #16 of 38
My mentor was my Dad, George Lewis.
Re: [Dick Tillman] Who was your sailing mentor?
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We spend our summers on the Fox Island Thorofare and have a house on the Vinalhaven shore of this incredibly beautiful channel that separates North Haven and Vinalhaven islands ten miles off the coast of Maine. Summers were and are all about sailing and racing and we are lucky enough to have the North Haven Dinghy for both ( oldest one design class in North America) , plus numerous other boats that have come and gone over the years and some still in use.
Pictures in the family scrap books are hilarious of the myself and siblings and friends in big puffy life jackets on all sorts of boats from our earliest nautical forays. We had a Super Sprite on the pond in Massachusetts were we lived when not in Maine, a 210, the dinghies, knockabouts or 17 footers, with asymmetrical kites! and assorted larger sailing boats to constantly challenge and entertain us, My great uncles even had the Fishhawk, a 62 foot Alden cutter we got to sail on with my Grandmother when her brothers were away- (kids!)
The North Haven Casino- our club ran Midget Racing- Saturday and Monday mornings in the dinghies-rules were simple- skipper was 12 and under, crew any age - but if older than 12, no touch the tiller. Most kids sailed with Dad or Mom or an older sibling.
The buoys where steel cans and nuns, taxpayer supplied. The committee boat an older lobster boat. I started racing when I was 6 with my Dad, man oh man he must have had patience- (actually still does) the old push - pull the tiller or follow my finger was the the starting point of instruction. A North Haven dinghy is not an agile maneuvering craft, 14 feet, gaff rigged cat boat with a barn door rudder, plumb bow and a big sail, plus for stability they carry 265 pounds of lead pigs in the bilge. Competition was pretty darn fierce. I had my share of collisions into the nuns, cans, competitors and the committee boat, bang! Scrape or bump- all part of the curve of life and learning-- back then you sailed home after one of those! No gripes, no turns, just good sportsmanship, you fouled and that was it and that is what my Dad taught me.
Well low and behold I was getting 1st and 2nds and 3rds in my 1st and 2nd years and by the time i was 11, in some light air races, I would leave Dad on the dock and go it alone, winning some great battles. Helen Watson with her dad Tom of IBM fame was fast and clever and did not like this new tactic of single-handing i brought into the game. Others tried it, but none ever gave me much of a battle if it stayed light.
It was a great growing up experience and we were awarded flags for each podium finish, Blue for 1st, Red 2nd and White 3rd. My grandmother would write the date, sail # and names of the crews on each one and i would bang it up on the wall of my room. The ones with me and Dad got the best spot! Singlehanded ones where next!
Learning independence! Just like our forbearers planned for this country and her citizens
Those 1st 6 years of my racing life are so memorable to me, the flags and trophies mean more to me that almost any of my other mementos from my racing career, mostly because i was so involved with racing with my Dad. Later on he bought us one of the first 420's to land in the USA and with 6 foot 6 inch frame on the wire, we had some good fun! He also bought us Laser number 4314 named ROCK, long story- short - on maiden sail out of Padanaram with my buddy Ted Scott acting as crew and local knowledge ( it was blowing and easy 25) we cut the breakwater at Ricketson Point and surfed full speed to a dead stop on a you know what- and we still sail that boat in Maine every summer, We paid $695 for it and for some reason the old mahogany boat and dagger board trunk survived to sail again.
Then there were the big boats, friends and family, offshore passages and overnight races, my dad bought a Fastnet 45, then the Fishhawk from great uncles, and when i was in my junior year in high school in 1973-4, he commissioned a Doug Peterson "Ganbare" style one tonner built in San Diego by Carl Eichenlaub with Dennis Conner as the worker B on her - LIVELY was christened. We won our 1st race in San Diego, with brown thread TED Hood sails, in the land of NORTH -in a race around the Coronado's and back overnight- and after the reports in the local Sunday paper gave DC all the credit (he slept most of the night ( after my dad's typical Roast Beef, Potatoes and Red Wine supper) while my Dad and i drove and trimmed) we trucked east and raced hard for a few years and did damn well, winning our share in a hot fleet of One Tonnners on the east coast back then. . As an 18 year old kid with my Dad calling the shots i was out steering in the One Ton Worlds in 1975 against some of the biggest names in sailing in those days, guys like Lowell North- The real "Pope", Ted Turner and Ted Hood to name a few. In most races back then i would hand over the helm to my dad a few minutes before the top mark and go do the bow and Dad would drive downwind and hand it back over to me once we were sorted and going back up the wind.
The stories are many, the memories great, we still race together and against each other, Dad beat me in every dinghy race this past summer, keep on sailing fast Dad, I love you!