Jun 3, 2010, 2:34 PM
Post #1 of 3
Reg White, the catamaran wizard, has died, aged 74. He had a massive heart attack soon after finishing a Thursday evening race aboard his year-old 18-ft Brightlingsea One-Design, White Spirit, and died with his sea-boots on.
EIGHT BELLS - Reg White
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He was a universally loved character who gave of his talents freely to his opponents, but always seemed to have something in hand over them. His racing started in a BOD owned by his father, and after a few years in which he dominated the class in the late Fifties, he moved to the Hornet class and then quickly into catamarans at the emergence of racing in the two-hulled boats.
A boatbuilder, who had served his apprenticeship in his home town of Brightlingsea, England, he joined forces with Roy Bacon to establish Sailcraft as the leading developer of catamarans. When John Fisk suggested Sailcraft to Rod Macalpine-Downie, the emergent designer found it very much to his liking. The team produced a range of boats from the original Thai Mk IV to the 60-foot British Airways for Robin Knox-Johnston.
But, when in late 1960 Fisk announced that he wanted to race more internationally and had challenged Americans to a race in 25-foot catamarans, it was a heaven-sent opportunity for the combined talents - Rod to design and Reg and his team to build and rig such a boat. It was the start of the C-class and to race, in Fisk’s words for “a little America’s Cup.”
In under a year, Reg had built and developed a prototype (Hellcat) and after many modifications the design for the challenger was complete. Hellcat 2 had but one afternoon’s racing before she was shipped to New York for Fisk and Macalpine-Downie to race against Wildcat. The British boat’s win started a mini-career for Reg, who built all the boats that defended the trophy for nine years. He also sailed five of the winning boats including the magical Lady Helmsman, with her half wing half sail rig.
The contacts he made during his C-class campaigns led to a collaboration between Reg and Rodney March for a new B-class boat, Tornado, for the 1967 IYRU trials to select a new international class. Reg built two; one had a wing-masted una-rig, the other a more conventional sloop. Terry Pearce and the designer sailed the una-rigged boat, which proved faster until the mast broke, while Reg sailed the other with Bob Fisher, which went on to win the trials.
Fisk pushed the IYRU to choose the Tornado for the Olympics of 1976. Reg could not resist this challenge and trained hard with his brother-in-law John Osborn. Their attention to detail was rewarded with the world championship and the Olympic gold medal, and the subsequent award of the MBE. His one regret was that as the 1979 world champion, he was thwarted of a second chance for a gold at the Moscow Games when the British sailing tem was withdrawn because of the Russian invasion of Afghanistan. Recently he observed the irony of the allied intervention in that country.
His recent business venture, with White Formula, included a design cooperation with fellow Tornado gold medallist, Yves Loday. Following the Hurricane (in several sizes) came the Spitfire, storm and Shadow catamarans. For his own sailing, Reg chose a class he knew from his youth and finished a glassfibre BOD which he launched a year ago and raced with members of his extensive family.
Reg married Lyn in 1955 and had three sons and a daughter. They and 13 grandchildren survive him. -- Bob Fisher