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Stuart Walker of Annapolis keeps on sailing through life

Dr. Stuart Walker is having a pretty good year.

The retired Annapolis pediatrician got married in March, turned 90 in April, won a sailing regatta last weekend and on Tuesday was selected for induction into the National Sailing Hall of Fame.

“People often look at me and say, ‘Are you still sailing?’ I say, ‘I’m still winning,‘ ” said Walker, who has no plans to stop sailing — or winning — any time soon.

A fierce competitor who’s fascinated by the nuances of the sport, Walker has been a force in the sailing world for decades.

He competed internationally, including at the 1968 Olympics, helped found the Severn Sailing Association in Annapolis and has written 10 books and numerous magazine articles. And he did all of that while working as a pediatrician and medical professor in Annapolis and Baltimore.

“I never sit still. I’m always doing something,” Walker said during an interview in his Annapolis home surrounded by sailing memorabilia, including a table and ceiling covered by nautical charts.

“I do like sailing, but I must admit, just sailing gets boring,” he said. “I like to race.”

Walker is among half a dozen living sailors and four posthumous inductees to the National Sailing Hall of Fame. He will be inducted during a ceremony at Annapolis City Dock in October.

Walker grew up sailing on Long Island Sound and continued to sail during World War II, where he served in Japan as a medical officer. When his tour brought him back to the United States, he requested an assignment at Fort Meade, so he could sail in Annapolis.

He left the Army after a few years and went into private practice in pediatrics. His career later took him to Baltimore hospitals and a job as a medical professor. He retired in 1984.

Along the way, he has competed in regattas around the world. First, he specialized in a class of boats called the International 14, and competed in the 1968 Olympics. After the Olympics, he switched to the Soling, a three-man keelboat that was just gaining in popularity.

“I wanted to race against the best sailors in the world,” Walker said of his switch from the International 14 to the Soling. Soling remained the most competitive class in the sport of sailing until it was discontinued in the Olympics after the 2000 Games, he said.

Despite the boat’s declining popularity, Walker continues to race in a Soling. “I don’t want to branch out and learn something new at the age of 90.”

He races a couple of times a month in warm weather and weekly in the winter in “frostbite” races.

Water and ink

Walker turned his competitive spirit and love of research into a side career as a sailing author. His 10 books include titles on tactics, techniques and psychology. He has also written articles for 40 years for a magazine now known as Sailing World.

Gary Jobson, an America’s Cup winner and TV commentator, is among the fans of Walker’s writing. Jobson said Walker is one of his sailing heroes.

“I think Stuart’s special contribution is his writing,” said Jobson, who is president of the hall of fame’s board of directors. “He’s a very analytical thinker about why sailboats work and the physics behind them. And in more recent years, the psychology of why you win and lose.”

Jobson first met Walker in the 1960s, when he was a teenager and the two raced against one another.

“After the race, he’d talk about what happened,” Jobson said. “I remember being 17 years old and, he’d take 15 minutes to explain something to you.”

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Cookies on the IWCP website



TOO little or too much wind allowed no racing in the last week.

However, July is set to be a busy month for the club, with open meetings for RS100, 400 and 500 boats, the Shadow Cat National Championship, the Junior Regatta and ending with SailSpy Cowes Dinghy Week.

This popular annual dinghy and cat regatta caters for a wide range of boats and abilities, and involves six or seven races for around 150 boats over the course of the week, together with a variety of social events in the evenings.

The sailing area for smaller dinghies is in the protection of Gurnard Bay, while the faster boats race further afield on the challenging waters of the Western Solent.

There are class starts for any fleet of eight boats or more, plus four handicap groups. This usually means class racing for at least Shadow cats, RS 400s, RS100s, Laser Radials and Laser 4.7s.

Title sponsors SailSpy, have donated a Go-Pro camera to be won by a lucky entrant in a prize draw.

Additional support is provided by LDC Sailing, Ancasta, Marineware and Fastnet Insurance

Entries received by the end of June are at a reduced rate, see the club’s website for details.


Sailors encountered some challenging, if not exhilarating, conditions during Sunday’s Summer Series for fast handicap boats.

The course provided the fleet with some big fast reaches and interesting gibes, and both races were closely fought with only two minutes separating the first and last boats, despite Simon Cooper capsizing twice and Giles Easter sailing an incorrect course in the second.

Although Cooper crossed the line first in each race in his Laser, he could only manage fourth on handicap in each, with Easter coming second and third on the line, and first and third on handicap.

The Solos of Martyn Davies and Richard Coleman continued their personal battle with Davies taking second to Coleman’s third in the first, but Coleman getting his own back in the second race, taking pole on handicap.


Strong winds caused the cancellation of Saturday’s races and although conditions on Sunday morning had improved, the wind strength still deterred all but the keenest, who enjoyed a challenging sail in the last race of the June series.

Mike Sheaf, Chris Jones and Roger P-Edgerton were the leading boats throughout the race with Mike out in front and Chris and Roger changing places behind him. However, on the final leg, from Mill Creek to the line, Chris kept to the middle of the river and built up sufficient speed to overtake both Roger and Mike to gain first place.

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Boating really rocks as an economic driver – Florida Times

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The National Marine Manufacturers Association announced this month that recreational boating in the U.S. has an annual economic value of $121 billion. The industry’s rising tide supports 964,000 American jobs and 34,833 businesses, generates $40 billion in annual labor income and drives $83 billion in annual spending.

The NMMA, on behalf of the U.S. boating industry, released these findings June 11 as part of its annual U.S. Recreational Boating Statistical Abstract, a collection of data and analysis on the state of the U.S. recreational boating industry. Additional data highlights include:

■ Retail sales of new power and sailboats increased 10.7 percent in 2012 to 163,245, demonstrating a post-recession recovery for the industry.

■ New powerboat sales increased 10 percent to 157,300 in 2012.

■ New sailboat sales increased 29.2 percent to 5,945 in 2012.

■ Small fiberglass and aluminum outboard boats 26 feet or less continued their upward climb with an 11.3-percent increase in the number of new boats sold. Outboard boats are the most popular type of new powerboat sold, making up approximately 82 percent of the market.

■ Ski and wakeboard boats are seeing healthy growth with an increase of 13.4 percent in new boats sold in 2012.

■ Jet boats, small fiberglass boats less than 26 feet in length, are a growing category. Of the 157,300 new powerboats sold in 2012, 4,500 were jet boats. New jet boat sales increased 36.4 percent in 2012.

■ Sales of new powerboats have remained steady during the first half of 2013 and continued growth is expected with the summer boating season. NMMA anticipates sales of new powerboats to grow five percent in 2013.

“New boat sales have historically been a barometer for the U.S. economy and the steady sales increases we’re seeing are being reinforced by the slow uptick in consumer confidence, housing and spending,” said Thom Dammrich, NMMA president. “As economic growth continues, we anticipate sustained steady growth through the remainder of 2013.”

The NMMA’s economic value report can be found within the Statistics section’s Research Library on For excerpts and additional data from the NMMA’s Recreational Boating Statistical Abstract, contact Ellen Hopkins at

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National Laser Championships: Light winds make for tough sailing conditions in Santa Cruz

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SANTA CRUZ — The third day of the U.S. National Laser Championship Regatta was underway Saturday just outside the Santa Cruz Small Craft Harbor. Too bad nobody told the wind.

While fluorescent beach umbrellas and boogie boards lit up Twin Lakes State Beach, approximately 50 small white boats clustered together a half mile beyond the harbor waiting for the wind to cooperate. Light offshore winds and a meager swell in hot weather left much to be desired for sailors, according to principal race organizer Beau Vrolyk.

“It’s glorious for beachgoers, but sailors like cold strong winds and big waves,” Vrolyk said. And the 93-degree weather predicted for Sunday doesn’t make the race’s final day’s outlook any better.

In contrast, the day was better for “chardonnay sailors,” according to Vrolyk — those that sail with a glass of wine in their hand.

“It takes amazingly high concentration levels to sail in light winds,” Vrolyk said, adding that while the exhaustion is physical in heavy winds, in light winds there’s another side that gets highlighted: mental stamina. “It separates the best from the worst.”

It also helps lightweight sailors who suffer a stability disadvantage in higher winds, but gain a momentum advantage in the lighter wind, according to Vrolyk.

The one-design laser boats, created in 1970 by Bruce Kirby, are built to specification to even the playing field in races, so the only variable, ideally, is the

racer himself. The separate divisions favor different body weights with standard division favoring competitors that weigh more than 159 pounds.

The standard-division boats got lucky with westerly winds blowing at 15 knots in the early part of the day, allowing the division to complete all three scheduled races just outside of Steamer Lane. The boats with slightly larger sails and masts in the division made speeds of about 7-8 mph.

With easterly winds blowing at just 6 knots, the radial division, whose race was outside the harbor, barely got the chance to break a half-mile per hour. Unfortunately by time their races started, the winds shifted to a 6-knot easterly breeze, barely enough to call it a race.

The race included racers from Canada, where the laser boat was first created by Bruce Kirby in the 70s. There were 108 registered competitors.

“Race sailors like us think this weather is boring,” Vrolyk said.

Steven Bourdow of Santa Cruz is in fifth place heading into the fourth day. Incoming junior at Scotts Valley High, Michael Levy, is in 11th place and the Santa Cruz Yacht Club’s Peter Phelan is 14th overall.

Only six races have been completed in the radial division, where Jack Barton of the San Francisco Yacht Club holds a narrow lead. Junior Luke Muller leads the standard division going into Sunday.

Racing begins at noon.

For complete results, go here.


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Industry cheers as Conn. scales back boat taxes blamed for little revenue but …

HARTFORD, Connecticut — Boat sellers and their customers are getting a break as Connecticut scales back taxes on boat sales that produced little revenue, but lots of complaints from the industry.

Beginning Monday, boats docked in Connecticut for 60 days or less will be exempt from the sales and use tax and a 7 percent luxury tax will be reduced to 6.35 percent, the rate of the state’s sales tax, on boats costing more than $100,000.

“It has a huge effect,” Dave Pugsley, vice president and general manager at Brewer Yacht Sales, said of the tax. “We’re a small industry, but we’ve been around forever and employ a lot of people.”

The recession and weak recovery hurt boat sales and high taxes “would drive people out of the market,” he said.

Rep. Patricia Widlitz, the House chairwoman of the legislature’s Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee, said lawmakers two years ago set a 7 percent luxury tax on boats selling for more than $100,000. Boat sellers were telling state officials that in response, buyers were avoiding the tax by negotiating the price to below the $100,000 threshold and bypassing Connecticut for Rhode Island, which does not impose a sales tax on most boats.

Making matters worse for the state, the tax generated only $70,000 in revenue, she said. Widlitz, a Democrat whose district includes the Long Island Sound towns of Branford and Guilford, said she received complaints from boat yards about the tax.

“We were losing business up and down the shoreline,” she said. “It was just as easy to go to Rhode Island.”

As Connecticut aggressively competes for business with loans, grants and other economic development programs, the boat taxes were making the state “completely uncompetitive,” Widlitz said.

The luxury tax still applies to jewelry of more than $5,000, clothing sold for more than $1,000 and luxury cars of more than $50,000, Widlitz said.

Pugsley said the state should anticipate that increased sales due to the tax cut will yield more revenue. Florida capped taxes last year, and he said it helped restore business in the state.

“It’s a perfect example of how less taxes creates more revenue,” he said.

Employment at boat dealers, boat yards and marinas in Connecticut plummeted 21 percent from 2007, just before the start of the recession, to last year as the recovery continued, according to the state Department of Labor. Jobs in those three parts of the industry fell to 1,898 from 2,405 in the five-year period.

Pugsley said business, particularly in the sale of “brokerage boats,” or used boats, has improved as the economic recovery picks up. New boat sales have not rebounded, he said.

“It’s still a difficult business right now,” he said.

Brewer’s operates 14 offices between New York City and Portland, Maine.

Lauren Dunn, spokeswoman at the National Marine Manufacturers Association, said the industry saw the tax cuts in Connecticut as a “major win.”

“While the percent lowered doesn’t look to be that large, it just brings down another barrier to folks having access to boats,” she said.

Retail sales for new power and sail boats were up 10.7 percent in 2012, she said.

Boat owners are not rich, she said. Three-fourths of the estimated 17 million boat owners in the United States have household incomes of less than $100,000, keeping them in middle class or upper middle class.

And Widlitz said the tax cuts were not intended to help millionaires.

“We’re not giving a break to yacht owners,” she said. “This is economic development.”

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Smooth sailing? Hardly.

Ken Tennant, owner and captain of the “Hairy Bear” adjusts a sail while his son Mike, foreground, walks back to the helm before the start of the St. Croix Sailing Club’s Tuesday night races, June 18, 2013. (Pioneer Press: Chris Polydoroff)

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  • Under a blue sky dotted with clouds like cotton balls, skipper Ken Tennant stood shirtless on the bow of the Hairy Bear, as the sloop motored down the St. Croix River ready for a fight.

    Up ahead, the St. Croix Sailing Club’s committee boat was dropping orange buoys in the river, laying out the racing course on which two dozen sailboats in three divisions would soon challenge one another on the road to the title of Yacht of the Year.

    “We’re all racing for one big thing: bragging rights,” Tennant said shortly before the early evening race June 18. “Sometimes it gets a little heated.”

    The club’s sailors are typically found racing on the river near Hudson twice a week from May to October, a tradition that goes back to 1974. Several types of sailboats from Bayport to Afton compete against one another, handicapped by the vessels’ varying abilities.

    Tennant’s passion for the sport developed after he joined the club more than a decade ago. He originally purchased his boat, a 29-foot CC 29, 15 years ago to cruise on the St. Croix, but soon found himself infected with the racing bug.

    “We got better and better, and I got more serious about it and bought new sails,” said Tennant, who lives in Hudson and services swimming pools.

    Over the years, he traveled to Bayfield, Wis., to improve his skills and spent time training his crew, eventually turning the Hairy Bear into a formidable ship that has twice taken home the club’s Yacht of the Year trophy in its division,

    most recently last year.

    The boat’s name comes from a moniker given to Tennant — “I often don’t wear a shirt because I’m already wearing a sweater,” he joked. While the vessel wasn’t originally built to be a racer, Tennant has retrofitted it, removing weight and adding racing sails to make it faster.

    But the boat’s true competitive edge, one crewmember said, comes from Tennant and son Mike Tennant, a passionate sailor who serves on his father’s crew.

    “A large part of it has to do with Mike and Ken,” said Todd Batchelor, now in his third year with the crew. “They’re terrific sailors … and great teachers.”

    Teaching the sport to others, along with the camaraderie of the St. Croix Sailing Club — a nonprofit for which Tennant is serving as commodore this year — is even more important to him than winning, Tennant said. The club invites interested beginners to give racing a try.

    “We are always offering to do that,” Tennant said.

    People should know, however, that racing is not the same thing as sailing. Sailing is fun and racing is work, he said.

    “But it’s fun work,” Tennant added.

    Prospective sailors also can’t be afraid of getting a few loud words tossed their way. Communication, and yelling, is an important

    instructional tool on the deck of a racing boat like the Hairy Bear, Tennant said.

    As he walked the bow preparing for the June 18 race, Tennant shot orders to crew member Drew Weber, who was refreshing his skills after a couple of summers away from racing.

    “The second you get the spinnaker up, dump the halyard for the lead sail,” Tennant told him as the tone on the boat turned more serious.

    With the engine cut and sails up, the Hairy Bear and 11 other boats in its division jockeyed for position before the start of racing, each boat vying to cross the start line as close to the final horn as possible and with good speed — tough, when winds were coming in at a low 6 to 8 knots.

    After saying he lost a race the previous Friday because

    he chose too small a sail, Tennant made a last-minute decision to switch to a larger sail after seeing the winds pick up slightly. He and the four-member crew scrambled to swap the sails.

    A few minutes later, the boat made its final approach to the start line and a horn sounded, signaling the start of the race.

    “All clear — we’re racing,” Tennant told the crew.

    The sailors got quiet as the Hairy Bear headed out toward its first orange buoy, or “pin,” across the St. Croix; but the quiet didn’t last long, as each maneuver that followed brought a flurry of activity and shouting from Tennant and his crew.

    “Lot of stuff going on for a lousy 6 knots of wind, huh?” Tennant said.

    While it had a good start, the Hairy Bear appeared to fall behind other racers after several maneuvers. It hit pockets of dead air, and a boat from another division forced it from its preferred course. At one point, the Hairy Bear’s spinnaker sail became twisted as it was being raised and Tennant worked frantically to tease out the problem, ultimately getting the sail up.

    “Our hourglass cost us a good 30 seconds,” he said, referring to the twisted sail.

    The energy on the boat grew more intense as the race went on, which often happens to the crew when a race is not going well, Tennant said. Low winds forced the race to be shortened, and the Hairy Bear was able to make up some lost time as the boat sailed through the final leg of the hourlong race.

    After the Hairy Bear crossed the finish line, Tennant did the math of factoring in the different boats’ handicapped times.

    “That’s why you never give up,” he said as the Hairy Bear turned up the St. Croix and headed home. “We won.”

    St. Croix Sailing Club’s largest event of the year, the annual Labor Day Regatta, will be held Labor Day weekend.

    For more information on the event or the club, visit

    Andy Rathbun can be reached at 651-228-2121. Follow him at

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