Sailor of the Week - April 1 - April 7
Sailor of the Week – Ernie Rideout, 91, has spent a lifetime touching the lives of young people through sailing. For 50 years he worked as a school teacher and principal, and after he retired in 1975, he worked as a sailing instructor for 26 years at the O’Neill Yacht Center in Santa Cruz, Calif. Ernie taught over 3,500 children and adults how to sail. He served as commodore of the Santa Cruz Yacht Club in 1973, and has been on the membership committee for the past 25 years.
Ernie loved what he did for a living, and never asked for anything in return. Ray Pingree is one of many lives Ernie had a profound impact on. Approximately 55 years ago, Ernie taught Ray how to sail at the age of five, and Ray wanted to give something back. He wanted to compete with his long time mentor, and help Ernie become a national champion at the age of 90. Their crew embarked on a remarkable run that featured two championships and two runner-ups over the past four years, including the Santana 22 National Championship at the Santa Cruz Yacht Club in July of 2008. They won the 19-boat, five-race series by a significant margin by collecting three first place finishes and two thirds.
The Rideout family has an extensive history in the sailing and boating industry. They descended from a long line of ship builders and sea captains from Maine. Ernie’s great grandfather and his brothers came to California during the Gold Rush in the mid-1800s. Ernie broke into sailing after his father became a member of the Santa Cruz Yacht Club in 1930. He got started by crewing on a 42-foot yawl, and was mentored by a graduate of the Royal Naval Academy of Italy. The Great Depression years proposed obvious financial obstacles for Ernie and his family. In order to continue sailing, his father had to work that much harder and be as creative as possible to stay in the sport during such difficult economic times. Fortunately, his father discovered a way to convert an ancient, wooden 18-foot Lateen crab fishing boat into an effective Marconi sailboat, which became quite serviceable. “At 91 years of age, I am very, very lucky,” said Ernie. “There is no thrill like getting clear air after the start and settling down for that windward beat, and letting that beautiful boat do her thing.”