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Fletcher Driscoll: January 16, 2013Sailor of the Week: January 10-16
On Saturday, January 12 at US Sailing’s One-Design Symposium in Rocky River, Ohio, Fletcher Driscoll (Saint Paul, Minn.) received the John H. Gardiner, Jr. Trophy for Service award. The award recognizes distinguished service and exceptional leadership in the promotion of one-design sailing and class organization. Driscoll is responsible for the tremendous resurgence of the A Scow class on White Bear Lake over the past decade. His restoration of a classic fleet got more people involved in sailing, especially women. Driscoll was instrumental in building one of the largest A Scow fleets in the world.
Sailboat racing became prominent on White Bear Lake (near St. Paul, Minn.) in the late 1800s when the White Bear Yacht Club was founded. The A Scow class flourished as a popular 38-foot craft in the early 1900s. However, the arrival of the E Scow combined with a Labor Day storm in 1935, decimated the A Scow fleet, which severely diminished their activity in the area for decades.
In June of 2004, through the leadership of Driscoll, three A Scows resumed racing on White Bear Lake after a 70-year hiatus.
“It all started when I couldn’t take my whole family sailing on an E Scow and had to leave some on shore,” said Driscoll. “Once I purchased the A Scow, people were amazed by how majestic the boat was on the water. We were able to generate a lot of interest again.”
Two of these teams, including Driscoll as crew, competed at the 2004 A Scow National Championship on Lake Winnebago. They competed admirably under incredibly challenging conditions and were recognized for their efforts at the evening banquet by the other competitors.
“I believe the driving force behind the popularity is how important every duty on the boat is for each crew,” he explained. “Coordinating all of these responsibilities on the boat is the real challenge.”
Driscoll took advantage of this momentum and used it to get others sailing A Scows, including women.
“I try to get at least one woman sailor on each crew,” added Driscoll. “In some instances I’ve had three husband and wife combinations as crew with me as skipper. It was interesting to see how well they all worked together.”
Now, White Bear Yacht Club has the largest A Scow fleet in the country. The Monday night races on White Bear Lake regularly have over 100 people participating. Driscoll, now in his 80s, is still active at his waterfront where he hosts 9 of the 11 A Scows on his dock.
Contributions by Lee Alnes
Photo credit to Chris Petracco / US Sailing