Saturday, January 26, 2013

Lynn Watters

Sailing and racing is a significant international sport, yet here, a small, friendly, local one. I still get a little surprised when I come across a Montreal-area name of worldly stature that I don't recognize. Montreal Sailing has allowed me to become familiar with many of you in our small community. Recently, an important person, whom I did not know passed away. Lynn Watters died in Kingston on December 25th, 2012. He was 96 years old (pic from ISAF news). I had not heard of his name, even though he founded the Saint Lawrence Valley Yacht Racing Association (SLVYRA), with Art Thompson. I served as SLVYRA Secretary for a little while.

Watters and Thompson started SLVYRA right after World War 2. SLVYRA was to become a much larger, more ambitious organization than its current state. Its territory covered our Montreal sailing waters on Lac St. Louis and Lac Des Deux Montagnes, and extended up the St. Lawrence River all the way to Kingston, and all the way up the Ottawa River to the capital itself. That is quite a network of racers. Currently, SLVYRA assembles racers on our two local waters of the Montreal area to loosely coordinate regattas. That seems like a pretty natural geographic area. It has always been my feeling that the potential utility of a Montreal-area racing organization has been overlooked by many of us. The accomplishment and foresight of people like Watters impresses me. How important his legacy is, and how little known! How relevant it remains today, as promotion of racing is largely ignored beyond our individual club actions. 

So, who was Lynn Watters? Well, according to the notes of his passing, he was indeed a remarkable sailor. He sailed in the Lightning class, which was once one of the major one design race boats in Montreal.  Watters called tactics from the middle, with Edward Botterell steering and Sicotte Hamilton manning the pointy end. There is still a black and white picture of Botterell, who went on to be a sailmaker, on the wall at PCYC.

Watters then went on to sail in the two Olympic games. In 1960 and 1964, he competed in the Dragon class. He developed a reputation as a great tactician. 

However, he was probably best known internationally for his years as head of the IYRU (ISAF) Rules Committee. That committee did much of the work that forms the racing rules still used today. According to his son Alex, Lynn Watters created the International Judging System, and judged many international regattas, including the America's Cup and the Olympics.

Lynn Watters, a lion in the Montreal Sailing scene. How much it appears we owe to the history of sailors like him. How many have contributed to the quality of our pastime, yet we know so little of? We should know so much more of them.

Sources


ISAF Obituary
Glob & Mail Obituary
Scuttlebutt #3745
Bruce Kirby in Scuttlebutt #3747



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