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Fiddler's green

Jan 1, 2003

E.W. "Skip" etchellsBoat designer, builder, and racer

The winner of the Star Class world championship, with his wife aboard as crew, Skip Etchells went on to design in the 1960s one of the best loved and most widely raced racing classes, the Etchells 22. Many a sailor has cut his teeth on one of Skip's boats. Etchells was 87 when he passed away in Easton, Md.

At the University of Michigan, Etchells was a champion discus thrower, and he graduated in 1936 with degrees in naval architecture and engineering. During World War II he helped build destroyers and icebreakers. After the war he worked with Sparkman & Stephens and then started his own company building one-design sailboats in Greenwich, Conn. Etchells built Stars for 30 years and Etchell 22s for 20 years.The Etchells 22, so named because of its waterline length, is actually a 30-footer with a full keel and long overhangs. She was designed to be fast yet forgiving, allowing crews of various athletic abilities to compete against each other. The class still thrives today.Mel FisherTreasure hunterAfter a long battle with cancer, Mel Fisher, the famed treasure hunter, passed away in his home in Key West, Fla., at the age of 76. It took Fisher 16 years to find the sunken remains of Atocha, a Spanish treasure galleon wrecked off the Keys. However, Fisher did finally recover a huge fortune in precious metal and jewels, some of which was claimed by the government in disputes over salvage rights. In recent years, Fisher's company has been in legal dispute over items found within the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.of Key West, Fisher was crowned "King of the Conch Republic" several times, and was well known as a flamboyant character, even by Key West standards.Waldo HowlandFounder of Concordia Co.

The driving force behind the creation of the famous Concordia yawls, Waldo Howland passed away in February at his winter home in Fort Myers, Florida at the age of 89. With his brother, Llewellyn Howland, and designer Ray Hunt, they produced some 2,000 boats from the Concordia Company yard in Padanaram (South Dartmouth), Mass. Howland chronicled his active life in two books: A Life in Boats: The Years Before the War and A Life in Boats: The Concordia Years. A third book will be coming from Mystic Seaport. In addition, Howland was a trustee of the Mystic Seaport Museum and helped develop much of that institution's preservation work.

He commissioned a very traditional schooner, Integrity, to be built at the Concordia yard to a design by Pete Culler. In this boat and others, Howland sailed extensively, including making several Atlantic crossings.

His best-known boat was the Concordia yawl, most of which were built by Abeking and Rasmussen in Germany, with 103 built of the 39- and 41-footers between the end of World War II and 1966. They have been so well loved and maintained by owners that more than half of the original boats returned to Padanaram for a rendezvous in 1988.Philip Hardy RhodesYacht designer

The designer of such well-known yachts as Carina, the winner of the 1970 Newport to Bermuda Race, and Weatherly (co-designed with his father, Philip L. Rhodes), the 12-meter racer that defended the America's Cup in 1962, Philip H. Rhodes passed away on May 5th in Middletown, Conn., at the age of 72.

Perhaps best known for his many handsome cruising/racing designs created while working in partnership with James McCurdy at McCurdy and Rhodes, he was also the designer of the 95-foot topsail schooner, Bill of Rights, and the sister ship, Harvey Gamage. With his background in engineering and a father who ranks as one of the best-known naval architects of the century, Mr. Rhodes went on to establish his own reputation as a versatile and skilled designer.Eric TabarlyOcean racer

The winner of the first Observer Single-Handed Transatlantic Race, competing against Sir Francis Chichester, Eric Tabarly went on to become one of France's best-loved sailing heroes. He was lost at sea on June 13, while sailing off Milford Haven, Wales. He was cruising aboard his 100-year-old Fife-designed gaff cutter, Pen Duick, when he was knocked overboard while taking down the gaff-rigged mainsail in a squall at night. It is reported that Tabarly never wore a lifejacket or a safety harness during his many sailing exploits, and his boat did not carry a VHF radio. His body was found in July by a trawler off the southern Irish coast. He was 66.

He won the singlehanded transatlantic race again in 1976 in the 76-foot Pen Duick VI, and he set a new transatlantic speed record in 1980 on the hydrofoil-equipped trimaran, Paul Ricard. He was known as the "iron man" and was awarded the Légion d'Honneur by Charles de Gaulle after winning the second singlehanded transatlantic race. He was feted with a parade down the Champs Elysées.Joel WhiteYacht builder and designer

The owner and manager, along with his son Steve White, of the Brooklin Boat Yard, in Brooklin, Maine, Joel White will be well remembered for his many contributions to wooden boat building. He passed away in December of 1997 (slightly too late for last year's column) after a long illness. His design reviews appeared for many years in WoodenBoat magazine. One of his recent designs was for the 76-foot W Class one-design racer/cruiser, sporting a 95-foot carbon fiber mast carrying more than 2,000 square feet of sail, and an elegant interior made of varnished wood. Wild Horses, the first W-class hull, has been built by the Brooklin Boat Yard, and White Wings has been built by Rockport Marine of Rockport, Maine. The age of large, elegant, and expensive wooden yachts has returned.