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Fiddler's Green

Apr 27, 2018

Robert “Robie” Pierce
Robert Pierce, a competitive sailor who advocated for wider accessibility for people with disabilities, died July 12, 2017, in Newport, R.I. He was 76.

Pierce competed in the Marion to Bermuda Race, Buzzards Bay Regatta and Block Island Race Week, and also was a longtime member of the Ida Lewis Yacht Club in Newport.

He battled multiple sclerosis for almost 30 years, yet still maintained his edge as a sailor. He was a multiple winner of the U.S. Disabled Championship, and in 1993 he won the World Disabled Sailing Championship.

Pierce worked with the nonprofit Shake-A-Leg foundation and helped the organization launch an adaptive sailing program more than two decades ago. He also drafted accessibility guidelines for the tall ship Oliver Hazard Perry.

He also helped launch the C. Thomas Clagett Jr. Memorial Clinic and Regatta to help sailors with adaptive needs train for competitions. At least 19 sailors who trained in the program went on to win Paralympic medals.

Stanley Miller
Stanley Miller, an accomplished musician sailor whose namesake yacht dealer was once the largest on the West Coast, died Nov. 17, 2017, in Palm Desert, Calif. He was 91.

Miller formed Stan Miller Yachts in 1962 in the Long Beach Marina. By then an accomplished sailor, he helped the firm capitalize on the growing shift to fiberglass hulls. His many clients included celebrities who lived in Southern California. He sold the company in 1988.

A talented musician, Miller formed an 18-piece big band and performed at charity events and private parties — including once at Frank Sinatra’s birthday.

Miller twice won the Transpac race from San Pedro, Calif., to Diamond Head, Hawaii, aboard his yacht Ragtime. During his time as a Long Beach Yacht Club member, he helped launch the Congressional Cup match racing competition. The 54th annual event returns April 17-22 in Long Beach.

Bill Ficker
William “Bill” Ficker, an architect by trade who skippered Intrepid during its successful 1970 America’s Cup defense, died March 13, 2017. Ficker was 89.

Ficker, who spawned the slogan “Ficker is quicker,” led Intrepid to a 4-1 victory against the smaller, lighter Gretel II from the challenging Australians. The lopsided result belied intense competition, including a duel in the final race won by the Americans by one minute and 44 seconds, according to an account from the America’s Cup Hall of Fame. The preceding contests included dueling protests in the first race and Gretel II’s controversial disqualification in the third race after slamming into Intrepid.

Ficker won the 1958 Star World Championships hosted at the San Diego Yacht Club aboard the vessel Nhycusa. He also won the 1974 Congressional Cup.

The Ficker Cup race, which serves as a qualifier for the Congressional Cup, was established in 1980 by the Long Beach Yacht Club in honor of Ficker. He has been inducted into both the America’s Cup Hall of Fame and the National Sailing Hall of Fame.

Meade Alger Gougeon
Meade Alger Gougeon, a sailor and boatbuilder who developed a line of sought-after marine epoxies, died August 27, 2017, in his hometown of Bay City, Mich. The cause was skin cancer.

Gougeon was a skilled builder, sailor and racer, but he made his name making epoxies and resins known as West System. These materials were developed with help from Herbert Dow, whose grandfather founded Dow Chemical. The makeup of these products became “closely held secrets,” according to an account in the National Sailing Hall of Fame, which inducted Gougeon in 2015.

Gougeon, with his brother Jan, began building iceboats and sailboats with its epoxies in 1969, and within two years they were selling the epoxy commercially. Gougeon was also an accomplished sailor who earned a North American sailboat racing championship at age 58.

Edward Allcard
Edward Allcard, a British sailor believed to be the first to sail single-handed across the Atlantic Ocean in both directions, died in Andorra on July 28, 2017. He was 102, and the cause was complications from a broken leg, according to published accounts.

Allcard sailed from Gibraltar to the Bronx over 81 days in 1949 aboard the 34-foot ketch Temptress, which itself was built in 1910. He completed the eastbound return voyage across the Atlantic in 1951. A young woman, Otilia Frayao, hid aboard Temptress and joined Allcard for a leg of the voyage from the Azores. He later arrived in Plymouth, England.

Allcard, who later completed a solo circumnavigation over 12 years, wrote about his voyages in Single-Handed Passage and Temptress Returns. His last book, Solo Around Cape Horn, was published in 2016.

Allcard began sailing as a child and had training in naval architecture. He continued sailing until age 91, when he sold his last boat. He spent his last years living in La Massana, Andorra, the tiny European country sandwiched between Spain and France.

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