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Fiddler's Green

Apr 2, 2019

Notable mariners who passed away in 2018

Hilary Lister
Hilary Lister, a solo sailor with quadriplegia who navigated around Great Britain and across the English Channel, died Aug. 18, 2018, at age 46.

Lister, who lived in England, suffered from a degenerative condition called reflex sympathetic dystrophy. She lost use of her legs as a teenager and was later forced to discontinue a doctoral program as her condition worsened.

She began sailing in 2003, and two years later she became the first woman with a disability to sail across the English Channel. Four years later, in 2009, she became the first such woman to circumnavigate the British Isles.

Lister controlled her vessel using “sip and puff” technology. By breathing or inhaling from a series of tubes, she could steer the yacht’s tiller and its winches. Crew followed in a trailing vessel, often providing critical support.

Her solo voyages were dangerous, she acknowledged, but they also challenged conventional wisdom about what people with disabilities can accomplish. Sailing, she told an interviewer, “quite literally saved [her] life.”

Donald S. Cohan
Donald S. Cohan, a prominent attorney and member of the U.S. sailing team that won bronze during the 1972 Olympic Games, died on Oct. 20, 2018. He was 88.

Cohan was the first Jewish athlete to win an Olympic yachting medal, earning it in the Dragon class during the 1972 games in Munich. During those games, 11 Israeli athletes were kidnapped and murdered by Palestinian terrorists.

The only Jewish member of the team, he proudly carried an Israeli flag with a Star of David aboard the U.S. yacht during the competition.

Cohan earned a law degree from Harvard and later was awarded a Senatorial Medal of Freedom. He also was a longtime member of the Vineyard Haven Yacht Club board of governors.

Geoffrey Spranger
Geoffrey Spranger, who taught sailing and wrote about it professionally, died Aug. 2, 2018, in Newport, R.I., following a brief illness.

Spranger, who lived for many years in Middletown, R.I., started sailing as a child. In 1950, he and his father built a Snipe they called Hot Stuff that he raced around Narragansett Bay. As an adult, he taught sailing to high school students at St. George’s School as well as through camps and yacht clubs.

Spranger wrote for Sail magazine and went on to edit the newsletter “The Practical Sailor.” He covered America’s Cup competitions as a writer for the Newport Daily News and later as co-publisher of the well-regarded America’s Cup Report.

He continued to sail for much of his life. One of his proudest moments came as a crewman aboard the 37-foot Pearson Invicta, which finished first in the 1964 Newport to Bermuda Race.

Stuart Walker
Champion sailor Stuart Walker, who competed for the U.S. Olympic team in 1968 and later became a chief of pediatrics, died Nov. 12 at his home in Annapolis, Md. He was 95.

Walker competed in the 5.5-meter class in the 1968 Olympics in Mexico and later sailed with the U.S. team in the 1979 Pan American Games. He won national and international championships in the International 14 class and the Soling class, which he was president of for nearly four years in the early 1990s.

Walker was a 2013 inductee into the National Sailing Hall of Fame. Off the water, he was a prolific writer of sailing books in addition to being a prominent pediatrician in Maryland and professor at the University of Maryland.

Henry Marx
Henry Marx, a lifelong mariner and successful businessman who lectured on safety and navigation, died June 28, 2018, in Greenwich, Conn. The cause was pneumonia. He was 77.

Marx served in the U.S. Navy and later the Norwegian merchant marine before entering the business world for major companies like Pitney Bowes. He left the corporate grind in 1982 when he purchased Landfall Navigation, a sailing and marine navigation outfitter.

He was known in the sailing community for his entertaining and informative Safety at Sea seminars, as well as the well-received instructional video “Loran C: A Navigator’s Approach.”

Marx volunteered at community and sailing organizations in Stamford, Conn., including the Stamford Sailing Foundation, which he co-founded. He also was a recipient of the Cruising Club of America’s Commodore’s Award.

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