May 19, 2023
By John Kerr
My first recollection of Buddy Melges was on Lake Geneva Wisconsin at the first world laser Championships. There decked out in his 1972 US Olympic team blazer he towered over Hans Fogh who also was wearing his DANMARK labelled Olympic baser. A mutual respect for these to Flying Dutchman sailors was evident and clearly long standing. Buddy had just recently returned from the 1972 games with a Gold medal in his new adopted class the Soling.
Melges was one of the most decorated sailors of our time. He won at the Olympics, The Americas Cup, two Star world championships but he was never far away from the E Scow fleets he loved so much.
Melges and the Canadian connections run long and deep. Sailing with Bill Bentsen in Tokyo he damaged his rudder. Back then that was a tough scenario until Canada’s Paul Henderson came to the rescue with the loaner of a spare rudder, he had thought to bring with him. Melges, Benson and that Canadian rudder won the bronze, just ahead of Hans Fogh and Ole Gunner Peterson.
In 1975, I found myself again close to Buddy. Now sailing with Paul Henderson and Dennis Toews we visited Zenda often, and often trained with Melges and his crew. The Abbott clan from Sarnia was also very close to Buddy who sailed the Abbott boasts exclusively.
Melges ties don’t end there when he recruited one of this country’s greatest competitive sailors, Andreas Josenhans. Together they won two back-to-back Star world championships in fleets that approached 100 boats in 1978 and 80 boats in 1979.
Once asked his secret to success Melges responded “start first, increase your lead throughout and finish first.”
The quote I love often mentions was, “I will never try to steer myself into a situation that I know might create a discussion after the race any protest immediately cuts down on my social hours after the race is over.”
Always approachable, always coaching, always giving. The sport of sailboat racing lost a great icon in our sport.
For Buddy Melges’s obituary please click here.