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An enduring sailing legacy

Warren Brown was just as keen to share his vast knowledge of the sea as he was to sail throughout the world on his many yachts that shared a name now synonymous with local sailing.

This is the legacy the late sailor leaves behind, a legacy that went a long way towards putting Bermuda sailing on the world map.

Mr Brown, 85, passed away at King Edward VII Memorial Hospital on Christmas Day, leaving local sailing to mourn the loss of one of its most iconic figures.

Prior to his death, the accomplished offshore sailor logged more than 300,000 miles in his War Baby ocean racers and competed in 20 Newport to Bermuda Races on 11 different boats, including the triple-masted schooner Spirit of Bermuda in 2012.

“A sad Christmas to have lost yet another wonderful, world renowned sailor who did so much and helped so many young people learn about the sea and the environment,” said Sacha Simmons, sister of late Royal Bermuda Yacht Club Commodore Jordy Walker and wife of eight-times International One Design World Champion Eugene “Penny” Simmons. “His Blue Water sailing has been recognised worldwide and his representation in ocean racing around the globe has also been well documented and recognised with many awards.”

Among the many young people who were influenced by Mr Brown was Bermuda Sloop Foundation founding member Malcolm Kirkland, who accompanied his mentor on many ocean voyages.

“In late 1971, I heard that Warren was going to buy a production, state-of-the-art ocean racer to do the 1972 Bermuda Race (Newport to Bermuda Race) and Transatlantic Race to Spain and I wrote him expressing my keenness to serve as crew,” recalled Mr Kirkland, father of Bermuda Olympic sailors Jesse and Zander Kirkland. “Warren took me on board and thus began 25,000 miles of racing and delivering and a personal journey that engaged and expanded my life for the next four years.

“Warren gave me and many other young locals the opportunity to go to sea and all that means in terms of living and learning from others on a well run ship under often challenging conditions. I continue to feel a special sense of simpatico with Warren and those, both local and overseas, with whom I sailed on the two War Babies of my era with Warren, the Swan 48 and the former 12 metre, American Eagle.”

The late sailor and businessman also had a big influence on young foreign sailors such as Englishman Nick Ryley, who sailed with Mr Brown on the latter's Swan 48.

“The thing that stays with me is that Warren was quite happy to put great trust in young people who sailed his boats,” Mr Ryley said. “In doing that, he enabled them to realise that they could do far more than they had ever envisaged.

“I was just 22 and wet behind the ears when Warren suggested that I skippered the Swan 48 from Jamaica onwards. What a wonderful experience — and he did this for many people. Lots of adventures, for lots of people all over the globe.

“Probably the most bizarre experience was sailing from Norway to Spitzbergen across the Barents Sea in 1983. The most heavily patrolled stretch of seaway during the cold war between Russia and the rest. So, in this dangerous area, do you really want to be on the VHF shouting ‘War' ... ‘Baby', or perhaps gently ‘Warbaby', only to be asked to repeat it. We survived.

“Perhaps Warren was not always a saint. But he has left a legacy with many people for which they are grateful and thankful. I know I am.”

Sailing with Warren: Pictured, from left, are (back row) Chummie White, Jay Kempe, John Wadson, Reid Kempe; and (front row) Malcolm Kirkland, Warren Brown, Paul Doughty. The crew are sailing in September 2003 on War Baby on her last major quest. The hills of Monaco are in the background
<p>One man and his yacht</p>

Warren Brown never enjoyed the distinction of sailing in the America’s Cup.

He did, however, previously own a 12 metre yacht that took part in the Defender trials in the lead up to the 19th America’s Cup in Newport, Rhode Island.

In the late 1970s Mr Brown purchased the 1964 America’s Cup contender, American Eagle, from American media mogul Ted Turner.

Headed by Reynolds duPont, the AURORA Syndicate commissioned Bill Luders of Stamford, Connecticut to design and build the sleek 12 metre that failed in its bid to represent the New York Yacht Club in the 19th America’s Cup.

That distinction instead went to another 12 metre, Constellation, that swept aside British challenger, Sovereign, as America emphatically retained the coveted “Auld Mug” by a score of 4-0.

American Eagle, which is based in Newport, Rhode Island along with other past America’s Cup 12 metres, is most famous for her extraordinary legacy as an ocean racer under the command of Mr Turner and Bermuda’s own Mr Brown, who passed away on Christmas Day at age 85.

Between 1969 to 1974, the brilliant red American Eagle ruled the offshore waters, winning the first World Ocean Racing Championship and setting records in the prestigious Fastnet and Sydney-Hobart Races to earn skipper Mr Turner the coveted Yachtsman of the Year award twice.

After Mr Brown purchased American Eagle and renamed the yacht War Baby, the 12 metre crossed the Atlantic Ocean several times and won major regattas in the Mediterranean and Aegean Seas.

The famous yacht finished close behind Tenacious, helmed by American Eagle’s previous owner Mr Turner, in the deadly 1979 Fastnet Race storm that sadly left many boats and sailors on the bottom of the sea.

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Published December 29, 2014 at 8:00 am (Updated December 29, 2014 at 12:51 pm)

An enduring sailing legacy

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