Rudi’s Mates: The Mark Rudiger Sailing Family Fund

Published on January 16th, 2012

American Mark Rudiger died too early. Mark had been battling lymphoma for four years before he lost his battle on July 17, 2008. He was 53 years old.rudi
Mark’s reputation as a premier sailing navigator was legendary. He had navigated 14 Transpacs, but it was the ‘Mt. Everest’ of long distance racing, the Volvo Ocean Race, where he indelibly made his mark. “He was one of the heroes of the race and meant a lot to all of us,” noted CEO Knut Frostad.
On short notice, he guided Paul Cayard’s EF Language to victory in 1997-98 and Assa Abloy to second place as co-skipper in 2001-02, and in 2005-06 he was called in again to work Legs 6 and 7 for a struggling Ericsson team.

“I remember how tough he was when we had some rough times in the Southern Ocean,” recalled Paul Cayard. “I remember being on the bow with him one night struggling to hold onto the number 4 in 40 true and asking each other how the skipper and navigator got on the bow for this one.”

During Mark’s illness, the economic and personal stress on him and his family was immense, but in the midst of all that pressure came the outstretched hands and hearts of the beloved sailing community. People from all over the world stepped forward, providing emotional, practical and monetary support.

The assistance he received had a significant impact on Mark, and with his wife Lori, they made the decision how they would someday pay it forward. This was the genesis of Rudi’s Mates: The Mark Rudiger Sailing Family Fund. Here Lori explains:

1. What was the motivation to create this fund?

Throughout our struggle we had incredibly generous support from people from within the sailing community; the love we experienced from the sport’s people was truly awe inspiring, and Mark and I would have conversations on how we could repay the sailing community at large for their unyielding care and assistance, but we just didn’t know how at the time.

Having lived through it and having time to reflect, the perfect way to pay it forward was to establish a standing fund to help all those working in the sailing industry, worldwide, who come up against trying times so friends and colleagues don’t have to scramble to setup donation vehicles when a crisis hits.

We must also remember Mark was very well known around the sailing world so word spread easily and the support came in quickly, yet the vast majority of working people within the sport who labor behind the scenes – the seamstress, boatyard worker, rigger, delivery crew, etc. – do not have the connections Mark was fortunate to have, but need the same kind of assistance Mark received.

Rudi’s Mates, as an established fund provides that financial assistance access. Mark’s greatest legacy to the sport of sailing was not his navigating prowess, but his willingness to share his expertise with anybody who asked for it, and the integrity in which he carried himself with to all he came across within the sport. That legacy is embodied in Rudi’s Mates objectives.

logo2. What were the hurdles of establishing this fund?

Hmm, the biggest hurdle was working through my grief’s brain fog. Once I started getting the neurons firing again the largest hurdle was getting this idea legalized, so tax deductible donations could be accepted. Becoming its own non-profit charity would have taken well over a year and lots of attorney fees because of its international component.

During one of those initial free phone consults with an attorney at a large firm in San Francisco, the suggestion was for Rudi’s Mates to become an official fund within an existing community foundation, a legal charity set-up to help others donate money to different causes. Eureka, I had found my way to move forward more quickly and efficiently; now I only had to find a community foundation that would take a small start-up fund that would fit into its overall charter.

Mark is from Marin County, California, and the county has a long maritime history and a fairly vibrant marine industry today, so I approached the Marin Community Foundation, and after a number of months working with their legal department a model was established that works for them and Rudi’s Mates. After that it was all about building a website for the fund, creating the logo and other marketing materials and getting the word out. Actually, we still have the most important hurdle to get over, and that is getting the Fund funded with enough money so we can start to accept grant applications and helping people.

3. How do other sports handle those in need?

A number of sports have assistance funds and foundations for their workers and professionals. The sport of horse racing has a number of organizations that assist jockeys who become disabled, stable workers and horse handlers, two of which are the Jockey Fund, and the Permanently Disabled Jockey Fund. Professional football has the Gridiron Greats Assistance Fund, the Professional Footballers Australia has the Special Assistance Fund. I also researched other industries and there are too many assistance funds to list here, but two that are close to our model our the Motion Picture and Television Fund and Alaska Airlines Employee Assistance Fund

4. How hard is it to be financially prepared for an illness like what Mark had?

We have all heard about having least 6 months of reserves to cope with the unexpected. Well, we had that, but when a devastating illness (as was in our case), injury or death occurs within the nuclear family it is certainly not enough, nor would it be for most other working people. In our case, Mark was diagnosed with stage 4 Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, treatment consisting of a very aggressive multi-chemo cocktail that had to be administered during five day hospital stays.

Mark become fairly quickly debilitated from the treatments, which lasted over 6 months, with then further treatment at Stanford, thus expanding the treatment time to over 8 months. On top of that, it took months of intense nutritional therapy, recuperative time and an exercise regimen to get Mark sailing again. We were financially wiped out before the point of Mark’s remission, but were graciously supported by family and close associates until Mark got back behind the Nav station again. When relapse occurred just under three years later there was no financial cushion to rely on, but yet again assistance came in from the sailing community.

5. What are the goals of this fund?

Rudi’s Mates, the Mark Rudiger Sailing Family Fund’s goals are:
1. To provide a standing fund for financial assistance to anyone working full time in the international sailing industry that has experienced a personal tragedy that causes great loss of income and financial instability.
2. Offering a means to provide people and companies a tax-deductible option in supporting the sport of sailing’s greatest resource; its people.
3. Continuing Mark’s Legacy of assisting any mate that needs help.

Thanks so much to Scuttlebutt for giving me this fantastic opportunity to get the word out; check out and please give if you can, it helps people and their families during crisis and it keeps the sport you enjoy so much strong and vibrant.
Mark Rudiger greeted by son Zayle at the finish of a Transpac race

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