Eight Bells: Carl Eichenlaub

Published on November 29th, 2013

Carl Eichenlaub passed away early in the morning, November 29, 2013, at 83 years. In a sport full of iconic figures, he stands with the best and most unique. Few people in the sport have the breadth and depth of his talent.

Any one of his many accomplishments would have made him worthy of inclusion in a list of greats. Champion sailor in the Snipe, Lightning, while also sailing in the Star, Soling, FD’s and IOR classes. As a builder of those boats, a few of which helped to change the face of the sport, perhaps most notably Doug Peterson’s Ganbare. Friend and mentor to literally thousands of people around the world.

Carl’s boat building skills were legendary. “In many ways Carl is a genius,” says Lowell North, a sailmaker who has three times sailed himself to a world championship in Eichenlaub Stars. “Although some sailors on the East Coast may not agree, we on the West Coast know that he is the best.” This quote was from an extensive Sports Illustrated article in 1965, the entirety of which is well worth reading, because it captures the essence of the man, which almost literally never changed. Anyone remember the slogan ‘Any slob can win in an Eichenlaub’?

Away from the sport he played classical music on a bassoon and contrabassoon with several different local orchestras. He loved the San Diego Chargers and NASCAR and in recent years had taken to traveling to what he called ‘Dog Regattas’, otherwise known to the rest of us as dog shows, with his wife Jean and their herd of dogs. A graduate of San Diego State in ’53, Carl is a member of the Intercollegiate Sailing Hall of Fame and is an SDSU Distinguished Alumni.

While winning races and building great boats for customers is interesting, of far greater importance is the esteem with which he was held in the sport. Carl was the shipwright for the US Sailing team for decades. He always took care of the US team first every day, but after that work was done he would help sailors from other countries fix their boats. For the sort of service he gave to the sport in 2000 he was awarded US Sailing’s highest honor, the Herreshoff Award.

Carl passed away quietly with Jean and his children Betty Sue Sherman and Brian close by.

In 2006, Carl Eichenlaub with his daughter, new San Diego Yacht Club Commodore Betty Sue Sherman.

In 2006, Carl Eichenlaub with his daughter, new San Diego Yacht Club Commodore Betty Sue Sherman.


The information above was submitted by former ISAF President Paul Henderson who adds this story…
I arrived in Santo Domingo Dominican Republic for the 2003 Pan Am Games and as usual I walked thru the boat park. Sitting there playing his bassoon, sporting that elfish hat was Carl Eichenlaub.

He immediately said: “You Canucks have got me in deep trouble with US Sailing!”
Responding quickly, I said, “What the hell did we do now?”
He replied: “Your Windsurfer board arrived here damaged and I fixed it for your team and that has US Sailing upset with me.”
Carl then added: “A few Cuban cigars would ease the pain.”

So I went and bought him six Cuban cigars. What a great and wonderful person in our sport was Carl Eichenlaub and in any other sport for that matter.

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