The Strenuous Life of Harry Anderson

Published on January 2nd, 2014

By Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt
About a year ago I found myself seated next to Harry Anderson for dinner. I knew of Harry; I just did not know Harry. But now I do.

Roger Vaughan’s new biography, The Strenuous Life of Harry Anderson, confirmed one inkling I had that night: don’t try to out drink Harry. Then at 92 years, he still had game. But I had no idea I was also beside someone who had impacted so much of the sport, to which so many had directly and indirectly benefited.

In 321 pages, Roger not only covered Harry’ life, but also the growth of sailing as a sport, and the growth of the U.S. as a country. Harry was in it all, but when your family is an original investor in Standard Oil, along with Rockefellers, etc, you run in privileged circles.

Roger deftly navigates the myriad of relations that have allowed Harry to be so impactful. These include “an embarrassment of accomplished antecedents”, but would soon extend through New England yachting circles and beyond to the administration of sailing in the U.S. and International. It is hard to imagine anyone touching so much.

I completed the book on holiday vacation – often with drink in hand, for Harry – reveling in the Harry-isms sprinkled through, his lessons on what made America great, and his examples of how to treat people. How blessed are those touched by Harry’s mentoring, of which there were many.

Being a west coaster, I imagined those to the east holding bits of history, knowing some of the people, witnessing a few of the moments. To follow Roger’s narrative would be to complete the puzzle. I knew very little of it all, yet Roger held my rapt attention.

I admit to being a Roger Vaughan fan. His work includes the lives of Tony Gwynn (baseball), Barry Melrose (hockey), and Ted Turner (sailing, etc), and events including the Fastnet and America’s Cup. I trust Roger, who portrays Harry as a man with the wherewithal to do anything, yet the commitment to use his ancestral gift for meaningful impact. Harry did not lavish Harry; Harry sought to make things better with his time, intelligence, and resources.

Roger reminds us of Harry’s rare memory, and his thirst and capacity for knowledge. Harry’s writings are included throughout. And though Harry is still with us, the book fittingly includes his obituary, which Harry wrote himself….”in the interest of getting it right.”

I’m now a huge Harry fan, and sense I’m not alone.

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