Eight Bells: Barney Flam

Published on January 25th, 2015

Renowned Southern California sailor Barney Flam passed away on January 2. He recently celebrated his 90th birthday with his children and grandchildren at his home.

Barney was born in Los Angeles. He was a graduate of Van Nuys High School and earned a degree in Mechanical Engineering from Cal Tech. He used these skills on his boats and truly was an original MacGyver as he could invent, build or repair just about anything.

Barney raced competitively over the course of seven decades, achieving many victories and garnering the respect of his fellow sailors. Most notably, Barney was the original owner of Cal 40 #4, “Flambuoyant”, and he was one of the original partners in the Ragtime syndicate that won the 1973 Transpac. He also competed as a skipper in 11 Congressional Cups and won the prestigious Lipton Cup in 1981.

Barney was truly an innovator. In the late 1960s he put a hydraulic backstay on his Cal 40, the first person I know of that attempted this. It was immediately declared illegal but later on became the standard method of adjusting big boat backstays. He also trained himself in computer programming and in the late l970s was creating programs for scoring races at Long Beach Yacht Club. He also used his rather large home computer on his IOR boat in the early 1980s to integrate with the boat’s instruments to create polars to maximize performance.

Barney made many contributions to sailing including serving as Commodore of Long Beach Yacht Club, Cabrillo Beach Yacht Club and the Southern California Yachting Association. He was Assistant Principal Race Officer for the 1984 Olympics, was PRO for a number of Congressional Cups and in 1985 was awarded the St. Petersburg trophy as PRO for the Prince of Wales.

Barney lost his wife Evelyn in 2009. Together they raced for many years, with Evelyn doing the bow, first on their Kettenburg 38 and then their Cal 40. He is survived by his children Steve, Faye and Patty and by his grandchildren George, Henry and William. Barney will be remembered for his intelligence, his innovative approach to all things, his love for sailing, and his wonderful stories. His family is proud of his many accomplishments and his independent spirit. We will miss him.

A celebration of Barney’s life will be held at 3:00 pm on Friday, February 27th at Long Beach Yacht Club in Long Beach, CA. – Steve Flam

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