Stu Walker retiring from racing
Published on June 13th, 2016
By Bill Wagner, Capital Gazette
Macular degeneration has done what no other force of nature could, it caused Dr. Stuart Walker, a member of the National Sailing Hall of Fame, to give up competitive sailboat racing.
Dr. Walker announced his decision to retire in an email sent to The Capital along with selected friends and competitors. The 94-year-old Annapolis sailing legend cited the affects of deteriorating eyesight as reason giving up the tiller after more than eight decades on the water.
“It was a difficult decision in advance, but not after I made it. I felt relieved,” Walker said in a telephone interview. “It’s annoying and frustrating to not be able to perform up to your capabilities because you can’t see.”
Walker has been experiencing the effects of vision loss for a while, but only came to realize it was impacting his racing ability late last month while competing in a Soling Spring Series out of Severn Sailing Association the weekend of May 21-22.
“Earlier this week I suspected I had another major decrease in vision (the third episode in the past few months), but I hadn’t realized just how much my sailing would be affected until I went out for today’s club race,” Walker wrote in the email.
Walker said he was “shocked” to find the committee boat was invisibile until he was almost on top of it. During pre-start manuevers, he could not tell whether competing boats were coming or going until they were about 10 yards away.
However, the most alarming incident occurred at the weather mark when Dr. Walker, who presumed he was arriving last, was surprised by the sound of Andy Dize crash-tacking just beneath him.
“I had fouled (Dize) without ever seeing him approach,” Walker reported. “I suddenly realized that I shouldn’t be out there. I was no longer able to compete and was actually a menace to my competitors.”
Walker recognized it was time to accept the inevitable and could at least take solace in having gone out with a “good one.”