Best Aspect of Sailing is the People

Published on February 19th, 2017


Bill MacGowan (© Meghan Sepe)

A popular figure on the Newport, Rhode Island sailing scene since the early 1980s, Bill MacGowan’s influence and work is present all around town, both on the water and ashore. But you’re most likely to find Bill and his family on the water, whether racing, harbor touring, surfing or paddleboarding.

“Newport is one of the greatest harbors and sailing venues in the world, and it has beautiful beaches with decent waves,” says Bill. “We start in the morning at the beach and end up at the harbor in the afternoon for one thing or another.”

Bill’s love of the water began at an early age. “I was 5 or 6 when I learned to sail with my grandpa at Bullhead Yacht Club in Southampton, New York, where we summered with him,” recalls Bill, who lives in Middletown. “My family, with two brothers and two sisters (I’m the middle one), lived in Manhasset the rest of the year.

“When I was a teenager, I started racing on bigger boats on Long Island Sound out of Manhasset Bay Yacht Club and Knickerbocker Yacht Club. In adulthood, my mentor was my big brother Andy MacGowan, who was an America’s Cup sailor in the 1970s. (Bill’s younger brother Johnny also sailed with several Cup campaigns in the ‘80s.) I worked for Andy at Newport Offshore Shipyard, which is where I learned pretty much every aspect of boat building and rigging.

“Andy got me started in offshore sailing, with campaigns based on Long Island Sound,” says Bill, “but I was pretty preoccupied with lacrosse in high school [Manhasset High] and college [University of North Carolina, which he attended on a lacrosse scholarship].” When I moved to Newport to work for him, I had done a short stint on Ticonderoga as the mate, and I started doing deliveries and racing one-tonners, 50-footers, etc. Eventually, I wound up on Kialoa III.

“My wife Barby [President of Media Pro International in Newport] signed onto Kialoa III as the cook right after she graduated from the University of Texas. I was the first mate. She jokes to this day that she knew nothing about cooking, but those were different times, and besides, Jim [Kilroy], the owner, was on the Scarsdale diet so she kept the menus simple with lots of steamed vegetables and oatmeal!”

Complete story in WindCheck…click here

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