Eight Bells: Sir Durward Knowles
Published on February 25th, 2018
Bahamian Olympic icon Sir Durward Knowles died on the afternoon of February 24 at Doctors Hospital in Nassau, New Providence. He was 100 years old. Knowles, who had been admitted to hospital earlier in the week, succumbed to kidney failure and other complications. He was surrounded by family and his minister as he passed.
Nicknamed ‘The Sea Wolf’, Knowles was introduced to the sport of sailing by his father who was himself an ardent sailing enthusiast. His first major international competition was in 1946, when he and crew Robert Levin finished third in the Star World Championships in Havana, Cuba. The following year, they teamed again and won the Star World Championship in Los Angeles, USA.
The Bahamas had no Olympic Charter of its own in 1948, so to participate in the Olympics that year, Knowles and crew Sloane Farrington traveled to London where they handily won the British elimination series, and qualified to represent England at the London 1948 Olympic Games. In those Games, the Bahamian pair finished fourth, having suffered a broken mast in one race and a disqualification in another.
Knowles’ place in Bahamian history was assured when he and Farrington succeeded in winning his country’s first Olympic Medal, a Bronze at the Melbourne 1956 Olympics. He ultimately claimed the top Olympic prize in 1964, when he won a Gold Medal with Cecil Cooke as crew at the Tokyo Games (above photo).
In total, Knowles took part in eight Olympics – seven straight from 1948-1972, and again in 1988 in Seoul, South Korea, for an independent Bahamas.
Other accomplishments include Gold Medals at the Pan American and the Central American and Caribbean Games. Knowles was also the proud bearer of the flag of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas at the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul Korea.
Knowles was knighted in 1996. In 1997, he was awarded The Bahamas’ Order of Merit. In 2014, the second Legend-class patrol boat of the Royal Bahamas Defence Force was commissioned as HMBS Durward Knowles.
In May 2016, following the death of Sandor Tarics, Knowles became the oldest living Olympic champion. That claim now gets passed on to Finnish skier Lydia Wideman, age 97, who competed at the Oslo 1952 Olympics.