Eight Bells: Mark Bryant

Published on September 26th, 2018

Mark Bryant passed away at 61 years on September 24 in Estero, Florida, losing a battle with esophageal cancer after multiple sclerosis couldn’t take him down. “He was one tough SOB,” notes Scuttlebutt editor Craig Leweck. “He had his detractors, but I liked the rascal in him, and damn, there was a lot of it.”

Mark covered wide areas of one design sailing. He learned to sail on Lake Erie in Buffalo (NY) racing Lightnings and J/24s among other local one design boats. He quickly understood the role of technology in helping good sailors improve their game, working on mast innovations and rigging changes that became the norm in the classes he raced.

He became interested in the effect of tide and current on racing sailors and has conducted the most advanced studies in southern Florida among other sites. As his racing matured, he learned he had the disease MS and turned his attention to improving racing conditions for disabled sailors.

“Mark had amazing, truly amazing skills with a tiller in his hand and could have and should have been a legend in the sailing world,” observed Fritz Dusel. “For those of us that knew him and competed against him, he brought an intenseness, a will to win, a ‘me against you’ that was so above anything we had ever seen.”

Few sailors are named Sailor of the Century by the Buffalo Canoe Club, but Mark achieved this honor in 1988. He was named a legend in the International Lightning Class in 2006. Among Mark’s racing achievements are winner of the 1984, 1980, 1978 Lightning North American Championships, 1982 Lightning South American Championship, and 1976 Lightning North American Junior Championship. He won Boat of the Year in the Holland 40 in Chicago in 1989 and Boat of the Year in Buffalo in the J/24 in 1988.

When Mark turned his attention to Disabled Sailing, he actively coached, sailed, and built 2.4 meters. He led a field of talented and committed racers in 2007 at the 2.4 Meter Paralympic Trials for the 2008 Games in China, losing the right to represent the US by one point.

“One thing I remember most was Mark’s zest for sailing…he was quite the character,” shared David Trude. “Outspoken and never one to worry about the repercussions of telling the RC or PRO that they were wrong. Of course, from a 2.4mR which has basically no freeboard.”

But through all his grit was a man with heart. “When my son was ill, he shared his loud voice of concern,” recalled Leweck. “He knew his clock was ticking, but despite his own ailments, he took time to care about mine.”

Sail on Mark, you won’t be forgotten!

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