Eight Bells: Dayton Carr

Published on April 8th, 2020

Dayton Carr

The sailing community lost a great friend, sailor, and champion as Dayton Thomas Carr passed peacefully at his New York City home on April 7, 2020. He was 78 years.

Dayton established the Venture Capital Fund of America Group (VCFA Group) in 1982 and is credited as being the founder of the secondary private equity industry. He was a visionary who was the first to recognize the opportunity to buy illiquid investments from the original investors in venture capital funds.

Dayton was a storyteller who often enjoyed re-telling the origins of his firm, the benefits of secondaries, and the many adventures he had through his life-long love of sailing.

Dayton began sailing as a 7–year old child in the San Francisco Bay area. His first boat was an El Toro dinghy which he raced in the Small Boat Racing Association in Northern California. Moving up to a Blue Jay, Dayton also raced a Rhodes 33 and crewed on a large racing schooner on San Francisco Bay.

At 15, he won the Pacific Coast Lightning Championship in Victoria, British Columbia and placed second in the West Coast Sears Cup Eliminations to Allen Holt who went on to win the Sears Cup.

Dayton’s family moved to Winnetka, Illinois soon after, where he was a member of the Sheridan Shore Yacht Club and a junior member of the Chicago Yacht Club. Aboard his 110 Class sailboat, he won the fleet championship on a number of occasions, won the Southern Lake Michigan Championships and the District Championships.

He also placed third in the World Championships held in San Diego, California, and sailed in two Chicago Mackinac races. During his youth he spent several summers teaching sailing on Lake Merritt in Oakland, California and spent one summer as the sailing instructor for the Sheridan Shore Yacht Club in Wilmette, Illinois.

While at Brown University, Dayton became captain of the sailing team, Commodore of the Brown University Yacht Club, and was active in intercollegiate racing for several years. After receiving his MBA from Harvard Business School, he moved to New York City and bought an International One Design class (the first in a long line of Gunga Din’s) which he kept at Larchmont Yacht Club.

With the IOD class, he won the fleet championship, the YRA of Long Island Sound Championship, and the King Edward VII Gold Cup for match racing in Bermuda in 1971 with his friend and crew Corny Shields, Sr.

In the same year, Dayton purchased the prototype Chance 30–30 which he named Ragtime and raced and cruised on Long Island Sound until about 1976 when he acquired a Tartan–10 Mandalay which he raced in PHRF races in the same.

Not content to race just his own boats, Dayton joined with a friend who had purchased one of the first New York 36s, Drive, and won the first New York 36 National Championship and many other races over the next several years.

Throughout the 1980s, Dayton chartered a number of boats with which he had great success, winning (among other races), the cruising division of several New York Yacht Club Cruises. Racing throughout New England and the Caribbean brought Dayton triumph on the race course and a camaraderie with his fellow sailors that he would tell stories about for years to come.

In May of 1993, Dayton purchased a Sweden Yachts–41, his final Gunga Din. He raced and cruised extensively up through this last year, racking up a host of high finishes in events hosted by New York Yacht Club.

In addition to racing Gunga Din, Dayton was a regular participant in superyacht events across the Caribbean, his most recent victory aboard Sojana with friend Sir Peter Harrison at the 2019 St. Barths Bucket Regatta, where they won the Les Mademoiselles del Mers Class.

While much of his sailing activity was related to racing, he enjoyed cruising under sail and power, the latter inspired by the twin screw powerboat his family owned during his childhood in San Francisco. With his friends, Dayton cruised both Eastern and Western seaboards, the Great Lakes, Caribbean, Canada, and much of Europe.

But he declared his favorite sailing in recent years was in late fall aboard his meticulously kept yellow sloop Gunga Din on the waters of Narragansett Bay. He was known to recite the poem that inspired his boats’ name, raising his voice at the end to exclaim, “You’re a better man than I am, Gunga Din!”

Dayton was a larger-than-life figure who made an impression on everyone that he met. Known for a mischievous streak, his antics often elicited raucous laughter (and sometimes ended with him in a pickle). A gentlemen through and through, Dayton brightened every room he entered and was a master of meaningful introductions between people he thought shared common interests.

Generous of time and spirit, he was a champion and ambassador for the causes he supported.

He served on the Board of Directors of the National Sailing Hall of Fame for many years, and played a vital role in bringing it to Newport, RI. Other organizations dear to him were US Sailing, Sail Newport, Oliver Hazard Perry Rhode Island, Herreshoff Marine Museum, Brown University and the Sailing Team, Harvard University, The Preservation Society of Newport County, Redwood Library & Athenaeum, Childfund International and many others.

The National Sailing Hall of Fame will hold a memorial event at its new home in Newport, RI on a future date when conditions permit so that his many friends may come together to share their memories of this extraordinary man.

Fair winds and following seas, Dayton. You will be missed.

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