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Harry Anderson: How lucky we’ve been

Published on May 13th, 2020

The great John Wooden once said: “Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are…the true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.”

The passing of Henry Hill Anderson, Jr. reminds us of how much he did when no one was watching, and how great the impact was from his random acts of kindness. Well before Ian Walker was a two-time Olympic medalist, and now the Director of Racing for the Royal Yachting Association, he was a recipient of Harry’s kindness:

In 1991 I captained the British University Team on a USA tour of the East Coast, racing against colleges and combined US teams from Maine all the way down to South Carolina. It was arguably the most fun six weeks of my life… although most of it still lives under a cone of silence.

A special highlight was our visit to the home of the America’s Cup – Newport RI. We had a plan to compete in the Around Jamestown Island Race on J/24s but were without accommodation and no local contacts. So after a couple of cold beers in a local bar, we hatched a plan to visit the legendary New York Yacht Club and introduce ourselves.

Imagine eight British students turning up in a van at the NYYC having had a few drinks – hoping to perhaps be given a tour. We donned our blazers, put on our best British accents, and walked straight in the front door. However, we immediately realized we weren’t going to get that far until a member was passing and asked if he could help.

We thought we were going to be thrown out, but before too long this gentleman had not only signed us all in as guests, he had bought us all drinks, and to top it all, he offered us a roof over our heads (all eight of us) for nearly a week.

We had no idea how lucky we were to have met Henry Hill Anderson, Jr. His hospitality was exemplary and his sailing memorabilia in his house was extraordinary – especially in the toilet as I recall. I thoroughly enjoyed recounting the story of how we first met when we met again at the NYYC many years later.

I feel honored to have met Harry and to have stayed in his home. To this day I feel guilty for not having appreciated quite how lucky we were at the time. What an amazing man and an amazing life. Sail on Harry.

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