Where are they now: Barton Jahncke
Published on July 15th, 2020
Barton and his wife Marcia Jahncke, now summer residents of Klinger Lake of Bedford Township, MI, were involved in sailing separately before they married about 23 years ago.
For Barton, winning gold in the 1968 Summer Olympics in sailing stands out from his many joys in life. Much more than a one-time event, Barton started sailing early in life and it was a four-year journey to the Olympic Games in Mexico.
Barton and his lifelong friends George Friedrichs, aka Buddy, and Gerald Schreck, aka Click, took the gold for the Dragon class. They all grew up in New Orleans sailing the Gulf Coast born to families who were members of the Southern Yacht Club.
Until 1964, the young men were competitors, each standing out for a different skill, taking turns beating the other guys. But the Southern Yacht Club recognized their strengths and pulled the young men together.
The club hadn’t won Olympic Gold since 1932 and they were hungry to make a name for themselves again. These three young men might be worth their effort. After club officials approached them, Barton said he really thought it through. He had a job, a wife and child.
“When would I cut the grass?” he wondered.
How could he get anything else done if they were training every night and racing every weekend. Finally he said yes and the next four years it was all about the Olympics.
Now, 50 plus years later, Barton remembers it all as fun. They traveled to race destination in Canada, California, Texas and Denmark. In Texas they beat Bob Mosbacher of the America’s Cup Mosbacher family. Bob later became secretary of commerce under President George H. W. Bush.
“He was a great sailor,” Barton said. “Well, we trashed him — on his own turf too. We were good.” Marcia added, “They enjoyed that win more than any.”
“It was wonderful,” Barton agreed. “But sailing is a gentleman’s game,” noting how they would cut each other’s throat during a competitions, but then would head to the bar to celebrate together.
At the Olympic trials in Houston, Texas, Barton and Marcia first met. Her first husband, Joe Huggins, who was one of many competitors Buddy, Click, and Barton spent time with. Others included royalty who loved to sail including King Constantine of Greece and Juan Carlos, prince of Spain.
Known to break a few rules, the trio from New Orleans were “bad boys” with charisma that drew others, so they always had plenty of friends. But once in the race it was all about winning.
“Buddy was a skipper — a great boat driver and a fierce competitor. He was a good all-around athlete,” Barton said.
Click’s family made sails. “They had this little sail loft and made the fastest sails in the world for four years,” he said.
Barton was the tactician, handling sails, paying attention to the breeze, being the eyes and ears for the team. “Sailing is a very technical sport,” Barton said. “It’s not suntan lotion and cocktails. And it’s physical.”
The club bought their Dragon from Denmark. “It’s a very beautiful boat. Twenty-six feet, seven inches long,” Barton said. “Dragons are like furniture they were so beautiful.”
So the team, supported by Southern Yacht Club, qualified for the Olympics.
Those days were “like a novel. It was like a movie,” Barton said. “The pressure was so great. We didn’t want to disappoint, not only ourselves, but we had so many people watching us and supporting us through the foundation at the yacht club.”
The guys were rock stars at home in New Orleans. They were recognized and supported by even their postman and taxi drivers. They were introduced during halftime at the New Orleans Saints games to demonstrate a bit about sailing when their boat was rolled onto the field.
Barton was working for the Lykes Bros. Steamships company, his only employer for a prosperous 30 plus year career. During that time, the chairman of the board liked Barton and he liked sailing.
During the month they spent in Mexico leading up to the Olympics, Barton would call in to work every other day and also reported to his superior, mostly on the status of the races.
Also in Mexico was his first wife, Emily, and his parents.
Sailing runs in Barton’s family.
“My father was a great sailor. My brother was a great sailor. My mother was a great sailor and my great uncle was a great sailor,” he said.
Having his father present to share the victory was especially poignant for Barton. His father finished second in the Olympic trials in 1932. His crew sailed for the guy from New Orleans who won the gold medal. He had a piece of the 1932 glory but not quite.
Now in 1968, Barton’s father was able to feel the victory like few others.
“The joy he got out of it was unbelievable,” Barton said.
There was no official photographer for the Dragon Class Olympic medal ceremony and Barton’s father took the only picture on record. He was nearly stopped by security guards but on Barton’s say- so was allowed to take a couple pictures.
“They’re blurry and not that great,” Barton said.
But the framed photos show the ceremony.
Actually Marcia was also there. Her husband, Joe said he wanted to go even though it was stretch financially as they were just starting a new business.
“Joe said, ‘They’re going to win. I know they are. I want to be there when they win the gold.’ So we went.” Marcia said. “Which is really pretty amazing that I got to share that time, considering our story of getting back together 20-some years later.”
Barton’s memories of those days, now five decades later have not dimmed but some pain has come since the glory days. Buddy died at age 51 and Click is struggling with health issues.
Barton deeply misses the men with whom he went to battle against wind, water, waves and royalty.
But with Marcia, Barton has true comaraderie. They are both sailors.
Marcia’s first husband, Joe, and she had a sailboat built — the Lone Star. It took four years to build and then they sailed around the world in increments, so she knows the world of sailing.
And while Klinger Lake is not the ocean, after their marriage and spending summers at Klinger Lake, they built local memories together.
“I had never spent anytime, anywhere except on the Gulf Coast in the summer sailing,” Barton said.
But the first time he walked out on the deck and down to Klinger Lake he was hooked.
“Barton said ’This is probably the most idyllic place I’ve ever been to,” Marcia said.
Considering his world travel for sailing and with destinations he’s frequented with his Lykes Bro. career, that’s saying something.
So Barton bought a sunfish sailboat and they continued to enjoy the sport.
Then in 2008, Alison Moriarity, a neighbor, asked Barton to give sailing lesson to Klinger Lake children. She called friends saying, “If you don’t take advantage of this you’re crazy,” Marcia said. “Here’s an Olympic gold medal winner and he’s going to teach your kids to sail for nothing — for free.”
Barton and Marcia were team as they borrowed boats from lake residents and taught classes. Sometimes on a Saturday morning had as many as 20 young students.
When they started, the children knew nothing about sailing and by the end of the summer they held a regatta where the students competed for trophies. It lasted for several summers before their students moved on to other interests.
“It was more fun,” Marcia said.
As they pulled out thank you notes and framed messages from their former students, memories of those Saturday mornings on Klinger Lake rushed back.
Marcia said there is an attempt to rejuvenate the Klinger Lake sailing club and in an email, the leader wrote “Sail as if Barton Jahncke were watching.”
In fact, Barton is watching with the unbridled enthusiasm he brings to all adventures with family, friends, water and wind.