Eight Bells: John Browning

Published on October 7th, 2020

John Browning, 94, long-time member and supporter of the sailing community, passed away on September 27 in Houston, Texas.

John’s place in the sailing community, both personally and professionally, was wide-ranging. A true entrepreneur, John immigrated to Chicago from his native England in 1965 to work as a business consultant and soon founded Browning Marine. Over the years, he was a representative for brands including Elvstrom, Zodiac, Morin 470, Finot boats, Aqua Signal, and Splash Down.

More than a distributor, John was a passionate promoter of the sport. John would arrange demonstrations and events that he would capture on 8mm film to show at boat show booths. In one staging to prove the unsinkability of a Zodiac, John filmed his wife on Lake Michigan in a deflating boat. While the boat did not sink, his family remembers him with his camera rolling while Diana, treading water, proved a good sport.

John was a member of Columbia Yacht Club in Chicago, but moving in 1989 to Houston, John retired for a short time but didn’t slow down. He started covering regattas for local sailing magazines, including Mid Gulf Sailing and Telltales. John’s fascination with technology led him to create and run the website SailTexas from 1996 to 2011.

Well before the social internet, SailTexas was the source for regatta news, photos, and discussion. John’s own words belie the spirit he brought to the site: whether “a weekend novice, a salty live aboard or a diehard racer, there’s something here to enlighten, entertain or amuse. Sailing is not a matter of life or death, it is infinitely more important.”

John enjoyed being on the water covering all things sailing in Texas, including the Clear Lake Wednesday Night Races, and he always captured the fun of sailing. His was a lifetime commitment to sailing and the boating world, professionally and personally.

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