Eight Bells: James Gillinder Carson

Published on April 5th, 2021

James G. Carson, a true Lightning Class legend, passed away on March 21, 2021, at 94 years of age.

James, Jim or Gilly as he was known, was a sailor through and through. He was a key member of the Metedeconk River Yacht Club (Brick, NJ), starting at a time before it actually had a physical clubhouse and the starting line was marked by a rowboat captained by his sister Margaret. He was instrumental in moving the club to its present location in a beautiful clubhouse on the south side of the river. Jim was Commodore of the Club eleven times and taught sailing to youngsters for forty years.

However, Jim’s leadership and service reached well beyond the MRYC. He was a long-time volunteer and board member for the International Lightning Class Association and the Barnegat Bay Yacht Racing Association. Jim joined the International Lightning Class in 1949 and served in a number of leadership positions. He served as Chief Measurer in 1960, 1961, and 1970 and as President in 1971. He was the Lightning Central Atlantic District Commodore as well as the District Secretary for many years. For his efforts, Jim was awarded a Life Membership in the Class.

Jim has been a BBYRA Measurer since 1985, is a US Sailing Senior Race Officer, and has served as Principal Race Officer for a number of National and International events. He is a two-time recipient of the O.G. Dale Memorial Trophy for outstanding sportsmanship in the BBYRA and in 2001 was honored with the Rae Theodore LaPier Memorial Trophy for outstanding achievement in the fostering and management of sailing on Barnegat Bay. Jim has been nominated to the National Sailing Hall of Fame.

In addition to innumerable regatta championships, Jim won 24 Lightning and two Penguin BBYRA Championships, five Lightning Atlantic Coast Championships, several top ten finishes in the Lightning North American Championships, three top five finishes in the Lightning World Championships and, most recently, at age 82, a second in the 2005 Lightning International Masters Championship. He was the 1957 Penguin National Champion. He sailed in regattas all over the United States as well as in Argentina, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Italy, and Finland.

Jim has been universally recognized for his dedication to introducing young people to the joy of sailing. In the early 1970s, Jim provided the leadership for the creation of the Lightning Junior North American Championships. As time passes, the list of winners of this regatta have gone on to be successful through all the major continental class championships.

Jim’s former crew members are part of a special fraternity, with too many over the years to count. His influence resulted in Junior sailors going on to college sailing, Olympic sailing, selections as Yachtsmen or Yachtswomen of the Year, or making a profession within the sailing community. Others have thrived in other professions as doctors, lawyers, etc. Most are still sailing, pursuing the love of the sport that Jim instilled in them.

Jim attended Swarthmore College and the Merchant Marine Academy. He served in the Merchant Marines in the Pacific at the end of WW II and shortly thereafter.

He worked as a chemical engineer for DuPont from 1950 to 1983, but, as he admits, “I worked so I could sail.”

In Jim’s honor, donations may be sent to the Metedeconk River Yacht Club Junior Program, 43 Tilton Road, Brick, NJ 08723.

For more stories and memories of Jim, click here.

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