Eight Bells: Conn Findlay

Published on April 10th, 2021

Conn Findlay

Conn Francis Findlay, a medalist in rowing and sailing at four Olympics, died on April 8. He was 90, and resided in Northern California at the time of his passing.

Born in Stockton, CA, Conn won four Olympic Medals in two different sports, rowing and sailing, over a 20 year period from 1956 to 1976.

Findlay got an undergraduate degree from USC and his MBA from Cal, rowing for the Trojans as a senior in the 1953-54 season. He would go on to row the pair with coxswain boat in three successive Olympic Games – Gold in Melbourne 1956, Bronze in Rome 1960, and Gold in Tokyo 1964. He also won a gold medal at the 1963 Pan American Games in coxed pair and was named USRowing’s Man of the Year in 2007.

Switching to sailing, he partnered with Dennis Conner in the Tempest class to win Bronze at Montreal 1976. His second sport continued with two victories in America’s Cup races in 1974 and 1977 on Courageous, and big boat ocean racing in the Fastnet, Transpac, Bermuda, and Sydney Hobart Race.

He became the freshman rowing coach at Stanford, then was the varsity coach in 1959 for several years. He was responsible for building the original Stanford boathouse. After coaching, he ran a boat leasing business and officiated rowing regattas.

All the awards available have already been bestowed on Conn: inducted into Athletic Halls of Fame by US Rowing and US Sailing, by Stanford and USC; honored by Xerox during the Atlanta Olympics as one of America’s 100 greatest living athletes; named to the Pac-12 Conference 25-Man All Century Rowing Team.

However, the greatest award of all is much less tangible, but much more lasting, the universal recognition, love and esteem for Conn from his friends.

Conn’s greatness as an athlete and as a friend was his utter self-reliance. He was a self-starter and a self-finisher… never asked anyone for help… did it himself… his way. He eschewed offers of help from others, even when he needed it most. Conn’s lifelong self-confidence and expectations of himself sadly became a source of angst and frustration for him in his final years.

Conn was blessed with his marriage to Luella Anderson Findlay, for both of them their first marriage and each then in their early 60s. Luella passed away two years ago, but they used their time together wisely: travelling the globe, boating on King George IV’s Windrush which they bought and restored, and entertaining and mingling with the multitude of their sailing, rowing, and other lifelong friends.

Source: Row2k, USC

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