A milestone worth celebrating

Published on June 24th, 2021

John Muhlhausen

John Muhlhausen is lucky to have grown old, now 81 years, and he has done nearly all that growing while active in the Snipe Class. Successful one design classes deliver more than just the racing, they provide connections, and John is looking to celebrate his in this report:

I never imaged this milestone would be achievable until last year, then the pandemic shut everything down and all bets were off. Hopefully we are emerging from the other side, I got my vaccinations and have remained healthy, and the once unimaginable is now a reality.

To celebrate this occasion, my son David and I will step aboard my Snipe, Figaro, in July and set sail on Lake Allatoona in northwestern Georgia, completing a 75-year sailing journey that began on Long Island Sound on my sister’s Snipe on July 4th weekend in 1946.

I’m celebrating this event, because few have been able. Some in the international Snipe community have sailed 75 years, but no one has in Atlanta’s Snipe Fleet 330, past or present. In fact, I believe I am the only member of the Atlanta Yacht Club (AYC) who has enjoyed a sailing career spanning 75 years. However, I am certain I will not be the last.

When looking back over this love affair I have had with sailing, many memories come to light; stupid things I did as an impulsive teenager, opportunities presented and lost, encounters with the rich and famous, and to the many sailing accomplishments of which I am proud.

Bookending this 75-year sailing experience was a near fatal drowning in 1955 and a battle with advanced esophageal cancer in 2003, both of which if not for good luck and good medical care, would have rendered this celebration unachievable.

I have many interesting memories over this time period, however, the major ones are:

1949 – Winning my first trophy as a skipper in my junior sailing program.
1954 – 1963 -Ten years of teaching sailing programs to hundreds of children and adults.
1958 – Organizing and running a boating safety class that became a pilot program for America’s first and longest running community sailing school.
1958 – Turning down an invitation to sail in the America’s Cup Trials on Weatherly.
1962 – Receiving an apology from JFK after a motorboat he was skippering ran through a junior race I was conducting.
1967 – Turning down an offer to sail with 4-time Olympic Gold Medalist, Paul Elvstrøm.
1971 – Writing and illustrating a sailing primer titled, Wind and Sail.
1974 – Conceiving a Junior Week program for AYC’s junior sailors.
1979 and 1996 – Chairing two Snipe National Championships.
1986 – Organizing and running the first Snipe World Masters Championship.
2008 – Winning an improbable AYC Club sailing championship after an unexpected complication from my second cancer surgery that impacted my vision.

I have continued racing Snipes at AYC for the past nine years on a limited basis and have sailed several regattas. To fill the void, I have become active in radio sailing racing an EC12 Meter model yacht, a 12th size model of a 1958 Cup defender. I am not competitive at radio racing, but the serenity of watching this beautiful scale model heeling in a stiff breeze and gliding through the water gives me joy.

It brings back memories of “what if” I had accepted the opportunity to sail Weatherly in the America’s Cup many years ago. Today it is the love of sailing and the companionship of fellow sailors I seek; no longer the laurels of winning.

So now what? Well at my age, time horizons are short. However, I do see one significant milestone on my horizon and that is watching my eldest granddaughter, Ellen, learn to sail. If she falls in love with sailing and it becomes an integral part of her life, like her father’s, she will become the 6th generation sailor in our family.

Sailing began with her great-great-great grandfather, John Prague, on Lake Pontchartrain in New Orleans in the late 1840s and early 50s, who became a well-known yachtsman in the New York area during the 1880s and Commodore of AYC; the now defunct Atlantic Yacht Club on Coney Island in Brooklyn. Now that is a milestone worth waiting for!

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