Class of 2021: Carl Buchan

Published on September 14th, 2021

The U.S. National Sailing Hall of Fame selected eleven sailors in 2021 to join the 90 previously-recognized individuals who have been enshrined since the first class in 2011.

Among the 11th class to be formally inducted on October 16 is Carl Buchan (1956-), a championship sailor, Olympic gold medal winner, and 1988 defender of the America’s Cup. Buchan is profiled in this tribute by 2011 inductee Gary Jobson:

Carl Buchan was practicing for the upcoming Laser World Championship and capsized in a practice race. He instantly added righting-his-boat-after-a-capsize to his list of priorities. It is just one example of how thorough this gifted sailor is when he sets his sights on a specific goal in sailing. And he has managed to reach his dreams at the highest levels of the sport.

He got his inspiration from his father, Bill Buchan, a National Sailing Hall of Fame Inductee in 2013. At the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games both father and son won Gold Medals in sailing in different classes. Bill skippered to victory in the Star Class and Carl was the crew for Jonathan McKee winning the Gold Medal in the Flying Dutchman Class. Both Buchans have been amateur sailors their entire lives.

Carl Buchan was a promising junior sailor out of the Seattle Yacht Club. He watched his father racing aboard the 12 Meter Intrepid during the America’s Cup defense trials in 1974. That year Carl won the US Singlehanded Championship for the O’Day Trophy as a 17-year-old and one year later won the World Singlehanded Youth Championship.

He was heavily recruited to join many intercollegiate sailing teams and decided to stay close to his family’s home on Mercer Island across Lake Washington from Seattle and attend the University of Washington. Buchan was named College Sailor of the Year in 1977 (his father won A Division at the Intercollegiate Nationals in 1954).

Buchan is a tall, slender sailor and well suited for the Laser Class. He won the US Nationals three times (1978, 1980, 2000) and the North American Championship in 1992. He is a unique sailor because he is comfortable as a skipper or a crew. Buchan also has a reputation of being quiet on the water and on land.

In 1983 he teamed up with Jonathan McKee, who was three years younger, and a recent graduate of Yale University. The pair won the Flying Dutchman World Championship that year. In the Spring of 1984 at the US Olympic selection trials they earned their berth to the Games by one point in the final race. The close competition against Gary Knapp and Cam Lewis in the trials proved to be helpful in the Olympic Games that summer.

They had finishes of 2-1-2-3-1-4 to win the Gold in the 17 boat fleet. The victory was noticed by Dennis Conner who was looking for a crew for his 1988 America’s Cup catamaran for the defense of the Cup. Buchan made the crew and became an America’s Cup winner to go with his Gold Medal. Only two American sailors have won both events. The other is Buddy Melges (2011 National Sailing Hall of Fame Inductee).

Carl and his wife, Carol, won the Tasar World Championship in 2001. Their daughter, Lindsay, is a top Laser Radial sailor and her husband, Dalton Bergan was College Sailor of the Year in 2000. Their son, Jamie, has raced with Carl on the Star for the past 14 years including winning the North Americans and the Western Hemisphere Championship. Carl’s sister, Jennifer, is married to Brian Ledbetter who won a Silver Medal in the Olympic Games in 1992 in the Finn Class. The Buchan family certainly has an impressive sailing record.

Adding to the list of victories, Carl Buchan won the Star Class World Championship in 1992, the 505 Class North American Championship in 1985, the Soling North American Championship in 1976, and he continues to race and cruise.

The Class of 2021 will be formally inducted in a ceremony on October 16, 2021 in Newport, RI.

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