Salt water in his veins

Published on February 23rd, 2022

David B. Vietor was a difference maker, and with his recent passing, Gus Carlson offers this tribute:

It’s not a stretch to suggest that if you cut David Vietor, he bleeds salt water. He is a descendent of a long line of sailors. His family was one of the first to found a shipping line that sent cargo and passengers across the Atlantic Ocean on a schedule.

Prior to that time, vessels waited until their cargo holds were full before sailing. Known as the Black Ball Packet Line, ships in the fleet were easily recognized by the simple black ball on their foresails.

As a prominent sailmaker, his understanding of sail shapes and trimming techniques earned crew spots on some of the world’s best-known offshore race boats, including maxis, from the 1960s to the 1980s, along with two America’s Cup campaigns.

Generations of sailors have learned that listening to David’s wisdom often makes the difference between winning and losing. That’s not surprising, considering his resume includes virtually every major regatta and offshore race in the world.

“David has a never-ending collection of sailing stories – all good and told with enthusiasm,” said Dr. Paul Gingras. “Hearing him talk puts the listener right back in the middle of the scene.”

But David isn’t just about talk as Gingras reflected on his ability to do anything and everything related to boats and racing. “If you need to know how to do something or how to fix something, David knows what to do because he has done it, probably multiple times.”

Considering David’s broad international sailing career at the highest levels of the sport, it’s not surprising that he has raced with and against the world’s best sailors.

Gary Jobson, the America’s Cup winner, America’s Cup Hall of Famer, and National Sailing Hall of Famer, said David’s personality and preparedness were valuable assets on any boat he sailed.

“Aboard a yacht while racing, David had a calm demeanor and yet was known for his thorough analysis after each race,” noted Jobson. “David was always a popular member of every crew he raced with. “

He was also very generous, as Jobson remembered the summer of 1982 when David invited the crews of the Defender-Courageous syndicate to his family’s compound in Edgartown on Martha’s Vineyard.

“The flotilla included Courageous and two tenders,” recalls Jobson. “Somehow the squad of 40 people all had beds. The sight of a 12-meter moored alongside the Edgartown Yacht Club inspired the club to start hosting annual 12-meter regattas.”

Tom Whidden, the three-time America’s Cup winner and Hall of Famer, said David embodies the best traits of sailors and is a credit to the sport.

“David was a well-respected Corinthian sailor, an avid competitor with the highest integrity, always the consummate gentleman and one of the nicest guys in the sailing world,” said Whidden. “Any boat that was lucky enough to have David on board performed really well and was often in the winner’s circle. He has always been a champion for our sport and our industry.”

But as his illness grew, David was realistic about the future, saying: “I think I can make it around the leeward mark, but I’m not sure how long the beat to the finish will be.” Sadly, now we know.

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