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Carl Eichenlaub

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The National Sailing Hall of Fame will be selecting a class of 10 new inductees over the next several weeks. No doubt there are many qualified sailors nominated. Making the selection of just 10 sailors from the hundreds who deserve such an honor is not easy. No doubt all 10 sailors that are inducted will be worthy. One wonders why only 10 people will be allowed into the Hall this year. It would seem in the early years it might make sense to induct 25 new members for the next few years simply because with more inductees there will be more interest in the Hall of Fame, and with that increased interest would come increased donations so the Hall could actually be built. You can read the nomination process here. Maybe we should lobby the Hall of Fame Board to increase the number of inductees each year.

 

It is hard to know exactly who has been nominated. It is also unclear what sort of lobbying goes on to get a candidate into the Hall. We all have favorites and no doubt many will be pushing for their favorites to get in. The Ed and I happen to have one favorite, Carl Eichenlaub, who was nominated this year. I know Carl has been nominated because several of Carl’s friends/Cadenza crew asked me to submit the nomination.

 

There are three categories for which a sailor can be nominated – accomplishment in sailing, technical, or service to the sport. Carl qualifies in all three. He won many regattas in a variety of dinghies, and sailed a series of “Cadenza’s” up and down the west coast. Technically, he built many racing winning boats in classes like the Snipe, Lightning, Star and other one-design classes. In big boats, his building of Doug Peterson’s “Ganbare” and what that did to the shape of IOR is legendary. Plenty of other great IOR boats too – “Forte” and “Swiftsure” come to mind, along with a host of others

 

But the thing Carl is probably most noted for is his work with the US Sailing Team as the shipwright from 1976-2004. What many will remember of Carl is not all the help he gave US Sailors with their boats, which was often times significant, but it was the help he gave sailors from all countries during an Olympic of Pan Am regatta. Once his obligations to the US team were done for the day, Carl would help anyone who would ask. US Sailing recognized Carl’s contribution to the sport in 2000 by giving him the Herrshoff Trophy, which is the highest honor in the organization.

 

While Carl has thousands of friends literally around the world, for those who never have had the chance to meet to listen to the Will Rogers of sailing, here is a nice video of Carl talking about Snipes. This Sports Illustrated article from 1965 with a quote from National Sailing Hall of Fame member Lowell North that just has to be read. If you had ever been in Carl’s boatyard, you’ll instantly recognize what the author says about it, and smile knowing that somehow a winning boat came out of a place that was defined by its rather agricultural look.

 

Many of us think it would be great if Carl were inducted in the National Sailing Hall of Fame this year. But if he doesn’t make it this year, he’ll make it one day soon. In the mean time, add your stories of Carl here. - Peter Huston.

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My Friend Carl,

 

 

I have sailed against, sailed with, and worked with Carl from time to time over the last 50 years of our Friendship. I remember Dennis Conner crewing for Carl when he won his first Lightning Championship at Tawas Bay in the early 1960's, the great boats he built, his support of all sailors... especial his donated time to the US Sailing team at Olympic, Paralympic, & Pan AM Games as team boatwright and mentor.

 

 

You who know Carl and his Fables, I have a short one.... He told me once his favorite place to sail Lightnings was at the Buffalo Canoe Club. I ask if it was the great sailing conditions at Abino Bay? No. Was it the competition? No. The People?.... Well he "reckoned" kind of all of those things but, the water is sure a hell of a lot warmer at Buffalo than anyplace on the West Coast!

 

 

With Respect,

 

Commodore Billy Neal

 

 

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Any slob can win in an Eichenlaub

 

Yes, but would not deserve an Eichenlaub! I was a high school student in San Diego (read slob) lucky enough to be racing in the FD class thanks to the Navy Sailing Club (NSC) due to my status as a Navy brat. This was in '71 and the FD was shaping up to be a hot class at the upcoming Olympics with guys like Eichenlaub starting to compete. He showed up at one of the Olympic classes in Long Beach (ABYC) with the most beautiful wooden FD that he 'just sort of threw together'. The craftsmanship was impeccable but Carl was his usual modest self. I asked him about the lack of flotation tanks and he said that they were too heavy. When I persisted and asked why he didn't use bladders or even beach balls in nets, he said that he didn't need flotation. I doubted that anyone could race a FD and not take a cropper every now and then and Carl said that he had raced 505's for years without capsizing and compared to the 505, the FD was like driving a bus and he was sure he could handle it. FIrst race and he dumps it and without flotation they could right it but never get going fast enough to self-bail and did manage to sail it back to the club very slowly with the gunnels right at the waters surface. If it had a been a glass boat without flotation, that would not have been possible. I went down to the dock to greet Carl and he told me, 'See! The wood is the flotation.' A great guy for the sport and great to see him honored.

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One of my (many) regrets in life is not following through on a offer by Carl's sister's recommending me to work at the San Diego shop. Should have.

Twenty five years later I was the manager at the Saint Petersburg Sailing Center when we had the 1996 Olympic Trials for a number of classes. Carl was there as Boatright, as usual. He came with his gigantic self contained motor home.

Now, there is absolutely no camping on the island of the Sailing Center. The City patrols it diligently. Carl set up the motor home along the fence, put up the canvas front porch and made himself at home, suspenders and all.

Along comes the City Marina truck. Carl got up off a chair and walked over to the city worker. They said a few words, walked around behind the motor home and stayed for a short while out of my sight.

Pretty soon, out from behind the motor home came the two, Carl looking as he always did and the City worker with a smile.

Carl was not bothered all that long weekend.

Dave Ellis

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Any slob can win in an Eichenlaub

 

Yes, but would not deserve an Eichenlaub! I was a high school student in San Diego (read slob) lucky enough to be racing in the FD class thanks to the Navy Sailing Club (NSC) due to my status as a Navy brat. This was in '71 and the FD was shaping up to be a hot class at the upcoming Olympics with guys like Eichenlaub starting to compete. He showed up at one of the Olympic classes in Long Beach (ABYC) with the most beautiful wooden FD that he 'just sort of threw together'. The craftsmanship was impeccable but Carl was his usual modest self. I asked him about the lack of flotation tanks and he said that they were too heavy. When I persisted and asked why he didn't use bladders or even beach balls in nets, he said that he didn't need flotation. I doubted that anyone could race a FD and not take a cropper every now and then and Carl said that he had raced 505's for years without capsizing and compared to the 505, the FD was like driving a bus and he was sure he could handle it. FIrst race and he dumps it and without flotation they could right it but never get going fast enough to self-bail and did manage to sail it back to the club very slowly with the gunnels right at the waters surface. If it had a been a glass boat without flotation, that would not have been possible. I went down to the dock to greet Carl and he told me, 'See! The wood is the flotation.' A great guy for the sport and great to see him honored.

 

"Any slob can win in an Eichenlaub" Carl used this line in his own advertising.

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How many people remember his t-shirts that showed his back side with his pants sagging down and he's whittling/carving on a tree. The chips are flying over his head and shoulders and a wooden Snipe is coming out of the other end of the tree! I do wish that I had one of those great shirts - talk about a collector's item!

 

My first Lightning was a wooden Nickels - somewhere around #7500 or so. I went down to the NA's in 1970 when they were held in New Orleans. I clearly didn't know what I was doing, and he kind of took me under his wing and told me how to keep the seams sealed tight (most of the time), the mysteries of tuning the wooden mast, etc. He also regaled me and several other racers with his story about his experiment of using graphite paint and what a mess that was - fortunately the class outlawed it.

 

I've never met a nicer guy in sailing!

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There are a lot of great people and great sailors in San Diego. Carl Eichenlaub is tops in both catagories. His accomplishments put him among sailing's elite, but I've never heard him brag. He's a competitor who loves to win but a complete gentleman on and off the water.

What I love is a good story. And Carl has a thousand great ones...but none at anyone else's expense.

He has a lot of friends because he's been a friend to everyone. You could add his name to the Hall of Fame...but in my book he's already there.

Mark Matthews/ABC7 News, San Francisco.

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These are second hand, but fit everything I know about Carl......

 

At the Olympics in Kingston, Ontario, Carl was the US Team boatwright. With the tragedy of the Munich Olympics still fresh, the security was very high. So trying to enter the boat park, Carl sets off the metal detectors. First he removes the screwdrivers and wrenches from his pockets, and still rings the bell when he passes through. Back he goes and out of his pockets comes an assortment of shackles, bolts and screws before trying again. Still the alarm goes off, and out he goes. Then he unrolls the cuffs of his jeans and dumps out a pile of sawdust mixed with nuts, washers and metal shavings. This time he passes.

 

That same Olympiad, the Finn masts couldn't pass the flotation test. The tunnels were pop riveted to the tube and let in too much water to let the spars float long enough to meet the rule. Carl's solution? He goes to the local auto parts store and buys up all the radiator stop leak solution he can get. He fills the spars with the stuff, plugs the ends and lays them tunnel side down. Stop leak drains out the rivet holes and slowly stops. Drain out the rest and recap the spar and it floats all day long. Genius!

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I raced for 3 years a Eichenlaub Lightning 11373 and won my fair share of races. Fast boat and always had the pace.

 

Definetly a Hall of Famer.

 

Not sure if Bruce Goldsmith is there, but he should be too!

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i remember when i first moved to san diego - i didn't know anyone and hadn't done anything, but i convinced jack dorsey of jack dorsey yachts to get a capri 30 racing (when they were brand new). i was selling swenson sails on the side and gary made some really nice sails for the boat. we took the boat to carl's yard and he eyed the leading edge angle of the keel and said "i reckon that thing's gonna catch kelp." I said sure, whataya think we should do? and he said "we'll just add a new leading edge to it." really, just like that? yep. and a couple weeks later we had a perfectly faired keel that no longer caught kelp. then he said he wondered if the boat was very stiff, so he tied a line from the headstay to the backstay, cranked down the hydraulic pressure and measured the deflection. there was hardly any. "god damn thing's pretty stiff. it oughta go pretty good." and damned if it didn't.

 

i took many a boat to carl over the years after that, always in awe that not only would he give me the time of day, but he actually seemed to like me and took interest in what i was doing. he was just so smart and had such a good heart and it really was an honor to get to work with him. putting a new set of sobstad sails on the last cadenza and winning the lipton cup was one of the greatest thrills of my sailing life. if there is such a thing as a hero, carl is one.

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carl

 

surfing

 

yup

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I was one of the fortunate few 'kids' who was able to sail with Carl regularly on Cadenza (III), and getting to know and sail with him is one of the more significant parts of my life. Twenty years later, I am still coaching and heavily involved in sailing, in many ways due to Carl's impact on my sailing as a kid.

 

One of the most memorable experiences that I had with Carl happened in his Lightning, but it was not while sailing with him. Three of us borrowed his boat to compete in the Sears semis at Mission Bay YC and he got us set up with his best stuff. During the second race of the regatta, I dropped the tiller extension at the leeward mark and we spun into one of our competitors, blowing up the stem of the boat and really screwing up the bow. Not only was our regatta done, but now 13-year-old me had to tell Carl that I had crashed his boat - no good. We put the boat away and I dreaded the phone call I needed to make.

 

When I spoke to Carl that night, he didn't tear into me, nor did he make me feel like I was a bum sailor. Instead, he just responded that we're going to fix it up - no problem - and that he was disappointed for us that we had not advanced to the Nationals. I rode with him to MBYC the next day and we (really Carl) fixed the disastrous bow in no time. He taught me while we worked and after the incident I felt like a better sailor and more welcome with him than ever before.

 

It's important to remember that not only did Carl build the boats that won, but he also sailed them to the podium. He is a Lightning and Snipe World Champion. He would love to tell stories of his experiences sailing in these events, but his humility kept him from ever mentioning that he had won. Priceless.

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I was fortunate to sail with Carl on two CADENZA's back in the mid 80's. Having grown up sailing on L.I. Sound and Chesapeake Bay, Carl was an amazing introduction to West Coast sailing. Carl is simply a tremendous sailor and the nicest person to race with. I can't say enough great things about Carl - he gets my vote!

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Sometime in the last century (1991??) I was spending a few days in New Orleans at the Southern Yacht club doing a batch of J-22 keels while sleeping on somebody's Hunter 34.

 

They were having the Mardi Gras Dinghy regatta that weekend and while everybody was out sailing, I was in the boat yard making my mess of the place.

 

Two old haggered guys and a much better looking woman came in during what should have been the first race.

 

I hurried over to the bulkhead and asked, "People problems or boat problems?"

 

One of the old haggard guys responded, "Boat." and the woman walked over to a bike and took off..

 

He showed me the dangling starboard chainplate. It was a typical strip of stainless with a hole for the clevis pin and holes for the bolts but there were no holes for the bolts.

 

I said, That's mighty strange. It looks like nobody thought to put any fasteners in the thing. Maybe they thought the epoxy would hold or maybe it was just a brain fart. Was today the first sail.?

 

Old guy, "Yup."

 

Me: It's still saturday morning, should we call the company and see whet they recommend for a fix?

 

Old Guy: Nobody's there today

 

Me" Well, it's just a chainplate. And I suggest fixing the other side might be a good idea. I'm visiting from Austin and fixing some J-22 keels this weekend so I probably have all the necessary bolts and fender washers in my work van to fix the thing. No reason to waste your entiree trip from California ( CF NUMBERS ON HULL) Let's just fix it and get you outta here.You probably won't even miss the second race."

 

old guy: That's a great offer. I just sent my wife to the store up the street and if they don't have everything, I will be happy to borrow some of those fender washers."

 

The other old guy came back with and he opened a horrible old tool box and pulled out a crappy old yellow grinder with a rock sharpener disk on it. He grabbed a drill bit and wiggled it around a bit on the spinning rock and then put that bit in his drill motor.

 

He climbed in the boat and barely started the drill and the bit came right out of the side of the boat.

 

I thought the old fart had missed the stainless.

 

I said, "Maybe you will do better on the second try."

 

He drilled another hole just above it and then produced a six inch long winding of stainless, "That's a pretty good one , doncha think?"

 

I thought, :THis guy can really sharpen a bit. That stainless wasn't very thin and he went through it like butter...soft melted butter."

 

AsI wasn't currently able to contribute, I went back to messing with a J-22 and while he was waiting for his wife to return he looked at what I was doing ( adding about 3/4 inch to the trailing edge) and asked, "Why don't you just cut a piece of hard wood and screw it on there?"

 

I told him I didn't want the wood where it could get wet and change shape in twenty years and mess up my work and he accepted that as a valid reason. He even complimented my system of screws and fiberglass roving wetted with vinylester as a pretty solid reinforcing system...neither of us liked that any J-22 was built such that we actually had to build 3/4 onto the trailing edge to make it legal.

 

He sat for maybe ten more minutes and talked about sanding with a "square disk" while fairing and how some of his guiys actualy used air file sheets on a buffer to fair big hull sides. 'It'll rattle your arms off if you don't hold it flat and it is a very fast way to fair something."

 

I understood the concept as I have always done better work with a very hard disc than a soft disc. If you cannot fair with a hard disc, you can't fair with a soft disc either as ultimatly, the soft disc is harder to control and a soft disc does not keep the operator from fucking up. . it makes sense that a guy who can use a nice hard disc can also use a "square disc" and it makes sense that a "square disc" would actually keep a tired good guy from screwing up...his arms would ratttle a couple times and he would rest for a while...

 

She came back, he borrowed two wahsers, installed a whole bunch of bolts and they all went back out sailing..

 

he came back and chatted more after he got in as he was busting with more great ideas about my keel jobs and how to cut some time corners and he seemed honestly challenged to get a time saver past me that I would tolerate with respect to my quality and durability demands.

 

When he wandered off for a while I cornered a fellow J-24 / Lightning sailor aand asked, "Who is that guy?"

 

He announced as if to tell me what a fool I was>>>>Eichenlob..

 

Me: OH Like any slob can sail an Eichenlob?? Hap's buddy who takes care of the Olympic boats?? No wonder!!! ( Hap is Dr Hap Arnold From Austin who was the US Olympic sailing team doctor and an MC 20, Ensign, and laser sailor who had spent multiple Olympics hanging out with Eichenlob and sometimes being a bit helpful with repairs..."by holding a beer or light "according to Hap.

 

So, when he came back we talked about Hap and the upcoming trip to barcelona and, as I regularly worked in New Orleans 530 miles from my workshop in Austin, I picked his brain about what he considered to be the untimate traveling repairman's set of tools and materials.

 

He also made it clear the most important thing he simply had to be able to do to keep our sailors in the contests was repair masts. You can't just screw on a new mast. He wanted to know if I could weld.

 

Had I known a lot about welding aluminum I might have been able to tag along to Barcelona..Shoulda learned!!!

 

My weekend was pretty special. I got to spend a whole lot of time with somebody who seems to know every single thing I know and who enjoyed adding to my stash of knowledge.

 

 

 

Since then I have worried that someday he would retire from helping the team and I sure as hell am not capable of replacing him .

I wonder if anybody is??

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Gouv, that's a great story and I won't try to top it b/c I can't. But I once had my Yamaha 33 hauled out at Carl's and was struggling with a grinder and soft pad to remove the original gelcoat down to the layup b/c of blisters. Carl had lots of ideas to help me shorten the painful experience and we even went to breakfast one morning and shot the bull for an hour which goes to show how polite he could be even to an uninformed, do it yourself jackass making a mess in his boatyard. Anyway, it was Friday evening, the yard was closing up and I was sitting on my ass, beer in hand, absolutely in a fog after a full day of grinding with my arms above my shoulders and Carl comes walking out of his office in a tux. I asked the usual "WTF?" to which he responded "you'll never guess, I'll bet you a million dollars you can't guess where I'm going". In a flash of beer and fatigue induced recollection that I wish I could recreate more often, I remembered some gossip I'd heard years earlier and, without so much as a pause, said "I bet you're going to the La Jolla Symphony to play the oboe". Carl just about shit his pants. In fact, if it were anyone else's pants I'd say he did shit them but anyone who's ever met Carl knows there's no tolerance in "the pants that defy gravity" for additional loading. I really should have yanked his chain about collecting my bet but he was completely at a loss for words and I felt kind of sorry for him.

 

True story about a great guy and a real icon in the sailing world.

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