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RIP Kevin Burnham

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A legend falls.

Kevin Burnham was a truly legendary figure in USA's modest olympic sailing history, a rare superstar amongst mortals...

I had the pleasure of meeting Kevin once in San Francisco at TISC in about 2006, he pulled out his Gold from Athens and let me hold it.

Such a great guy, RIP Kevin.

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A great sailor whose accomplishments on the race course speak for themselves.  Saw him do one of the webinars during covid this year and it was pretty funny to hear I think it was how me met Morgan Reeser the first time in Miami.   A full life for sure, condolences to his family.


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My most amazing day, of sailing involved Kevin.

Sailing a Lightening with Jim Pinion driving, me center, Kevin bow. It was Dec, with the NE wind honking through Bear Cut. The weather mark was up near cut. We rounded the mark and raised the cute. Off on a screaming reach. Jim said he couldn't feel the rudder, looked back, it had snapped off at the waterline, gone. Somehow, we got the cute down and jib up. With Kevin instructing us where to sit and adjusting the sails, we sailed back to CGSC and parked at the dock, just like we had a rudder.

Well never forget that day!!


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27 Nov 2020

Kevin Burnham 1956-2020. 

Our sport has lost a legend.


No single person better embodies the very best qualities of our 470 family than Kevin Burnham. Friend, father, teammate, coach, and Olympic Champion.

Kevin left us early Friday morning, November 27th, here in his beloved Miami.

It is an impossible task to describe Kevin to someone who has never met him. For those of us whose lives were touched by Kev, we now miss our friend, our buddy. We cry. We remember. And yet, we also joyfully smile knowing that Kevin lived the fullest of lives — easily three times what any of us could ever wish for, probably more.

Kevin’s 470 career spanned decades. From the 1970s to coaching in recent years. Successes upon successes. He truly loved the boat. It defined Kevin as much as Kevin defined the 470. Partners like Steve Benjamin, Larry Suter, Morgan Reeser, and Paul Foerster all grew with Kevin on the wire. Barefoot; that old blue harness; talking about flying the spinnaker like one would describe music or a piece of art - that was Kevin.

It was January 1976 when a young Burnham first stepped foot in a 470. Kevin met a kid from New York who was sleeping in his car, having just driven to Miami. That kid was Steve Benjamin and he needed a crew. 

His 1992 silver medal came down to the last race. Kevin had a gut feeling, Morgan followed. These two best-of-friends had done it. To this day, they epitomize the very meaning of partnership between a 470 helm and crew, on the water and off. The team “Morgan and Kevin” is talked about as much in today’s boatparks as it was thirty years ago.

At the 2004 Olympics, Kevin and Paul showed the 470 fleet and the World just how crafty and wise the ‘old men’ were. On that final morning of racing, Kevin glided into the boatpark, passed screening, walked by the containers, and headed to his boat. Armed with his signature smile, Kev announced “It’s a beautiful day to win a gold medal!!”

Sure enough, he did just that.

Kevin represented all of us. His laugh would brighten any grim mood. His stories would engage a room full of people. He reminded us to be thankful for the gifts we have. He showed us passion for the wind and water. Most of all, his hugs were long and his friendships meaningful.

Kevin will be missed. We all have become spoiled with his ever-present energy — the type of energy that made each of us feel special and loved. That was Kevin’s gift to us all: the energy of friendship and connection.

Thank you, Kevin. We love you, Tiger.



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Jumping into this thread late but Kevin was an absolute inspiration for so many. He was my coach and mentor for 4+ years and I owe all my success to him and how he treated us on and off the water. He was always there for us and taught so many great life lessons along with the knowledge of sailing. His stories were priceless and the greatest moments were just sitting after racing chatting with him for hours. The sailing world truly lost a legend with the passing of Kevo and I know he is going to be missed in many different classes of the sport. RIP tiger. 


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