RIP: Pioneering sailmaker Lowell North, 1929-2019
SAN DIEGO (#1240) — Excerpt from the wire story filed today by the AP's esteemed sportswriter Bernie Wilson (USA, San Diego), on the passing of Lowell North (USA), two-time Olympic medalist, four-time Star Class world champion (and five-time runner-up), and the founder of North Sails:
"He affected many people's lives when you think about what he's done in sailing," said Malin Burnham, a San Diego sailor and civic leader who teamed with North to win the 1945 Star World Championship when they were both still teenagers. "You know, in the world today, we're talking about civility. He was the epitome of that. I never saw him upset or arguing. He was always calm, cool and collected. He was a great listener. We don't have to agree in this world but maybe we can learn something if we just listen. Lowell was that kind of person. He was special."
Nicknamed "The Pope" by his peers, North began his sailmaking career at 14 when his father purchased a Star with cotton sails. The father and son team came in last in every race, motivating the younger North to recut the mainsail. After winning the Star worlds as Burnham's crew, North quipped: "It wasn't me Malin wanted. It was my mainsail."
[North] was a member of the inaugural class inducted into the National Sailing Hall of Fame in 2011, along with Ted Turner, Dennis Conner and other America's Cup greats. Conner was the first to use North Sails in the America's Cup when he won it in 1980. In 2007, the 50th anniversary of North Sails, 11 of the 12 syndicates entered in the America's Cup used sails by North.