The President & Executive Director of the Herreshoff Marine Museum & America’s Cup Hall of Fame in Bristol, Rhode Island, Bill Lynn is a passionate lifelong sailor…and he really likes to win races.

“I grew up in Rye, New York in the American Yacht Club junior sailing program in the old-school progression of Dyer Dhow, Blue Jay and Fireball (whose idea was that?),” says Bill, who resides in Marblehead, Massachusetts. “I don’t remember the Dyer bit too clearly, but it must not have been all bad because I got bitten by the racing bug, and I thought racing Blue Jays was awesome!”

“My parents used to tell a story about taking me out in their Star when I was a toddler, and they would put me in a laundry basket and slide it under the after deck so I couldn’t climb out. Not sure whether it’s really true, but DSS might have something to say about it today.”

“As Star sailors and early Etchells adopters, my folks were very good friends with Skip and Mary Etchells, and my dad was convinced that I needed an Etchells Blue Jay. I think Skip only made ten of them, and we found one in a garage in Milford, Connecticut. It cost $500, and Mike Duncan made some sweet sails for it. The boat was fast as hell, though it did require more sanding, painting and varnishing than I was really up for. Unless it was windy. Then I found all sorts of reasons to work on it!”

“My parents were both really good sailors who always tried to play the game the right way – an approach I’d like to think they passed on to me (cue the hate mail). There were piles of people in the sport that I worshipped and wanted to grow up to be, and I was really fortunate to have people who were willing to take me sailing on their big boats, lend me their little boats, or let me call tactics for them. Dave Dellenbaugh was one of those guys, and he jump-started my somewhat successful match-racing career when he asked me to be his tactician.”

As a member of Tufts University Sailing Team, Bill earned Collegiate All-American honors in 1983 and ’84. “My dad and Coach Joe Duplin were good friends, and I feel like I was destined to sail for Tufts from an early age. Joe recruited me and helped convince the admissions office that I should be a Jumbo despite a somewhat dodgy high school record, and I showed up the following September to find out that Joe had retired and Ken Legler was the new coach. The team was pretty deep, and duking it out with Maurice Kurg, Betsy Allison, Stew Neff, Franny Charles, Andrew Menkart, Pede Dickey and Nevin Sayre could be pretty humbling at times. No one ever gave an inch, and winning a regatta was often easier than winning those Thursday practices. The Jumbos under Ken continued the winning culture that Joe had established, and not only did Ken and I begin a friendship that’s lasted over forty-one years, but many of my teammates and competitors from those years continue to be among my favorite people today.”

“My dad bought Etchells #16 when it was new, and I’ve been involved with the class for over fifty years. I’ve owned a few of them and sailed on some I didn’t own. We won the Corinthian Worlds before there was a trophy for that, and I won the North Americans sailing with Bruce Golison. It’s an amazing design that’s really stood the test of time, and there is a bunch of people that have been in the class for decades. Not the most comfy thing to hike on, but there are few things more fun than sailing an Etchells upwind.”

“My sailing career has been so multifaceted because I’ve able to find success in a really broad variety of boats and formats. Team racing, match racing, fleet racing, frostbiting Interclubs at Larchmont and Lasers at Eastern, driving and calling tactics on grand prix race boats like Interlodge, Blue Yankee and Idler, and towing Etchells, Sonars and J/70s all over the country has turned me into a bit of a jack-of-all-trades. I’ve had the opportunity to sail with some of the best sailors on the planet, but my favorite thing these days is sailing with my kids in team racing and J/70 regattas. They’re really freaking talented, and thankfully they haven’t gotten sick of sailing with Dad (yet).”

“I’ve done a bit of offshore sailing, and everyone always has a few good stories about racing to Bermuda or in and out of Long Island Sound. The one that stands out to me, though, was a Chicago-Mac Race I did one year on Idler. It was dusk, and we had just cleared Gray’s Reef Passage and hung a right for the twenty-ish-mile home stretch when we were swarmed by mayflies – and I mean swarmed. I never really understood what that word meant until that evening. They were two or three layers thick on every surface including the hull, the deck, the sails…everything, including us.”

“Fortunately mayflies don’t bite, but they’re pretty big and they kept trying to crawl up my nose and into my ears. I put on boots, bibs, spray top and hat, and cinched all the openings tight so they couldn’t get into my clothes. At that point it was mildly tolerable, though the urge to jump overboard was constant. We crawled those last miles in a light westerly and finished around dawn. We’d rolled and unrolled the staysail so many times that it was absolutely infused with dead bugs. It went into the dumpster at Mackinac.”

“My long-suffering partner Sarah was home with our three really young kids, and when I called her and told her about the all-night horror movie I’d just experienced in real life, she admitted that when the kids were acting like a-holes, she’d wish something bad would happen to me, and that she was probably responsible for the situation. I still have moments of PTSD from it, and if I feel a bug in my hair I have to take very deep breaths.”

“I was a proud member of American Yacht Club for close to fifty years (my parents joined when I was six). Now I call Eastern in Marblehead home, but I’ve also been a member of New York YC for the past thirty-five-ish years, and I consider myself incredibly fortunate to be a part of two clubs with such amazing histories, especially given my current job. At Eastern, we’ve worked hard on building the club’s reputation both nationally and internationally, and I think we’re one of very few teams to have won the Wilson Trophy and the Morgan Cup, and posted strong finishes in the Resolute Cup and the Rolex NYYC Invitational Cup – all within the past eighteen months. All of that said, I am a huge fan of smaller, more volunteer-driven sailing organizations, and many of the most fun events I’ve sailed in have been at those kinds of places.”

“I own a bunch of very small and old boats. Our fleet includes a Laser, a Vanguard 15 and a 1972 17-foot Boston Whaler, which I think is technically a classic yacht! The Laser and the Whaler get used quite a bit, but unfortunately, the V15 gets rigged up with lights on our front lawn for the holidays/whole winter (it’s a Marblehead landmark now), and spends the summers upside down on the trailer. Hopefully that changes at some point, because the V15 is a really great boat, and there are a ton of them gathering dust and looking for new owners. It’s the perfect team racing dinghy.”

“My wife/crew Sarah learned to sail in an Interclub Dinghy – in January! – when we first met. She became an incredible dinghy crew, and we won a bunch of races together. Of my three kids, one was smart and the other two became sailors. They spent their early days at Pleon Yacht Club, and later they both went to Boston College. Hannah was an All-American crew, and Peter was a two-time College Match Racing National Champion. I’m amazed they’re still willing to get in a boat with me, but we have a ton of fun sailing together and I hope I can get a few more years of that before they put me out to pasture.”

“I convinced a group of passionate Herreshoff board members to hire a guy that had zero experience in the worlds of museums and non-profits. I’m not sure what possessed them to think that I was their guy, but I do have a very strong vision for what the Herreshoff Museum can be, and as a marketing professional I have some level of skill at articulating it and bringing it to life.”

“The Herreshoff Museum is a museum about innovation, entrepreneurship, and creative problem solving – traits that the Herreshoff brothers demonstrated through almost sixty years of boat design and construction including the first torpedo boats for the US Navy, everyone’s favorite the H12, and a forty-year domination of the America’s Cup. HMCo. (Herreshoff Manufacturing Company) was Rhode Island’s first Blue Tech company, and we are working hard to develop our campus into one of Rhode Island’s first ‘blue innovation’ centers. At the Herreshoff Museum, our goal is to make sailing more accessible to a broader audience, and our sailing program – focused on serving the East Bay community – is very diverse and super fun.”

The best thing about sailing, says Bill, is winning. “Sorry, I should say ‘the feeling of freedom and the wind in your hair,’” he quips, “and I love everything that sailing brings to the broad cross-section of people that do it, but at the end of the day I really like to win races. Maybe I’ll grow up some day.” ■

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