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Gordon K. Sandy Douglas



Gordon (Sandy) DouglassGordon K. "Sandy" Douglass (October 22, 1904-February 12, 1992) was a racer, designer, and builder of sailing dinghies. Two of his designs, the Thistle and the Flying Scot, are among the most popular one design racing classes in the United States. The Flying Scot was inducted into the American Sailboat Hall of Fame. As a small boat racer, Douglass was five times the North American champion in the 10 Square Meter International Sailing Canoe, five times the United States national champion in the Thistle, and seven times the Flying Scot North American champion.

Douglass was born in 1904, in Newark, New Jersey. His father, George P. Douglass, was a real estate manager who became manager of The Dakota, a famous apartment building in New York City, moving the family there in 1920. George P. Douglass was a champion sailing canoe racer, and Sandy Douglass learned to sail by being on sailboats from his infancy. His family vacationed in the Thousand Islands region of the Saint Lawrence River, eventually buying a small island there.

Douglass went to prep school at Collegiate School in New York City, then to Dartmouth College, graduating in 1926. His athletic pursuits included college gymnastics, canoe paddling, ice boating, and sailing canoe racing. He qualified for the Canadian national canoe paddling team, but was not allowed to go to the 1936 Olympics because he was American. Douglass befriended the famous English boat designer and racer Uffa Fox, who he met through sailing canoe racing.[6]
After false starts at selling Buicks and painting portraits, Douglass took up boat building in 1938. At several shops in Ohio, Douglass built sailing canoes, International 14's, Interlakes, and Stars.

After a wartime job as a lofter for a shipbuilding company, Douglass designed the Thistle in 1945. (These boat names commemorate Douglass’s Scots heritage.) Influenced by Uffa Fox's International 14 design, and built using the innovative molded plywood technique, the Thistle quickly caught on with dinghy racers. It was light, fast, and held to strict one design standards by the Thistle Class Association [1] founded by Douglass.

In 1949, Douglass designed the Highlander, a 20-foot (6.1 m) racing dinghy that is still popular, mainly in the south and midwest. Douglass raced his boats constantly for his own enjoyment and as part of his relentless promotion of his designs and dinghy sailing in general. Douglass's involvement with the Thistle and the Highlander ended in 1956 when he split with Ray McLeod, his business partner.

Douglass then designed the Flying Scot for construction in the then-new technique of glass-reinforced polyester. Larger and more stable than the Thistle, the Flying Scot also became popular. Its wide beam and the prohibition of hiking straps were an effort to make the boat more competitive for smaller-sized people like Douglass and his wife, Mary (1907-2005), who crewed for him for 30 years.

Douglass moved his business to Oakland, Maryland, in 1958. Douglass retired in 1971 and sold the company. The successor company, Flying Scot, Inc., still builds Flying Scots in Oakland. Douglas died in 1992. He and Mary had one son, Alan. Douglass's gregariousness, optimism, and unflagging self confidence is evident throughout his 1986 autobiography, "Sixty Years Behind the Mast:: The Fox on the Water." Among his hobbies was barbershop singing.


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Last modified: Friday, 17 May 2024