Bill Buchan

Three-time Star world champ and gold medalist.

Buchan 2004HallofFame

Francois Richard

“When I was 13, the Star North Americans came to Seattle,” says Bill Buchan (b. 1935). “Bill Ficker shows up, Gerry Driscoll, and there’s Lowell North, 18, winning! Suddenly I have new idols. Forget football and basketball. Now I’m a Star sailor. My dad and I immediately got plans to build one.” Buchan’s father, a Scottish immigrant, started building small cruising sailboats in the late ’30s. By 1948, Bill Sr. had built a cruising “R” boat and was catching the racing bug, but building a competitive Star wasn’t easy. Their first, steered by Bill Jr. with Bill Sr. crewing, “wasn’t even competitive in the local fleet,” says Buchan. With their second, the Buchans qualified for the North Americans, but ended up 30th out of 35. The next year, with a new boat Bill Jr. built himself, they won a race. “I was kind of getting the fever,” he says. So began Buchan’s half-century career racing Star boats. He won the world title three times in three decades and earned a gold medal in Los Angeles in 1984. Ask him and he’ll suggest that he won the U.S. Trials that year because his timing was good-Tom Blackaller and Dennis Conner didn’t race, and the next generation, including Paul Cayard, wasn’t quite ready. Buchan will also tell you he’s nowhere near as talented as the other Hall of Famers in Sailing World’s list. But keep listening and you’ll detect a pattern of continuous improvement that proved unstoppable. At one point Buchan was spending more time building Stars than the houses that normally provided his income. But regardless of the project, he was always thinking how to gain an edge. He was a family man, he says, “but if you ask one of my daughters what I was like as they grew up, they’ll tell you, ‘I don’t know-he was always in the garage messing around with his boats.'” Sometimes Stars weren’t the only focus. In the summer of ’54, the Buchans hitched the Star to the family Oldsmobile and drove to Boston for the North Americans, but then on the return trip dropped the Star in St. Louis anddetoured south to New Orleans for the U.S. Men’s Championship, the Mallory Trophy. After finishing fourth in Lightnings, Buchan qualified again in ’55 and drove this time to race in Detroit, where in Luders 16s he beat two-time champ Eugene Walet III, of New Orleans. Buchan also had a successful campaign in the Soling class, winning the 1975 Worlds. And over the years he’s won his class in the Swiftsure Classic four times. He even steered Intrepid in its third campaign, the 1974 America’s Cup trials. But it’s the Star to which he always comes home, against the suggestion his father made after their first Star Worlds win in 1961. (“That’s about as good as it’s going to get. You might as well quit while you’re ahead.”) He won again in 1970 and 1985. Better still, at the ’84 Olympics, among those he shared the gold-medal podium with was his son Carl, winning crew in the Flying Dutchman. In August 2004, Buchan planned another trip to the Star NAs, held in Winthrop, Mass., 50 years after his first trip to an NAs in Boston. “In some ways I enjoy racing more now,” he says. “I don’t have the pressure to win. And why should I quit Star sailing? I wouldn’t have my friends.”


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