Eckart Wagner, at the young age of 64, died of a stroke last week while sleeping in his house in Germany.
Eckart was one of those larger than life characters, adding excitement and interest to anything and everything he became involved with. At the age of 26, Eckart while sailing a 5.5 for Germany in the Olympics, met Lowell North. Even though Eckart had just earned his law degree, he flew to San Diego after the Olympics and convinced Lowell that he should start Norths first loft in Europe, in between buying a Star boat in which he enjoyed many victories. Eckart, in classic fashion, got Lowell to agree to an exclusive. After creating the biggest loft in the North system, Eckart began to recruit other champion sailors to join him. Andre Nelis, who joined in 1973, was the first of many.
In 1981, Eckart, claiming he was bored, convinced Lowell and the other North managers to let him start a Windsurfing company. Working out of his loft, he soon required more room and correctly figured that he needed a low cost but high quality place to build the thousands of sails the sailors were demanding. So he moved to Sri Lanka and started North Sails Surf.
When North was sold to Terry Kohler in 1984, Terry asked Eckart to be president, which he did with his usual great enthusiasm and energy. But since his wind surf business was booming and his plant was employing over 600 people, he had to return to be being president of North Surf. Soon after, he served for awhile on the North board and set up Norths other Sri Lankan business near the surf plant. It successfully operates today with 280 people making sails, sail bags, and an array of sailmaking parts.
Eckart retired from North and sail making in the early nineties, spreading his time between houses in Germany near his favorite Lake Starnberg, Whistler, British Columbia and Columbo, Sri Lanka. As a champion sailor, he continued to race his Star boat, race vintage cars, and coach his daughter Kristins Olympic campaign in the Yngling. Most fitting, his last regatta was a victory, with his brother Norbert, in the Gold Cup on Lake Starnberg.
He wrote in his last letter to friends and family…”You see I’m busy,
sometimes too busy but I enjoy it”.
He lived life to the max until the end, an end that came all too quickly.