An interview with Don Erickson

By Andrew Kerr

Don Erickson is a long time S20 competitor, supporter, and organizer of a boat, fleet and class that he loves.  He lives in Eugene and is a member of Eugene’s Fleet 19 where he has owned and raced his boat Spy for many years.  He loves the sailing, the camaraDonrie and the fun people – a recipe to stay in a sport for a long time.

Spy has trailed to many events and championships over the years and Don has forged friendships wherever he goes, he has helped run the class championships in Eugene in both 1991 and 1996 and is the chairman of this year’s event in Eugene – to be hosted by Fleet 19 and the Eugene YC on Fern ridge reservoir – July 28th to August 1st.

Don recently bought S20 Hull # 1 and will be sailing it in the championships as well as helping organize the event – no mean feat!

Let’s learn more about one of the class’s favorite people, we are lucky to have him.

Andrew: How long have you been sailing and how did you get involved?

Don: I don’t remember exactly, but about 25 years. My first boat was a partnership in a Venture 21.  I traDond that for a Ranger 29 and sailed it for several years and then I got into another partnership in a S-20.

Andrew: What attracted you to the S20?

DON: Most of my friends sailed 20s and I joined the fleet while I was still sailing the Ranger.

ANDREW: I have known you for about 19 years and you are always having fun on and off the water – what is it about the sport that keeps you so energized?

DON: After I started going to the Class Championship, I became friends with some guys from Texas, California, and Colorado.  Although my sailing wasn’t successful on the water, I realized that the best part was meeting old friends each year at many other locations.  My first experience with away Championship was in Colorado where I had my best finish, but became very good friends with the guys from Texas.  After that, it was a real thrill to drive to the various yacht clubs each year and meet all the guys that I raced against and had a beer with the previous years.  Those are some of my best memories.

ANDREW: Favorite S20 sailing and traveling memories - there must be quite a few!

DON:  Sailing up on the ramp in a driving hail/rain storm, my crew jury-rigging a new main sheet after we blew the traveler the day before, the time we spent at Coronado, Marina Don Ray, the W.D. Schock Memorial Regatta, dismasting at Newport, Or, capsizing and breaking my spin pole at Klamath Falls, (all the local guys making sure I got it fixed so I could sail the next day). You are right, there are way too many memorable experiences to mention them here.

ANDREW: You recently purchased S20 Hull # 1 – tells us about the boat and its history, the fleet can’t wait to see it!

DON:  I had been thinking about it for several years and after I got back from Spain last June, I started to plan for this year’s championships.  And started to try to track down the boat.  I had seen a picture of it sitting in someone’s back yard and started calling and e-mailing people I new in order to find out who owned it.  I must have had 20 or 30 dead ends before I finally got to the person that sold it to the two ladies I bought it from.  At first I didn’t think I would be able to get it, but I guess they wanted a bigger boat and so we made a deal we both were comfortable with.  My son, Jim, said he would get it for me so everything worked out pretty good.

It seemed kind of weird to buy a boat sight unseen, but how bad can a 20 be?  As it turns out it is in great shape, and at this time is getting new bottom paint.  I am anxious to get it in the water and see how it sails.  I am very optimistic that it will compete with al the other 20s if it has a good driver and crew.  At any rate, I feel it is at the right place on the West coast and I can’t think of a better place than Fleet 19.  There is a lot of Fleet excitement.

ANDREW: Tell us about this year’s championships in Eugene - what can a team who is coming to the lake for the first time expect?

DON:  This year I wanted to have an exceptional regatta, so we wanted to get some sponsors to help with the costs, and to keep the entry fee at a reasonable rate. We are fortunate to receive a grant from Lane County in connection with their desire to have events that could increase tourism and show off Lane County and Oregon.  The track and field Olympic Trials are a in Eugene a month before our Championship, which we are calling SantanaRama2008, so if there are sailors who are also track nuts, it is possible to do both events.

We are working on fine-tuning our non-sailing activities but plans call for the Monday evening meal at a Veneta winery and Tuesday we will go downtown for a microbrewery experience (Oregon is famous for both of these). We will be providing buses so everyone can relax, have a good time, and be safe and sound returning to EYC or wherever.  Steak dinner on Wednesday, pig BBQ on Thursday, along with the annual meeting and awards Friday. Each entry will provide the whole crew with T-shirts, all the meals except for breakfast are included. Free beer, of course.

We will have the first Schock 20, new name the One, and the newest Schock 20 on display.  I hope to have a representative of W.D. Schock in attendance to give a talk about the 20.  I am hoping for widespread 20 interest both in our local fleet and other fleets so we can have 40 boats attending.  I have had positive response from Dave Woodruff in South Carolina and Rob Avery from Vancouver, Canada.

This will be the 32nd year of existence of the 20, and since last year was the 32nd America Cup, it’s a no-brainer. I think this a partial list of things, but you get the idea.