Recently, the SailTime GTA base hosted a Sail with a Legend event featuring Don Green at Bronte Outer Harbour Marina. Don Green who has been a member of SailTime GTA for 6 years, shared a few of his many unique sailing experiences before setting sail with participants.
Not unlike other success stories, Don started young. He was sailing with his parents as a small child on their 42’ schooner and had his own Snipe at age 12. With his father’s encouragement, Don was selected at 17 years of age to be one of only 22 (out of 5000 applicants) to sail around the world with the famous explorer Irving Johnson on the brigantine Yankee. With a compass as the only instrument to sail through all kinds of weather – not just squalls, but also a hurricane, a typhoon and a cyclone – the voyage was more than an adventure; it was hard work and fantastic training. On his return, Don wrote a book, White Wings around the World, to fund his engineering studies.
With the arrival of family life, pleasure sailing was the focus until his children, in junior sailing school, became anxious to get Don racing. Their C&C 35 cruiser evolved into a racer and eventual thoughts of challenging the 1978 Canada’s Cup led to construction of Evergreen, a custom built C&C 41. As Don recalled, the design was a “one of a kind outright racing machine, we took advantage of every rule we could possibly break””. Its radical approach attracted some of the best America’s Cup sailors – such as Lowell North and Rod Davis – to come and work on Evergreen. Most of Evergreen’s practise racing was done out of Bronte, with local sailors trained by professionals.
Don Green’s “Evergreen”
After successfully bringing the Canada’s Cup back to Canada – long awaited at the time – Don and his Evergreen crew were invited to represent Canada at the prestigious Admiral’s Cup in England. Evergreen competed in a series of qualifying races before embarking on the long distance Fastnet race, a 700 mile race from Cowes out into the north Atlantic around Fastnet rock in Ireland and back.
That was when disaster struck for the 300+ fleet in the form of an unpredicted and very fierce storm. Weather forecasts were poor and communication was terrible. In the end, 17 lives and 30 boats were lost. Don credits his crew’s preparedness for their fortunate survival, “Be prepared. Always in sailing, be prepared. Never doubt anything, check check check and be prepared”. With 90′ breaking waves, it was a terrifying experience where every wave brought with it the fear that it was the one that would be your last. Others that survived did so by fighting the instinct to abandon ship, one of many lessons learned from the 1979 Fastnet race.
While some of the surviving racers never went back to sea, Don continued to sail and even continued racing with a pursuit for 1987 America’s Cup that ended due to extreme expenses. Today his love of sailing is shared with SailTime GTA at their Bronte location: “Everything is looked after for you, we have a lot of fun and we have a lot of laughs. Now I have been sailing since I was 5 years of age and I still look forward to everyday I go out because it is a brand new experience. It is a nice mixture of new people learning to sail and people who have been around the bend and got some great stories; we just have a few laughs and a good time.”