Olympian and Laser designer, Bruce Kirby, dies aged 92

Journalist, Olympian and Laser designer Bruce Kirby passed away on 18 July, aged 92.

Canada born, Kirby was first a newspaper journalist in Ottowa before specialising in sailing journalism and yacht design.

Kirby was inducted into the National Sailing Hall of Fame in 2012. According to his induction page, after being beaten in a regatta at Cowes in heavy wind, ‘he drew the Kirby Mark I on a piece of shelf paper. He sold 30 of the Mark I.

Untrained, Kirby began designing by observing. “I had a copy of Skene’s Elements of Yacht Design. If you can understand 50 per cent of what’s in that book, you can design a boat. Design isn’t brain surgery. We should always pretend that it is, but it’s really not.”’

In 1964, Bruce moved to Finns and made the Canadian Olympic team. ‘He didn’t quit his day job,’ his inductee page on the USA Hall of Fame reads. ‘By the mid-1960s, he had become editor of One Design Yachtsman (now Sailing World). He jumped into a Star boat in 1968, and again represented Canada in the Olympics.’

Kirby’s most widely recognised contribution to the sport of sailing was his design of the Laser dinghy, which began life as a sketch while he was on the phone. More than 220,000 Lasers have since been built.

His design career includes a raft of other classes such as the Sonar, Kirby 25 and Ideal 18, America’s Cup Twelve Meters; production racer/cruisers including the San Juan 24 and 30, and offshore racing boats such as the Admiral’s Cup 40’ Runaway.

In 2011, aged 82, Kirby sailed in the Sonar European Championships held in Scotland. He won two races.

Bruce is a member of the US National Sailing Hall of Fame, the International Yacht Racing Hall of Fame, the Canadian Sailing Hall of Fame, and the City of Ottawa Sports Hall of Fame.

Lead image courtesy of Bradley E. Clift / For Hearst Connecticut Media. Inset image Bruce Kirby at Kiel Week in 1972, courtesy of Dick Enersen.

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