Col. John Williams (1908 - 2006)
I learned from his son that John Williams died yesterday (Tuesday, Dec 26), at age 98. John became a member of the club in 1963, and was commodore in 1968-69. In the early years he owned and raced a classic Sparkman & Stevens Six Meter wooden sloop that he named "Sue" because that was about all that would fit on its small stern. Later he owned and raced a yellow Paceship 23 Bluejacket, also named "Sue".
John had a passion for history, which led him to create the Commodore Macdonough Race. The following text, slightly modified to reflect the current courses, first appeared in the 1972 LCYC Log:
"In 1968 John A. Williams, then Commodore of LCYC, in conjunction with the Lake Champlain Racing Conference, organized a 73.6 nm race to commemorate the victory of an American fleet commanded by Commodore Thomas Macdonough over a British fleet on September 11, 1814 at Plattsburg Bay. The original race course, still used for Classes A & B, consisted of only two marks, the HBN at Point au Roche to the north and Diamond Island to the south. In the late 1970s a shorter course was created for other classes.
In 1971, John Williams conceived a unique trophy to be awarded annually to the winner of this race on corrected time. The trophy consists of a section of the actual rib of the USS Saratoga, Commodore MacdonoughÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s flagship in the battle, and an American 12 pound cannon ball retreived from the lake bed in Plattsburgh Bay. These two most appropriate objects are securely fastened to a modern wooden base resulting in a trophy which combines abstract beauty and historical symbolism appreciated by Lake Champlain Sailors."
John also created the Schuyler Island Race, as described in the text below:
"First run Sept. 7, 1968 as the Schuyler Reef Race, renamed the Schuyler Island Race the following year, it was one of four races created by Commodore John A. Williams (1968-69) in the tradition of the east coast fishing boat races, wherein the fleet sailed from home port out around an island or government mark and back, perhaps with an intervening mark or two. (The other three races were around Appletree Shoal, all Four Brothers Islands, and Juniper Island.) This race became the traditional last race of the year, which it remained until 1974 when the Hot Ruddered Bum Race was created and made the season-ender.
For many years the traditional prizes, awarded in the clubhouse soon after the end of the race, were a bottle of wine for first in each class, a six-pack of beer for second, and a liter of ginger ale for third. It was also a tradition that none of the awards left the clubhouse, having been shared among all racers gathered around the warmth of a cozy fire in the club fireplace."
The 2007 LCYC racing season will mark the 40th consecutive running of each of these races.
John also did the research on the large cast iron anchor in which he determined that it was probably shot off the British flagship "Confiance" in the Battle of Plattsburgh in 1814.
As one of his retirement projects John published a "History of Lake Champlain Yacht Club, 1888 through 1972."
In May of this year John was predeceased by Joyce, his wife of 55 years.
The funeral will be held at the First Congregational Church of Essex Junction. Details will appear in the obituary soon to be published in the Burlington Free Press.