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It’s been a few months now and I still have a hard time believing Mark is gone. Over the years we spent a lot of time together, working through the details of how to help Courageous grow, get better, and serve more kids. Not having him here to lean on and brainstorm with is a big, tough change. When I’m stuck on something, I still catch myself pulling out my phone to call or text him.
I was grateful to Mark’s wife, Marty, that she invited me to talk a little about Mark’s love for Courageous at a celebration of Mark’s life, at the Shalin Liu Center in Rockport. For anyone who wasn’t able to be there, copied below is a slightly condensed version of what I shared.
I’m hopeful that this page will serve as a place for those of us who knew and loved Mark, sailed with or against him on the racecourse, or were in any way inspired or moved by him, to swap stories and pictures, reminisce a little and have a place to return on those days when we find ourselves missing his smiles and hugs, his conversation and companionship, his generous and caring support, and, indeed, his fast sailing. We’re also going to be planning a date soon to get Mark’s extended Courageous family together in person over the winter, likely after frostbiting one Saturday, to celebrate Mark’s life and and impact. Stay tuned for more…
Courageous Executive Director
I met Mark back in 2008, when he began sailing in the Frostbiting fleet at Courageous Sailing, where I was running races and am now the Executive Director. From my perch on the race committee boat, what set Mark apart wasn’t so much his uncanny ability to find speed and clear lanes where others couldn’t and stay in front of the fleet most of the time – as impressive as that was. What really stood out to me was the way he was always looking for what he could do better, the way he was always trying to troubleshoot, and especially the way he always celebrated others’ accomplishments and approached every moment like a learning opportunity.
As I got to know Mark, this was the stuff of many of our early conversations, where we first connected as friends, and first connected around the mission of Courageous. Mark liked to say that when he first began racing at Courageous he had no idea that the fleet he sailed mostly far out in front of had a greater purpose – to support programs for economically disadvantaged Boston-area kids. Once he realized this, Mark jumped right in as an advocate, supporter, and then Board member and president.
Looking back on my 13 years with Courageous, there aren’t too many of our biggest moments or decisions that Mark wasn’t an integral part of in some way. He helped us make the right decisions about boats, obviously his wheelhouse. But he was way more interested in helping us come together around a shared vision, and think through our model of what Courageous should be doing, for who, and how.
As a lead author of our strategic plan, Mark championed the goal of redoubling our support for high-need students, while still delivering programs of the highest quality, investing properly in our fleet and our staff, and finding a sustainable way to pay for it all.
But he wasn’t just about the big vision. He was at heart, of course, a designer and a builder, fascinated by the details and component parts, always willing to do a deep dive to understand and problem solve. I always felt Mark got it. He understood what we do at Courageous and why, and understood just how much effort goes into making it all happen. When times were tough or decisions hard, a big hug and smile of approval and appreciation from Mark provided reassurance and motivation like nothing else.
Mark had been planning to ask many of you to come visit the pier with him, meet our kids, see Courageous in action, and consider getting involved. He wanted to show you what he found so compelling: how Courageous uses sailing as a platform to help children develop the skills that they need to succeed in school and life.
We say at Courageous that the boat is the classroom and that it provides a lifetime of learning for our kids. I think that resonated so strongly with Mark because he lived it and embodied it himself. He was truly a lifelong learner, forever a student looking for a teacher. He was uniquely open to learning from the smallest of experiences and the most unlikely of teachers, especially when he could combine it with “messing about in boats.” And he was always willing to not be the smartest guy in the room – even though he often was – and was thrilled when someone else had the great idea or better approach. He loved to talk to me about how in awe he was of this or that young person – for their amazing attitude, their ability to make people laugh and feel comfortable, their craftsmanship, whatever it was. He treasured their strengths and allowed them their struggles.
I had the good fortune of spending a couple of hours with Mark the day before he died. He was full of life and energy, full of ideas for things we were going to do over the next couple of weeks and the next couple of months. He was hatching plans to rejoin our frostbite fleet this winter. He was sharing stories about his awe and appreciation and gratitude for people in this room. On my way out I told him he was the best and that I just couldn’t imagine having made it as far as we have at Courageous without him, and he came over and gave me one of his great big hugs and an enormous smile. I am beyond grateful for this last memory of Mark. It is clear how he’d want me to honor him right now: keep going, pay it forward, pass that hug along, tell the Courageous story and do what I can to bring the Courageous model to more Boston kids.
I want to thank Marty, Ian, and the rest of Mark’s family, for generously sharing so much of Mark’s time with us. And I’d like to thank all of Mark’s friends for being the community that he never stopped learning from, that he remained grateful and in awe of, was sustained by, and that made him the person that he was. And, finally, thank you, Mark, for being one of my life’s greatest role models, mentors, and inspirations.
I miss Mark so much, especially since Frostbiting has started. My favorite memory of Mark starts with him cutting my boat off at the windward mark–not quite breaking a rule (debatably), but coming mighty close. I didn’t protest, but I did give him my best judgemental, quizzical, stern “teacher face.” Over beer, he thanked me for doing it. He told me that he was working on putting sportsmanship over cutthroat competition, and he asked me to make faces at him anytime I thought he might be contemplating anything ethically iffy on the racecourse. From then on, calling “Don’t make me make the teacher face!” across the water was enough to make Mark tack away (or whatever) immediately, and it was our standing joke.
Mark was one of the most motivated, enthusiastic, kind people I’ve ever known, and the way that he was always working on learning new things and becoming a better person was truly an inspiration. In my mind, he’ll always be beaming across the water.
It seems fitting to include Mark’s own words in this tribute. He was so generous to his fellow racers, always sharing advice, insights, and credit. A few years ago, we asked him to write a recap of a day of Frostbiting (which, not surprisingly, he and Jim had won hands-down). Here is what Mark had to say:
“Joe Duplin, Star world champion and my sailing mentor of 45 years ago had one basic piece of tactical advice, “point your bow at the mark!” It was very shifty on Saturday and sailing on the lifted tack upwind and the headed jibe downwind was critical. With oscillations of as much as 20 degrees, you needed to know if you were lifted or headed by referencing the boat’s direction to the orientation of the harbor. It was also critical to set yourself up in a lane to maintain clear air both up wind and downwind.
Good starts are essential to good finishes. We liked starting middle right so that we could tack when we wanted to. We got a line sight from the committee boat across the pin end to the Boston shore so that we could be up to the line but not over, and we used it every time. We tried hard to be going as fast or faster than the boats around us from 20 seconds before the start and to never fall behind the boats above us.
Our setup before the start in full hiking breeze is to pull the main halyard quite hard to keep the draft at least up to the middle of the sail, pull the jib halyard to take all the wrinkles out, and pull the backstay fairly snug to put a little bend in the mast and feather the top of the main. The jib leads were mid track and the traveler was centered all day. We sheeted the jib and main quite hard and steered the boat to maintain a reasonably low angle of heel between 10 and 15 degrees. Trimmed like that, the boat was very balanced, easy to control and accelerated quickly. We sailed the telltales hard when we were slow, and light when we were fast. We responded quickly to lifts, and slowly to headers to maximize our gains to weather. We were typically higher and faster than the other boats around us upwind.
There was more consistent wind in the middle of the harbor and more port tack than starboard, making it important to go on port tack whenever it was lifted. There was outgoing current and we always erred on the side of overstanding the weather mark by at least 5 degrees. Whenever we reached in over boats pinching below us, we always gained, especially over people who went on port, fouled and did circles.
Downwind we always looked back for clear lanes and to see which side was going to bring the new wind. This was especially important for choosing which leeward mark to round to get to the new wind first. At the finish the pin was frequently favored by a starboard jibe header. We went from third to first in one race by simply reaching directly to the pin while the lead boats jibed down towards the committee boat.
Setting the boat up so everything is under control and it’s easy to sail, wearing warm, dry and comfortable clothing, and then most importantly of all, having an awesome crew like Jim Watson, makes sailing even more fun. As Joe Duplin said, “Babe, you gotta just go out there and love it!”
Mark – Thank you for your speed tips! You were a modest and amazing sailor. I enjoyed racing against you. You will be missed!
I crewed for Mark at Courageous, during both the summer and winter. I learned SO much about sailing and racing from him. After long days of racing, while sailing back to the dock, he would still be experimenting with ways to improve boat speed – even though he had just won the day. His passion for sailing was unparalleled, and I feel privileged to have sailed with him.
Mark was amazing on so many levels. A great competitor, friend, leader and just all around great guy. He was the heart and soul of everything he did. To be out doing midwinter racing in his 70s is something everyone should aspire too.
Please join me in remembering Mark’s legacy for Courageous–an organization he cared deeply about and did so much for.
Mark was an amazing individual and visionary who touched so many lives in so many ways including those he served and served with on the Board of Courageous Sailing. I had the pleasure of serving under Mark as Vice President during Mark’s Board Presidency and I could have not asked for a more passionate and caring mentor. Mark is missed very much by all at Courageous Sailing but his legacy will continue to guide the organization especially in the children he so passionately served through his leadership.
As a new Courageous board member in 2018, I only knew a handful of people at my first board meeting. When the meeting was over, Mark introduced himself, and then welcomed me with warmth and kindness. In every subsequent conversation at an event or meeting, with the beaming smile always present, he was able to convey his genuine exuberance and enthusiasm for the Courageous mission so that you couldn’t help but share in it.
I haven’t the deep personal knowledge of Mark that Dave, Jen and others have shared but I believe that sometimes peoples lives intersect in momentary ways that fill the heart as no other moment can. I worked on the pier in Charlestown upon which MJM yachts, Marks’ Boston Boat Works company product, accomplished their production.. I had spent a number of years researching what I would want in a racer/cruiser and decided upon and bought an Alerion Express 38. A good part of that decision was based on the fact that Carl Schumacher was the designer. One day, only a couple of years ago, I looked out the door of my workplace on the pier to see a most beautiful 20 something foot long, wooden daysailor being trailered past. It was both so beautiful and modern, fast, looking, I had to go outside to view it. After discussing it with the owner, who was most generous with his time and appreciation for the boat, it finally dawned on me that it was Mark Lindsay I was talking to and that this was his Carl Schumacher designed personal, favorite, daysailor.. If you read the current Points East magazine, they have an honorable obituary for Mark which mentions that his Boston Boat Works company “…launched the boat that won the Bermuda Race in 1992 with Mark and designer Carl Schumacher among those on board.”
The moment still resonates with me because I feel the spirit of both men in everything I do on the water and I often wonder how they debate which is the favored side in heaven.
I will always remember Mark’s welcoming and warm smile, just as framed above. I first met Mark at Courageous meetings and only later learned about his sailing skill and fame as a boat builder. Who knew! Whether he was holding up a trophy or engaging a 10-year-old Courageous Sailor, he seemed always to have time and patience for anyone.
Mark will surely be missed by all who knew him – for his generous personality, expertise on the water and long-term support of Courageous Sailing.
I had the pleasure of spending countless mornings with Mark at BBW as we worked on the strategic plan for Courageous’ future. I was struck by the genuine thoughtfulness that went into each word as we discussed our Mission, Vision and Values. Mark’s reverence for these statements and their impact on the Courageous Community will stay with me for many years to come. He truly believed in the power of Courageous to transform the lives of our students. I feel very lucky to have worked alongside him in crafting the future of Courageous Sailing.
Mark was one of the most unselfish, caring people you could ever meet. He was a truly gifted sailor who would go out of his way to help everyone including his most direct competitors. Over the years, I learned so much from Mark both on and off the water. He took a special, most enthusiastic interest helping Boston’s inner-city kids develop sailing and life skills by devoting his time, energy and resources into the Courageous Sailing Center. Mark will be missed by so many.
May he ever make the angels smile as he kicks their ass on the race course above.
His talent on the water, as impressive as it was, was eclipsed by his passion and kind heart that he shared with his competitors both on and off the water.
I’ll always remember his energetic greetings as our paths crossed while rigging the boats. Our pre race strategy talks and our post race review sessions while waiting for the next horn to sound.
Most importantly for me was the continuous unspoken connection on the water where we would constantly be checking in to try to pass eachother. If you were anywhere near Mr. Lindsey you were doing something right.
I’ll miss you bud. You were special.
Mark had an amazing talent for being truly genuine at all times. I always felt better for being in his presence…. largely because he was so generous with his praise – even when I didn’t think any was deserving.
His default mode was enthusiastic, though he could be contemplative when thought was needed, supportive when problems were complex, and patient when no words were needed. He had unwavering support for Courageous and even saw his involvement as a gift to himself instead of others. He is missed now, and will be even as his memory lives on in his life’s work and the impact he has had on so many people.
Back in the 80’s I was putting together 210’s and spending a lot of time at Lindsay Boat Works for parts and support. One summer a bright red old IOR two tonner appeared at the shop, I recall Mark saying it was a customer’s boat from France and he had full use of it. Soon after Mark asked me if I could join him racing it at Edgartown Race Week and who could refuse a chance to sail with Mark Lindsay. Best I could do was drive down and ferry over the night before the race , no chance for any practice but that was highly over rated for competent sailors. This was a low budget campaign, so we all stayed on the boat and that first night I realized that everything on the boat was labeled in French, which most of us didn’t speak. Next morning motoring to the start barely gave us a chance to organize crew assignments and pull out sails, but we were in a nice red boat and confident.
Mark nailed the start and we did well playing right-hand shift and soon realized we were going to be first to the weather mark. Now it was time to think about getting a spinnaker up for the next leg. We went below and hauled up a bag that felt about right , clipped it on deck, and dug inside and found 3 corners that were all labeled ……. In French. By now we were at the weather mark, and Mark was getting anxious so we attached the sheets and guys, clipped on the halyard, raised the pole, and I ran to mast to jump the halyard. Back in the 80” s Edgartown Race Week was a major east coast regatta that always drew a large fleet of hot racing boats, and a larger fleet of spectator and press boats and they were all waiting at the weather mark . Mark bore off at the pin with a slight lead and I gave my all to the spin halyard. I was looking up to be sure I had a full hoist and had that “ oh shit” moment. Mark had both hands on the wheel but his head was turned looking perplexed at the back of the boat where the head of this narrow reaching spinnaker was dangling, not the clue. I can’t remember exactly what was said , just that there was no sense of panic, just “ can you please fix that?” . Which we quickly did and went on to win that race. Unfortunately our folly was well documented being the first boat in the first race , and rather photogenic as a bright red boat with a sideways spinnaker.
That regatta was filled with great memories, both on the water and on shore. Mark has an intensity on the racecourse that has won the respect of all who raced with and against him, but I found he can also have a similar intensity in the post-race parting enjoyed by us all. One foggy night in that Edgartown regatta I was too late at the bars and missed the launch back to our boat. The only way back for my mate and I was to “borrow “ a tender at the yacht club. After half hour of rowing around in the fog looking for a bright red sailboat, we came across another pair of lost souls. There was Mark and Dave Sartwell also in a “borrowed” dinghy fumbling in through the mooring field. The fog lifted next morning to see us sheepishly towing 2 tenders back to the yacht club.
Later that year Yacht Racing and Cruising, now Sailing World, had an issue that featured the 10 most embarrassing moments in yacht racing and there was a picture Mark, looking perplexed at a sideways spinnaker while at the wheel of a bright red sailboat.
Mark will be missed, but also fondly remembered by those who had the honor of knowing him.
And especially missed by the lucky ones who had the pleasure of sailing with him.
My wife and I and one of our boys were in Boston to support another son running the marathon in 2014. We are a sailing family from Erie Pennsylvania. We stumbled upon an open sail and food on the pier. We walked over to see what it was about and were quickly welcomed to eat and sail. This very distinguished looking fellow had just arrived and took us to a boat and away we went. Despite the fact that we were from out of town he gave us a tour of the harbor with my son at the helm. He told us a lot about himself and his humble beginnings, smiling the whole time. It is a memory that we will never forget. I know it made a strong imprint on my son, the kind of lesson in hospitality in the most unlikely of circumstances.
Sorry to read of Mark’s passing, I am sure he is still smiling.
I first met Mark in the late 1970’s. I was racing Tornado’s in Mass Bay and he had his boat shop in Gloucester. He first got involved in Tornado’s when he made some blades (rudders and centerboards). I purchased a set and they seemed to be fast. Then in the early 80’s I started racing Marblehead Frostbite where he was a regular and where I got to know him socially. We used to go out to eat after racing and he was always the life of the party. Eventually, he built some of the first honeycomb ply boats, including a few Tornado’s. In the mid 1980’s I purchased one of his boats secondhand. Racing that year at CORK, the boat cracked at the main cross-beam. When I took it to Mark, he realized that there had been a construction error and he did the major repair for free! Finely for many years, the Tornado fleet ran a regional regatta out of Squantum Yacht Club and Mark ran the race committee for us.
I miss Mark.
I consider it my good fortune to race against Mark on a weekly basis for many years. Mark was a gifted racer and set a high bar in any race he took part in. Watching Mark on the course and talking with him about racing was always an opportunity to improve your game. I always looked forward to his big smile and animated gestures while discussing the finer points of the endless topics related to how to get a sailboat to go fast. I enjoyed his company and was a far better sailor for it.
A lot of life happens between race days. Mixed in with the hundreds of sailing conversations I had several long, deep, thoughtful, and memorable conversations with Mark on important topics completely unrelated to sailing. His intelligence, insight, and optimism were always in view and always well received.