Eight Bells: Dick Tillman

Richard L. Tillman
November 27, 1936 – October 14, 2020

The sailing world has lost a true champion. Dick Tillman died at his home in Syracuse, IN, after a courageous battle with bladder cancer.

Dick’s last Sunfish event was the U.S. Masters Championship held on Lake Wawasee in Syracuse, IN, September 11-13, 2020. He was registered to sail but wasn’t feeling well enough to race. He still hosted many out-of-towners at his lakeside home, however, and enjoyed watching the competition from his motor boat with daughter Laurie while they chatted with the current ISCA President, Rich Chapman, between races.

Dick served as our International Sunfish Class Association (ISCA) President from 2002-2006 and was later named a Lifetime Member for his years of dedication to the Sunfish Class. Dick was also a US Sailing member for more than 30 years and its Director for three years (1999-2002), chairman of the Single-Handed Championship Committee for seven years, commodore of the Snipe Class International Racing Association (1971), sailing representative to USOC Athletes Advisory Council (1976-1980), Executive Director of the International J/24 Class Association (1981-1991), and president of the US Windsurfing Association.

A vintage photo shared by Fred Schroth of the Austin Yacht Club depicts Dick showing up at a regatta with four Lasers attached to his station wagon. Dick was always a man on a mission, especially when helping others, and didn’t let any obstacles stand in his way.

Beyond Dick’s administrative accomplishments, there are so many accolades to note:

1957 – National Intercollegiate Sailing Champion with the U.S. Naval Academy
1958 – ICSA Hall of Fame for Competitive Achievement after graduation
1959 – U.S. National Champion in Snipe
1959 – Won bronze medal at the Pan American Games in Snipe
1965 – U.S. National Champion in Finn
1965 – US Sailor of the Year (Rolex Yachtsman)
1976 – U.S. Sailing Team alternate at the Summer Olympics
1981 & 1982 – North American Laser Masters Champion
1995, 1996, 1998, 2002 – Sunfish U.S. Masters Champion
1998 – Silver medalist at the Nike Worlds Masters in Windsurfing
1998 – Bronze medalist at the Nike Worlds Masters in Laser
2005 – Wrote The Complete Book of Laser Sailing which was published by McGraw Hill

To say Dick was truly one of the most accomplished people we knew, we also have to add that he was, indeed, one of the nicest people ever to have as a friend. Dick was a gentleman in the truest sense of the word and was a wonderful family man to his three daughters Laurie, Libbie, Susan and their families. We’ve never forgotten Dick’s late wife, Linda, who died in 2017. Now we will never forget Dick Tillman, a one-of-a-kind sailing legend, who has touched our lives in the best ways possible. A true champion who will be greatly missed.

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