Carl Martin Eichenlaub, Jr.
“Winning sailboat races isn’t about boat handling, or tactics – you just need a faster boat.”
Birthplace: San Diego, California
Carl Eichenlaub is best known for the winning boats he built (Lightnings, Snipes, Stars), and for his determination and remarkably innovative way of keeping friends and competitors alike up and running on the water. Working out of a 40-foot container full of tools and supplies, he served as the U.S. team boatwright at six Pan Am and eight Olympic Games. Given the strength of those talents, it would be easy to forget that Carl Eichenlaub was also a formidable sailor, twice winning the Lightning North Americans, finishing second once, and finishing second in the Snipe Nationals.
He built many larger winning boats, most notably Ganbare , a seminal Doug Peterson design that revitalized the One Ton class (1973), and Forte , an innovative IOR fractional rigger by Peterson (1980). “He had confidence in me, he liked my boats, and he built on the cheap,” Peterson says. “He also taught me to loft, and about management. He was a brilliant guy. He built the One Tonner Inflation out of aluminum with a wooden deck in 21 days in time for the SORC. He hated fiberglass.”
Eichenlaub’s own ocean racers were always named Cadenza : “an elaborate ornamental melodic flourish.” Music was always important to him. “Dad played flute and piccolo in San Diego High School because they were easy to carry,” his daughter Betty Sherman says. “Later on, he played bassoon. Mother played French horn. Their date night was going to orchestra rehearsal.” Carl was known to play the bassoon on ocean races “to calm the troops.”
But Eichenlaub’s propensity for solving problems with boats brought him the greatest satisfaction along with wholesale appreciation. “Mr. Fix It” was as low key, as unpretentious as it gets, perhaps the last person in the room you would notice. But if you were a sailor with a perplexing boat problem, the guy at work over there with the slouch hat and the yellow suspenders was who you needed. At the 1976 Olympics, he stopped Finn masts from leaking around the rivets by treating the spars with radiator stop leak. At one Pan Am Games, Eichenlaub heard the Cuban boatwright complain of a broken tooth. The man had the chip, so Carl applied a dab of epoxy and put it back in place. There are so many Carl Eichenlaub stories that his friend and Star sailor Mark Reynolds has opened a website devoted to them.
- Roger Vaughan
Carl Eichenlaub - Snipe Builder