Hall of Fame Hat Trick for Sailors Glen Dexter, Andreas Josenhans and Sandy MacMillan
Legendary sailors Glen Dexter, Andreas Josenhans and Sandy MacMillan have made the trip from Halifax to Kingston, Ontario more times than they remember.
Kingston is of particular importance to the Nova Scotia sailing crew. It was there that they qualified as the site and host of the 1976 Montreal Olympic Games sailing competition. Kingston is also home to the Kingston Canadian Olympic Training Regatta (CORK). This event was important because it helped prepare Nova Scotians who won the world sole championships in 1977 and 1980. They finished second in 1978.
Last week, Josenhans and MacMillan, along with their wives, traveled nearly 1,600 kilometers to Kingston to be inducted into the Sail Canada Hall of Fame. However, this trip was made without Dexter, who had a scheduling conflict, and the trailer that was carrying their 26-foot-sole Delusions (open keelboat).
“For me, the drive from Halifax to Kingston is enough for him to sink,” said Josenhans, 71. “All the memories came back to me. I would go through a community and I would say that’s what happened here or damn it happened there. It was a good reminder to make this reader. I enjoyed it very much.
Sail Canada’s honor gives the trio a Hall of Fame hat trick. They have previously been inducted into the Nova Scotia and Canadian Sports Hall of Fame.
“Having the ability, the fortune and the wherewithal to win a world championship is a big deal,” Josenhans said. “At the time, we didn’t always recognize it, because it didn’t happen that often. It is a great honor.
MacMillan, 69, said it was a wonderful honor and pleasure to have the induction ceremony in person.
“It’s nice to be recognized by the sport’s governing body and the people with and against whom you’ve sailed,” said MacMillan, who also coached Canadian solo teams at the 1988 Seoul Olympics and Barcelona in 1992.
“It was about seeing our friends. Review Dave Miller, Steve Calder and John Kerr. They sailed with a guy named Hans Fogh who was one of our mentors. Lots of friends from Ontario that we hadn’t seen in quite some time were there.
How it started
Josenhans competed in the 1972 Olympic Trials hosted by the Royal Nova Scotia Squadron with what he called “a motley team that had only been put together three months before.”
The event was won by Miller, also a Sail Canada Hall inductee this year, but it gave Josenhans hope for a future campaign.
“The point is there were three or five races where David Miller was absolutely on hand that we could have won,” Josenhans said. “He won the bronze medal at the Olympics and yes we weren’t as good but we weren’t in the hundredth as well prepared as him. With a good boat and some preparation, we could have beaten Dave Miller at the Olympic trials. It might have been a dream, but it doesn’t matter. It was the inspiration of “we could do it, it’s possible”. But it would take a serious effort to do so. “
In 1974 the crew was formed who would achieve worldwide fame in sailing.
“It started off pretty innocently,” MacMillan said. “We were all together at university in Dalhousie. Andreas and Glen were real good sailors. They are the ones who competed in the local championships here. I was just a guy who was a friend of Andreas. We were water skiing together. He looked at me and said “you weigh 100 kg (kilogram) and six foot one, so you are probably the right size for the sole.” But I knew how to navigate.
The campaign started as a DIY project. The crew was not well funded and had to learn on a tight budget how to make things work.
MacMillan believes their academic background has helped them thrive as a team.
“Glen holds his Bachelor of Engineering Physics with Honors from Dalhousie,” said MacMillan. “Then he got a master’s degree in mathematics at Waterloo. Glen is academically a very intelligent gut. Andreas was a physical education guy and I was a business guy. Good old Dal gave us the three basic diplomas needed to go to the Olympics.
“We had to understand the mechanics of the boat because we didn’t have enough money up front to buy a boat that is fully equipped and ready to go. We bought it disassembled and assembled in my parents’ driveway on Norwood Street in Halifax. We had to learn pretty quickly how things worked out together. What worked and what didn’t. We became the technicians of the crew and what was going to make this boat go faster. We were always innovating and it was a lot of fun.
Bumpy road to the worlds
After an eighth place finish at the Montreal Olympics that saw the crew win a race and a third, attention turned to the 1977 world championships in Hanko, Norway.
The trio claimed a huge victory at the Kiel Regatta in Kiel, Germany, just before the world event and were ready to take on any challengers in Norway.
“We just won Kiel Week which is a big event there. These are our worlds and we’re going to go there and win, ”said MacMillan, who lives in Tantallon.
The trip to Norway will prove to be a defining moment for the Delusions crew. An early morning accident in Denmark left the boat in poor condition and the crew members unharmed but shaken.
“It was an incredible mess. No one was injured but we broke the mast, we broke the rudder, completely ruined the trailer, ”said Josenhans. “Then we still had 900 kilometers to go at 25 miles an hour. We were feeling a little sheepish, here we are in the guise of the Canadian Olympic team but we succeeded.
MacMillan said the trailer hit a pole and the boat jumped off the trailer. The mast bent and the rudder broke. Fortunately, the inhabitants of the Danish city arrived to help the sailors.
“We managed to get the boat back on the trailer with the help of a few Danes there,” said MacMillan. “At first they didn’t want to help us because we had German plates on the (rental) car. This little old man comes out and hears us speaking English. He asks if we know (Olympic sailing champion) Paul Elvstrom, who is Danish. He goes and returns with a crane truck. They put the boat on the trailer, get us a spare tire, fix the trailer and off we go. They knew who we were when they found out we had won the Kiel week.
Despite Delusions’ bumps and bruises, the crew sailed to their first world title, fending off a Danish team for the win.
World class crew
Josenhans said the crew won many races before they even hit the water. Boat preparation and tactical play were some areas where the team excelled. But MacMillan and Josenhans both highlighted the world-class piloting ability of Dexter, the skipper, as a key factor in their success.
“We all realized it would take our three brains to figure this out,” MacMillan said. “There are strengths to the boat and Glen’s maneuvered and was very good at it. By the time we finished in 1980, no one in the world wanted to start next to Glen Dexter because they knew they were going to go pretty fast. Andreas and I were physical and strong guys.
Josenhans, who along with Dexter resides in Lunenburg while MacMillan is in Tantallon, said the longtime friends complement each other perfectly.
“We had three very different approaches. Thank goodness it wouldn’t have worked otherwise.