As a former Olympic competitor, editor of a sailing magazine and designer of more than sixty sailboats, including the popular Laser, Bruce Kirby gets plenty of respect in yachting circles. One trade publication dubbed him “the wizard of Rowayton, Connecticut.” Another referred to him as “the great one.” Among other accolades, he was one of fifty accomplished Canadians invited to Ottawa to meet Queen Elizabeth II three years ago in celebration of her fiftieth year on the throne.
So it had to have stung that day when, in the midst of a Laser regatta off of Westport, a teenage sailor not only failed to recognize Kirby but treated him like so much flotsam and jetsam. “I called my right of way,” Kirby remembers. “I said, ‘Starboard tack,’ or whatever I called. And he yelled back, ‘If you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen!’”
For Kirby the affront was less a blow to his ego than an insulting breach of behavior in a sport that is largely self-policing. “He was just plain breaking the rules and giving me crap verbally,” Bruce says. “Unfortunately, I couldn’t identify him in the heat of the moment. I would have liked to have gotten him on shore and shown him that guys my age aren’t necessarily pansies.”