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Log Entry

Pass me a barley sandwich!

Over the past forty years of big boat racing, I have had the good fortune to crew for some exceptional owners on their extraordinary boats — the kind of skipper who values competition and how to have some fun along the way. Without a doubt, Mike Duncan was one of those types. DRIVEN, as his boat's name implied, made clear Mike was a fierce competitor. However, he was enjoyable to sail for as part of his racing crew. In short, sailing with Mike on his Frers 40 was a good time.

Mike bought DRIVEN from Bert Jabin and kept the boat at the old Junk Jungle docks at Jabin Yacht Yard. Bert Jabin's son and current Yard owner, Rod, talked to me about racing with Mike when I asked and he described DRIVEN as, "a brut, one of the early German Frers IOR mast head powerhouses built in Argentina. It would go upwind like crazy".

driven going downwind

I came to the boat through a connection with a friend of Mike's named Juan Cameron. Still fresh out of college, in 1982, I lived in an apartment connected to Juan's home in Georgetown. He was a longtime Washingtonian and accomplished yachtsman. Juan was serving as Mike's tactician and recommended to him that I join the crew.

I was initially unaware of what an accomplished person Mike was; a Washington, DC attorney with one of the big-name firms who had grown up in New York City. Mike was a graduate of the Hotchkiss School, Yale, and Harvard Law School. But when aboard his boat, Mike was seemingly a regular guy who loved sailing, winning, and like most sailors, beer.

I visited with Mike's daughter, Diana, on Gibson Island a couple of years ago. Mrs. Duncan lives there full-time now, and Diana was visiting from California. She recalled that her father began sailing while at Hotchkiss on Lake Wononscopomuc. She remembers how focused he was to win the start, even on longer races. And that he was driven to excel in everything he did, hence the name.

mike and diana

Getting to the title of this post, the first time Mike requested that I go below and get him a barley sandwich, I had to ask for an explanation. It turned out that "barley sandwich" is what he called a can of beer. To this day, I use that Mike-ism to ask for a beer when aboard a boat.

skipper race news

I did a lot of racing with Mike aboard DRIVEN that year. The highlight came at the end when we won the fall classic known as the Skipper Race. I'll not forget it for two main reasons. The first is that the return leg back up the Chesapeake Bay from Bell Buoy "57" off of Cedar Point was a tough upwind slog. DRIVEN ate it up, but the late October wind was hard out of the northeast, and there was a big chop. It was a nasty, wet, and cold beat back to Annapolis, finishing well after dark. The second is that we won our class. I fondly remember back in the slip and tied up at Junk Jungle, Mike passing around whiskey shots to warm us up and celebrate the hard-fought win.

mike's obituary

I moved on to another boat the following year. But I have never forgotten sailing with Mike. Sadly, he made his "final passage" in 1991 at the young age of 60. It's always fascinating to me what gets included in accomplished people's obituaries. Even though his life was cut short, Mike certainly had many achievements. Interestingly, included in his New York Times obit was mention of that 1982 Skipper Race. It reads, "An avid sailor, he won several major races on the Chesapeake Bay, including the Annapolis Yacht Club Skipper's Race in

1982." I feel fortunate to have been there aboard DRIVEN for a race that was worthy of mention in the short summary of his life. Mike, will never be forgotten. He and the Skipper Race are memories now – both are gone. But they live on in the history and stories of the sport of yacht racing. Next time you need onboard refreshment, call for that cold beer by asking for a barley sandwich and think of Mike.

1 Kommentar

11. Aug. 2021

I remember the first time sailing with Brad and him asking for a Barley Sandwich. I thought it was great. I always use that line now. That line and the Andy Hughes "Breakfast Cylinder" all pending what time of day #iloveyachting

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