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Wednesday, May 02, 2007

May2, 2007-Tommy Dreyfus-Wings' Builder

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Tommy was born March 2, 1934 and passed away May 2, 2007

Tom Dreyfus, the guy who built Wings, died this month.

Tommy Dreyfus was boat builder and an employer in the marine industry and we are sad at his passing.

Tommy’s passing is also a milestone for us and for Wings:

The guy who built Wings is now a part of history and so also Wings becomes more a monument to the past than part of the present. Wings was built by a builder who once was, an old boat not quite a classic but definitely not quite modern. “Still looks good” has a special meaning when you were created 30 years ago by a guy who is now dead and gone.

But maybe we should talk less about us feeling sorry for ourselves for having an old boat and more about the guy who built her? What about Tom Dreyfus?

Tommy Dreyfus was nothing if he wasn’t a character. He had a zest for life and a wacky knack for doing the unexpected. He wore a pistol strapped to his ankle. He built fast boats and he drove fast cars. He lived on a house boat and some people said he liked fast women.

Jim Gardiner reports that Tommy was wild with cars: Once Tommy picked up his Jim’s wife Ginger in a 5.0 Mustang GT convertible, and “off to Commander's Palace in New Orleans they went. Upon arriving, Tom executed ten 360-degree donuts and finished with a massive burnout before stepping out of the 200' cloud of burnt rubber wearing an all chartreuse green suit and tossing the keys to the valet. Seeing was unbelievable!”

Butch Ulmer also says that Tom Dreyfus was someone you had to see to believe: ”Yes, Tom’s sailboats were fast and dominated the SORC in the early 80s. He was also a good sailor and shipmate. However, to those who knew him, he will best be remembered for his antics”

One famous story was Tom’s arrival on board Burt Keenan’s “Acadia” for an SORC Race in the early 80’s. Butch fills in the details, “Tom was on a plane that was running late, heading down for the start of a race of the SORC and sitting next to him on the flight down was a reporter for Sports Illustrated…when Tommy lamented that he would miss the start, the reporter offered him a ride on the helo SI had chartered so he could at least watch the start. When they neared the starting area, Dreyfus convinced the pilot to go near Acadia so he could just wave to them and tell them he was OK. When they got near, the door flew open and Tommy threw out his sea bag and promptly followed it into the water. Estimates of the helicopter’s altitude started at 75 feet and went up from there. He made the race! That was Tom Dreyfus!”

The FAA almost yanked the pilot's license because of the incident until Tommy flew back down there and testified that the pilot had no idea that he was going to do it.

Guns were a big part of Tommy’s persona: On shore he had a snub-nose ALWAYS on an ankle holster. One ex-crewmate says: “He was fun to sail with and the only guy I ever knew who flashed a chromed pistol at a New York Yacht Club annual regatta dinner, not as a threat to anyone but to put emphasis on a conversational point”

Another story has him firing his .45 across the bow of Ted Turner's Tenacious as it was trying to pass Acadia, yelling "don't pass me or I'll shoot!" and a boat builder from the south tells about how he was introduced to boating by Tom:

“When I crawled below on "Your Cheating Heart" as a 12 year old I knew boatbuilding was what I wanted to do. When I saw Tommy show up for a regatta with a .50cal mounted to the bow pulpit, there was no doubt in my mind he was what was cool.”

And cool he was. From living on his pimp house barge with his dogs and babes, to driving the coolest powerboats in the world to work, to traveling the world in search of a good time, Tommy was cool. People thought of him as a sailing Hunter Thompson.

We have always had photos in our scrapbook of the building project when Wings was born in Tommy’s New Orleans shed, but one of the builders reports a typical days during Wings’ construction: “”We were pouring a keel one Saturday for a Serendipity 43 and ran out of propane to melt the lead, by the time we ran out and had the tank refilled, it was very late but the job had to be done. We got the lead melted around 10:30. This was in the springtime and the steel keel mold was much cooler than the moist surrounding air and a lot of moisture had condensed inside the mold and collected on the bottom. When that lead hit the mold it exploded up into the air raining down on all of us.”

I don't think Tommy Dreyfus would want you to wish that he Rest in Peace, more like "Rest in Fun".

RIF - Tommy the world won't be the same without you.

Fred Roswold, SV Wings, Singapore



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