In Memory of Richard Dittmar
All right, let's try it again, Yee-haw!
Now, again, with feeling, Yee-haw!
OK, that's better.
Everybody who sailed with Richard, whether on the same boat or on another boat at the same regatta, knows yee-haw. It was his signature line.
He could use it in many ways. If conditions were brisk, knocking his boat down in ways that only a low-budget, water-ballasted, non-racing boat could ever demonstrate, his "yee-haw" was one of excitement. In a drifter, where even the fast boats were barely moving, and his boat wasn't really moving at all, the "yee-haw" was full of irony. He could shape "yee-haw" to whatever emotion he wanted to express.
Irony can also describe the way he got into sailing. He was an insurance salesman, and his idea was that he could join the sailing club, and then he would be rubbing elbows with all sorts of well-to-do yachtsmen, and then he could sell them insurance. He didn't realize until after he joined the Rio Grande Sailing Club that its membership did not contain the sorts of customers he envisioned – we have a whole lot of working stiffs, middle-management types, unemployed and underemployed people who sail because it's something to do, and a sizeable number of other insurance people. I don't know that he ever sold any one of us a policy.
But he did discover that he loved sailing. And he learned to do it well. He had a Hunter 26, a boat designed to be comfortable and affordable to middle-class Americans, but not designed for high performance. In spite of having a low-performance boat, he entered races, and he managed to do well. He learned the ways of the fickle winds on Elephant Butte Lake, and on occasion, he even put the higher-performance boats to shame.
In recent years, he did buy himself a true racing boat, an International Etchells, but his declining health prevented him from realizing its potential – if he could get the sort of performance he did out of the Hunter, there is no telling what he could have done with the Etchells if he had had the chance.
Unfortunately, that was not to be.
Yee-haw, Richard, wherever you are.