Hawaii will miss racing official Drips
Saying a final aloha to an old, dear friend is never an easy thing to do, but it's especially difficult when that person had become a nearly indispensable fixture in our local boating community.
Such is the case in the death of Waikiki Yacht Club's Phil Drips late last month, as he had -- over a 25-year span -- firmly established himself at that club and throughout the state as "the hardest working race officer in Hawaii."
For years Drips had been the club's official PRO, or principal race officer. This meant that after establishing the rules, or "instructions," for any race or regatta, he supervised the on-the-water setting of the starting line, the course, and the finish, and then attended to various postrace responsibilities back in the clubhouse.
And not just when time allowed, but rather for virtually every regatta that has been run with the WYC's involvement in the past quarter-century.
Those regattas included the Pan Am Clipper Cup Series of the 1980s, the Kenwood International Offshore Series of the 1990s, numerous Hawaii State Sailing Championships, and most recently, the Waikiki Offshore Series.
Ask anyone who has ever worked on a race committee and they will tell you it's a pressure-packed job that will nearly always draw criticism.
But Drips somehow managed to always carry out his duties with an easy calmness and a droll sense of humor that were his trademarks.
It was surely these traits -- as well as his perseverance -- that caused him to be honored by the WYC in 2005 as the first-ever PRO Emeritus of the club.
Drips became involved in sailing while serving as a U.S. Navy aviator stationed in Japan in the 1960s, where it's reported he was known as "Papa Laser," after the small sailboats he raced.
While in Japan, according to a WYC press release, he was a member of the Tokyo Sail & Power Squadron and became its commander in 1969.
He eventually went on to capture a gold medal racing a Laser in the 1975 South Pacific Olympic Games on Guam, before moving to Hawaii where he joined the WYC, continued racing, and began importing Yamaha sailboats from Japan.
By 1980, Drips had joined the Honolulu Sail & Power Squadron at the WYC, and had begun teaching courses in subjects ranging from basic boating and seamanship, to sailing, piloting and navigation. He also became a vessel safety examiner with the Squadron and provided uncountable hours of volunteer work over the years.
Drips was recognized as well as a tireless teacher and volunteer for the entire boating community, resulting in the Hawaii Yacht Racing Association naming him Yachtsman of the Year in 2003.
Although Drips' various health issues ultimately proved fatal, he left us a legacy of safe boating instructions and provided a prime example of unrivaled officiating for all of the boaters of Hawaii.
He has also left scores of WYC members and friends searching for a proper way to say a final aloha.