Passages: Mark Rudiger

On Thursday, July 17, 2008, Mark Rudiger passed away from lymphoma. He was 53 years old. Rudiger had battled the cancer for 4 years, and he had been doing well in his fight until the tide sadly changed a few months ago.

Rudiger was a legend in offshore racing and navigating circles, having navigated 14 Transpac races and two Volvo Ocean Races, the later being the world’s premeire offshore race. In the 1997/1998 Volvo, on short notice, he navigated Paul Cayard’s EF Language campaign to the top of the podium, and in the 2001/2002 Volvo he co-skippered Assa Abloy to second-place honors. Furthermore, during the 2005/2006 event, in the midst of his battle with cancer, he stepped in to help a struggling Ericsson on legs 6 and 7. As far as the Transpac went, Rudiger won five barn door first-to-finish accolades; in the Sydney-Hobart he scored two first-to-finish performances. Moreover, he navigated the boat that won line honors in the inaugural Daimler-Chrysler Transatlantic race.

During his many years of grand-prix sailing, including regular berths on Sayonara, Pegasus, and Genuine Risk, Rudiger also won the respect and friendship of those around him.

On a personal note, I had the great fortune of sailing on the Puma Volvo Open 70 Avanti with Rudiger from New York City to Newport, Rhode Island last September. During this trip, the boat’s bow sustained severe delamination problems so instead of taking us on our planned offshore routing, the call was made to go inshore, via Long Island Sound. I can clearly remember Mark joking around that the bow only had to hold together for a few hundred miles; a paltry sum compared to the tens of thousands of offshore miles under his boots. That night, I had the opportunity to share a watch with Rudiger, and to listen to his stories and jokes as he navigated Avanti down the East River, whistling along at 14 knots, ducking bridges and avoiding barges. This wasn’t the sort of navigation that most saiors would even contemplate, but for Mark it came across as being a dead-simple bit of piloting.

Rudiger was fairly reticent man to those whom he didn’t know well, but it was obvious that he truly loved the ocean, sailing, and high-performance boats. I’m sure anyone who ever had the pleasure of sailing with Mark will remember his relaxed and easy-going nature, his ability to spend long hours at the nav station in horrific conditions, and his can-do, will-win attitude. He will be missed.

Mark’s wife, Lori, sent a message to the daily email newsletter, Scuttlebutt (#2642), asking his friends, shipmates, and fellow sailors to light a candle in his memory tonight. This suggestion actually came from Mark’s son, Zayle, so hopefully the sailing community make this simple request a reality.

Posted: July 21, 2008

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