Sailing icon recovering after boat crash

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Yacht designer and builder Ted Irwin is recovering from injuries sustained during a nighttime run-in with a powerboat off Key West as he dinghied to shore from Distant Drummer, his 68-foot Irwin yacht, which was anchored.

Irwin, 70, who was in the Florida Keys with his family for the two-day spiny lobster mini-season, was headed toward shore late July 30 to pick up a guest when he saw a center console fishing boat bearing down on him, says yacht broker Gene Gammon, a friend and longtime business associate of Irwin's.

Gammon says Irwin tried to wave the boat away with a flashlight, but the angle of the powerboat's hull obscured the dinghy and it ran over the smaller boat.

Gammon says Irwin, a resident of St. Petersburg, Fla., was thrown about in the dinghy, but did not fall overboard. "Luckily, he did not get hit by the props," Gammon says.

He says the powerboater took the dinghy in tow to the docks, where emergency rescue personnel were waiting. Irwin was flown to Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg, where he underwent four hours of surgery.

"He's out of intensive care," says Gammon, speaking with Soundings Trade Only in mid-August. "He's got a fractured pelvis, some broken ribs and other internal damage." Gammon says Irwin was in good spirits and facing several weeks of therapy and rehabilitation.

Irwin, whose Irwin Yacht & Marine Corp. built sailing yachts - 6,000 in all - in Clearwater and St. Petersburg from 1966-1991, remains an active cruiser and owns a 44- as well as the 68-foot Irwin. "He cruises on the 68 quite often," Gammon says.

Irwin's yachts - known as fast and stylish but also stable, comfortable and easy-handling performance cruisers - remain in demand, says Gammon, owner of Irwinyachts.com, which lists Irwins for sale and carries information on all things Irwin.

Irwin was a fierce competitor who built racing boats as well, and used them to test designs and construction. His first raceboat, the 31-footer Voodoo, won 24 of 28 races from 1964 to 1966. His Black Magic, La Pantera, Razzle Dazzle and R2D2 also were well-regarded for their performance on the race course.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission was investigating the accident.

This article originally appeared in the October 2010 issue.

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