Frank Willis Butler, founder and current president and CEO of Catalina Yachts died on Nov. 15 following a brief illness. He was 92 years old.
His company — reportedly the largest builder of fiberglass production sailboats in the U.S. — released the following statement:
“We extend our most heartfelt condolences and sympathy to Frank’s family. Our thoughts are with them at this most difficult time…A sailing icon…Frank Butler has introduced hundreds of thousands of people to sailing during his lifetime. Those of us who have been fortunate enough to know and work with Frank have lost a dear friend and an inspiring mentor. Frank leaves behind a company that only he could have built, and his spirit will forever be the foundation of Catalina Yachts.”
For a builder that has launched more than 85,000 vessels, Butler fell into boat building by circumstance: He had contracted a 21-foot daysailer from a builder in Southern California and when construction stalled, Butler took over and completed the project himself. A few years later, Catalina Yachts was born.
Butler was inducted into the National Sailing Hall of Fame in 2013. He is survived by his wife Jean — they had been married for 71 years — four daughters, three sons, 20 grandchildren, 28 great-grandchildren, and four great-great-grandchildren.