Jan Clover Gougeon, who founded boatbuilder and epoxy maker Gougeon Brothers with his brothers Meade and Joel in 1960, died Tuesday in Ann Arbor, Mich. He was 67.
The company began building boats and iceboats, and found great success in formulating, manufacturing and marketing West System and Pro-Set epoxies for boat construction and repair. A natural engineer, Jan became an accomplished boat designer and builder and was always thinking about his next boat.
At the age of 14, he began building boats as an apprentice to master boatbuilder Victor Carpenter. During the course of his lifetime he designed and built numerous multihulls, including Wee Three, Flicka, Splinter, Ollie and Pocket Rocket. In 2012 he launched his groundbreaking 40-foot multihull, Strings. He was also a key builder on the multihulls Adagio, Rogue Wave, Slingshot and Adrenalin, as well as several monohulls, including the 1975 Canada's Cup winner, Golden Dazy.
Racing iceboats and multihull sailboats were Jan’s passions, and he particularly loved sailing solo. His first sailboat race was in 1955 at age 10, and he competed in the Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinac aboard the newly launched vessel, Strings, in July of 2012.
In 1980, during qualification trials for the OSTAR challenge, Jan’s trimaran Flicka capsized in the Atlantic Ocean. He spent four long days floating in Flicka’s disabled hull before he was rescued by a passing freighter. The next boat Jan designed, Splinter, was self-rescuing, as was every boat he’s designed since.
Jan placed first in the single-handed Port Huron to Mackinac race in 1981, 1982 and 1983 aboard Splinter. Racing his trimaran Ollie, he won the singlehanded Supermac in 1987 and the Great Lakes Singlehanded Society Peter Fisher Memorial Award in 1989. He won the DN Iceboat World Gold Cup Championships four times, the North American DN Iceboat Championship eight times and won the DN Great Cup of Siberia Race in Russia in 1989. He competed annually in the Bayview Yacht Club’s Port Huron to Mackinac Race, the Chicago Yacht Club’s Race to Mackinac and the 300-mile Florida Everglades Challenge.
The native Great Lakes Midwesterner was a passionate ice boater, as exhibited in a 1995 interview with the ice boat publication Runner Tracks.
“We used to leave work on Friday night and drive down to Stu Sills. I remember driving to the ice at 2:00 in the morning. We drove down to the park and parked in the lot or on the ice. I unloaded the boat because I was kind of excited to have a boat ready,” Gougeon recounted to the interviewer. “I really wanted to go sailing, but I knew I had to wait a little while. So I just put my sleeping bag in the cockpit and I lay down to go to sleep. I didn’t really need to go to sleep, but I did, and when I woke up there were people all around and I was covered with snow.”
Burial at sea will take place privately with the family at a future date.