Noted Southern California sailor loses cancer battle

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Gerald (Jerry) Dennis Thompson, a Southern California champion sailor of international acclaim, died at his Long Beach home Dec. 20 after several years of battling cancer. He was 75.

Thompson was born on Jan. 30, 1939, in Seattle. His sailing career blossomed after his family moved in the 1940s to Long Beach, where he sailed a Naples Sabot in Alamitos Bay.

In 1952 and 1953 he was junior national champion of the Naples Sabot class. The class has been the Southern California breeding ground for multiple Olympic and America’s Cup sailing champions.

In 2005, Thompson came back to claim the Sabot Masters championship. Most recently, he commissioned a hand-built wooden Sabot, which he regularly sailed in his 70s on the local Sabot circuit.

He also recently campaigned in the Lido 14 class, winning the class championship trophy with girlfriend and crew Mandi Smith in 2012. A longtime member of the Alamitos Bay Yacht Club, he was its commodore in 1971.

Thompson’s sailing resume will best be remembered for his time in the International Snipe Class. He arguably has logged more hours at the tiller, sailed in more regattas and owned more Snipes than any sailor in the history of the class, which boasts more than 30,000 boats, according to Sailing Scuttlebutt.

He sailed his first Snipe in Alamitos Bay at age 13 and qualified for the prestigious Snipe Western Hemisphere Championship in Bermuda at 17, placing fourth. He has sailed in multiple world, western hemisphere, North American and U.S. national championships.