Want some inspiration to keep racing dinghies even after cashing your first Social Security check? Look no further. Augie Diaz first won the Snipe Western Hemisphere and Orient Championship in 1972, sailing with his father (known, quite respectfully, as “Old Man” Diaz). Last fall, Augie won the Westerns again (this time with Barbie Brotons). That’s a forty-nine year span between regatta victories—ample time to rack up several other equally impressive titles along the way.
When I sat down with Augie in September, during a postponement at the 2021 Westerns, I started off with the most obvious question: how do you keep winning for five decades in a class where the unpublished motto is “she who hikes the hardest goes the fastest”? It all boils down to luck, he replies—and also to good crews. Of course that’s his answer; it always is. But after sailing against him for more than twenty years, I know just how much hard work goes into creating that “luck.” Fortunately, we have time to dig a bit deeper before the AP comes down.
Not just winning races
One less than obvious fact: the guy has a big heart. He’s always helping another new sailor get into the Snipe—and then helping them to get faster. Generations of sailors have joined the class because of the Diaz family; they stick around for its unique combination of competition and camaraderie, certain—partly thanks to Augie’s example—that there will always be more to learn.
There’s more to Augie than just Snipe sailing, of course. There’s the Star Worlds he won in 2016; he’s the oldest guy to ever win a gold star. And that thirteen years of not-sailing when his sons were in need of a Little League coach—a period he refers to as “slavery,” before adding that it also created a bond as tight as the one he has with his own father.
By the time he started sailing again in 1999, Augie’s perspective had completely changed; he still wanted to win, but now he was sailing for fun rather than trying to go to the Olympics. In 2002, he won the Snipe Westerns with Jon Rogers—thirty years after he and Old Man won it the first time. So his 2021 victory makes Augie the only three-time winner of this prestigious international regatta.
Is there anyone else in the sailing world who can boast a fifty-year competitive lifespan? If so, I need to interview them too—please make your suggestions in the comments below, or by email. Meanwhile, find your inspiration to keep racing sailboats by reading Augie’s profile in full. Thank you Seahorse, and enjoy!