Ian ‘Bags’ Brown wrote this to us about his friend Bruce Hamilton. Bags and Bruce instructed at the Club together in 1971.
1955 – 2011
I’m sad to send you the news that Bruce passed away this past week. When I came to SLSC as head instructor in 1971, Commodore Fred Hopkins and his board did me an incredible favour by hiring Bruce as my assistant. Although I knew of Bruce as a result of his success at Boulevard Club’s junior program, we had never met. Fortunately, we really hit it off and I think we made a pretty good team. I think we both enjoyed the summer immensely. We became good friends.
Bruce was not only a very talented sailor, but he went on to be one of Canada’s top sailing instructors. Within a couple of years he was head instructor at RCYC, which was generally regarded as the top sailing instructor position in the country. It did not surprise me, however, that he found that environment restrictive with its staidness and politics. Bruce moved on to Geneva Park where OSA was starting up a provincial sailing centre. He quickly made that the premiere place for top sailing instructors to work.
While I gave up instructing to focus on racing, Bruce continued to pursue both. He crewed for several top boats in Albacore, 470 and International 14’s where he competed in the World Championships. At Sturgeon we were both introduced to the Laser by incoming Commodore David Barr. The class was brand new in 1971 and growing by leaps and bounds. I recall going with Bruce to the National Capital regatta and the Quebec Championships in 1972 where there were some 90 boats. By 1974 I had opted to concentrate on the 470 while Bruce continued to sail Laser. He qualified and represented Canada in the first Laser Worlds in Bermuda that year.
After university Bruce spent several months in France. Unfortunately he contracted TB in France which I think led him to a greater interest in reading, film and music. He went to work for Noranda in HR, then moved to Montreal where he used his French skills to help negotiate some major labour contracts for Noranda. For a while he was back in Toronto and we reconnected. We did a fair bit of cross country skiing, but I could not interest him in getting back into sailing. He met his wife, Heather at Noranda and they settled back in Montreal in Kirkland, near Pointe Claire. He started his own consulting practice which he ran successfully for several years. Recently he had returned to the corporate world in a senior position at CBC. Bruce was very devoted to his family and encouraged his 3 kids in the sports they chose. On the West Island that meant swimming and water polo.
I’ve been sailing Sharks for the past few years. Still doing battle with my skipper from Port Credit Junior Club, Johnny Dakin after all these years! It was a bit of good luck that the Shark Worlds this past summer were at Beaconsfield Yacht Club, less than 5 KM from Bruce’s home. It was great to see him and his family. I did my best to persuade him that the Shark fleet in Montreal would be a great way for him to return to sailing. I couldn’t tell whether my efforts to evoke the fun we’d had at SLSC and sailing Lasers was having any success. Sadly, we’ll never know. Bruce was a fine human being. His tremendous talent may at times have been hidden by his modesty and even temperament, all the more to his credit. He will be missed by all who knew him.
Ian “Bags” Brown