Heinz Gebauer died of a heart attack on January 17, 2013 at the age of 80, after working out at the gym that day and after having gone out for dinner that evening. Heinz was an icon of Laser Masters sailing: A former Laser Masters World Champion, a constant participant in the races held at the Water Rats Sailing Club on Cherry Beach in Toronto (his home club) and a devoted regular participant in the Mid Ontario Regattas for years and, laterally, in the Provincial and National Masters regattas that we have hosted. Indeed, I suspect that no sailor has come close to sailing in as many Mid Ontario Regattas as Heinz.
I first met Heinz as the father of a junior sailor at the Whitby Yacht Club when I was a head instructor at that Club in 1980. Then in his mid fifties, he was an enthusiastic sailor. His enthusiasm for the sport grew as each year passed and, this last summer, at the age of 79, Heinz sailed his last regatta at Sturgeon – The Ontario Masters Championship – and he, along with some other sailors in their 70s, were feted as the embodiment of sailing as a lifelong passion. Heinz seemingly never aged. When I sailed against him this last summer, he looked much as he did when I first met him in 1980. He still worked out regularly and he still sailed avidly.
Heinz was very much a competitive racer, but he was also a master teacher, helping out other sailors, always with his trademark smile. On the Water Rats website the following is said in their tribute to Heinz: “Those that knew Heinz remember him as a wonderful man who never hesitated to help out, give sailing tips…Heinz was an active member of the Water Rats Sailing Club both in participating in racing, pleasure sailing and running the sailing club as he held several positions on the executive. This is a shock to all of us and it will be hard not to see his smiling face down at the sailing club.” We at Sturgeon Lake will also miss Heinz at our regattas. They will not be the same without his inspiring participation. Our condolences go out to Elizabeth Lee, his partner in life and his companion at regattas, including ours over the years. Heinz’ participation in our regattas as well as his contribution to Masters sailing will be recognized at this year’s Mid Ontario Regatta.