Death of an icon
The man who helped put The Bahamas on the map, through sports, long before the country was an independent nation, has passed.
Centenarian Sir Durward “The Sea Wolf” Knowles, the first Bahamian to win an Olympic medal and the first Bahamian to win Olympic gold, passed away in hospital on Saturday, due to kidney failure and other complications, at 2:15 p.m. He was 100.
At the time of his passing, Sir Durward was the oldest living Olympian. He was also a former world champion, a sailing and sports administrator and a philanthropist. Sir Durward played a large role in the formation and promotion of the One Bahamas Organization, which is geared toward the unification and social harmony of all Bahamians from all walks of life. He enjoyed giving back to the sport of sailing, and The Bahamas in general; he supported Bahamian youth on multiple occasions; and he took delight in going out by Montagu Bay to watch sailing races in all classes.
Sir Durward’s sudden passing comes just three and a half months after he would have celebrated his 100th birthday, during which time he was honored with a regatta held in his honor and a week of activities.
The Sir Durward 100 Regatta was held October 27-29, in the waters of Montagu Bay.
Condolences poured in from all over the sporting community over the weekend.
Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture Michael Pintard said, “Sir Durward played a role in national development on multiple levels. He is best known for his contribution to sports as athlete and sponsor of multiple athletes and sporting disciplines, and he also played a pivotal role in placing The Bahamas on the map in sailing, having won multiple medals at the Olympics and having a key role in formation of Bahamas Olympic Committee. Sir Durward played a pivotal role in helping to construct a multi-cultural society, and a key role in promoting the idea of One Bahamas, calling on Bahamians to function as one people. Sir Durward was a philanthropist. He had a generous spirit, and was looking for nothing personal in return… just looking to advance the cause. There are thousands of Bahamians who he supported on one level or another. He had an incredible sense of humor, indicating that we should not be tense as a people. He will be missed by this country, and at the appropriate time, the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture, and by extension, the Government of The Bahamas, will find ways to honor Sir Durward.”
Bahamas Sailing Association (BSA) President Lori Lowe said, “The Bahamas Sailing Association and all of the membership extends its sincerest condolences to the family of Captain Sir Durward Knowles on his passing. Sir Durward’s legacy will long be remembered for having garnered, with his then crew respectively, Sloane Farrington and Cecil Cooke, the first Olympic bronze and gold medals for our country, and as well, a great many other accolades in the sailing world. However, the greater part of Sir Durward’s legacy arises from his having applied his prowess on the World and Olympic stage as a starting point to transform the lives of his fellow Bahamians. Sir Durward credited his success on the race course to his ‘never give up’ attitude. He applied this attitude in all things from piloting boats in the harbor to raising funds for the Bahamas Association for the Physically Disabled, One Bahamas, the Rotary Club of East Nassau, our own Bahamas Sailing Association and all the various charities which he supported and, presumably, in all his endeavours. Sir Durward expected the best of himself and of all those around him. He was never in better form than when he was exhorting people to do a little more, give a little more, be better than they thought they could be. By his actions, he sought to make our country a better place for all, a more honorable, and more inclusive country free from petty grievances and prejudices. Let us all honor his legacy by continuing to uphold the principals evident in Sir Durward’s life’s work, the principles of fair play, integrity and respect for each other as well as the tenacity and courage to never give up in the pursuit of justice and equal opportunity for all. It is with sadness that we watch this great pilot of our country ‘cross the bar’ on the way to meet the pilot of us all.”
Danny Strachan, Chairman and Commodore of the National Family Island Regatta Committee, said, “The National Family Island Regatta has lost a great friend and benefactor with the passing of Sir Durward Knowles. My family and I mourn the death of a great man who taught me so much by how he lived his life, and by his sharing of his love of the sea and sloop sailing with generations of Bahamians. His is a life worthy of celebrating. I know that I speak on behalf of sailors, sloop builders, boat owners and sailing fans throughout The Bahamas, when I say that we have all lost a true and great friend. He was a sporting icon, philanthropist extraordinaire, national hero of the first order and a beloved Bahamian patriarch. Sir Durward has gone on to his eternal reward for his life as his faith has promised. We will miss him, but we will never forget him. May he rest in peace.”
Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations’ (BAAA) President Rosamunde Carey said, “Sir Durward is certainly an icon in The Bahamas. Apart from his sporting accomplishments, he gave of himself tirelessly toward the youth and national building. In track and field, he was always supportive, and was very consistent in his financial contributions, and we are forever grateful for that. Personally, I know him from the Methodist movement and with him being instrumental in that regard. He took over the QC (Queen’s College) Foundation and we were able to construct a state-of-the-art center at QC. He was involved in sports, church life and in the community and he placed an emphasis on early learning. He will be certainly be missed in athletics, in sports and in general among Bahamians.”
Sir Durward was a sailing and sports icon in The Bahamas. He won Olympic bronze in the star class at the 1956 Summer Olympics in Melbourne, Australia with crew member Sloane “Bunty” Farrington and, eight years later, took the Olympic gold in Tokyo, Japan with crew member Cecil Cooke – the first Bahamian to achieve both. Sir Durward had previously competed for the United Kingdom in the 1948 Olympics, finishing in fourth place in the star class with Farrington. In total, he competed in eight Olympics – seven straight from 1948-1972, and again in 1988 in Seoul, South Korea, for an independent Bahamas. His eight Olympic appearances stand as a record for sailors today.
Sir Durward won the 1947 world title in the star class in Los Angeles, California, USA and the 1959 Pan American Games title in the star class in Chicago, Illinois, USA – both with Farrington. He is also a former North American Champion.
Sir Durward has been honored by just about every civic, social and business organization in the country for acts in and out of sailing. He was knighted in 1996, and one year later he was awarded The Bahamas’ Order of Merit. In 2014, the second legend class patrol boat of the Royal Bahamas Defence Force was commissioned as HMBS Durward Knowles. His main charity is The Bahamas Association for Physically Disabled.
Sir Durward was the oldest and longest serving member of the International Star Class Yacht Racing Association, having served as commodore for 20 years. He was the first Bahamian to be elected to such a position.
Sir Durward is arguably the greatest sporting legend who ever competed for The Bahamas, but he will be remembered for much more than just that, inclusive of giving back to his community and his country, and his support and advancement of Bahamians everywhere.