Olympic Gold Medalist and Rules Expert Bill Bentsen Passes Away

US Sailing marks with regret the passing of William “Bill” Bentsen on December 25, 2020 at his home in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. He was 90 years old.

Bentsen, a two-time Olympic medalist in the Flying Dutchman and the Soling, was an internationally respected expert on the racing rules. He and a Dick Rose led the effort to reorganize and simplify The Racing Rules of Sailing for the 1997 rulebook. He chaired the US Sailing Racing Rules Committee and the US Sailing Appeals Committee, and served on the International Sailing Federation (now world Sailing) Racing Rules Committee. As a judge, he officiated at continental and world championships, the 1979 Pan Am Games and the 1988 Olympic Games.

As crew for Buddy Melges, Bentsen won a Bronze Medal at the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games in the Flying Dutchman Class, a Gold Medal at the 1967 Pan American Games in the Flying Dutchman, and, with third crew Bill Allen, a Gold Medal at the 1972 Berlin Olympic Games in the  Soling Class.

“The sport of sailing was Bill’s first love and commitment,” said Dave Perry, Chair of the Appeals Committee. Both Perry and Ken Legler, longtime Tufts sailing coach, recalled Bentsen’s precise and logical approach to the rules and race management. “It was an honor to work with him on sailing instructions,” said Legler. “We had a sense that we were creating a new standard for sailing instructions worldwide. He brought order to the sailing instructions.”

Dick Rose observed, “Bill was one of the giants… in writing rules that were comprehensible, accessible and not contradictory.”

Bentsen was widely recognized for his contributions to the sport of sailing. In 1994 he was awarded US Sailing’s Nathanael G. Herreshoff Trophy for his outstanding contributions to the sport. He received the Harman Hawkins Trophy in 2008 for his contributions to race administration, and in 2007 he was awarded World Sailing’s Beppe Croce Trophy for exceptional contributions as a volunteer. In 2017, he was inducted into the National Sailing Hall of Fame.

For more information on Bill Bentsen’s long and distinguished sailing career, please visit Scuttlebutt’s profile.