Eight Bells for Doug Fryer
Written by Bob Perry
My friend, my client, and my attorney Doug Fryer died this weekend (April 17, 2020). About six months ago, Doug called me on a Saturday and said he wanted to do a new boat. Music to my ears. On Sunday evening, he called back and said he had some bad medical news and would have to put off the new boat. I kept working on the design anyway.
I thought it might cheer him up and it did momentarily. But the writing was on the wall and the doctor’s prognosis was accurate. Unfortunately.
The last race I did with Doug was this past summer. Doug was a bit weak, but he drove the entire race and we took second. In classic Doug style, after the boat was put to bed, the rum bottle came out with the hot buttered rum mix. The crew sat around the cockpit drinking “Ritual Rums.” Doug like 151 proof rum because it weighed less for the punch.
We drank and Doug recited nautical poetry, some a bit bawdy. He had a resonant, baritone voice and he delivered the poems with attorney-like panache. Looking back, I think the whole crew knew we were experiencing something that would never happen again.
Doug was the “co-inventor” of the Life Sling system. He did not take a nickel from all the units they sold. It was his gift to sailing.
I could tell Doug and Night Runner stories all day. Doug loved sailing and he loved Night Runner. When he first came into my office, he showed me a magazine clipping of a Bruce King design and asked me if I could “fix” it. That did not sound like fun to me, so I convinced Doug to let me draw a preliminary design for him. He said, “Fine, I’ll come back Tuesday.”
It was Friday. Monday morning, early, I stared at the blank sheet of vellum and racked my brain for an idea. Nothing. I re-racked. Nothing. I couldn’t just regurgitate the Bruce King design. I had way too much pride for that. Then it occurred to me that people usually like what they know.
Doug’s current boat was the venerable Atkin cutter African Star. The worm in the race fleet was, “If you can see African Star at the finish, they have beaten you.” I drew a 42′, fin keel version of African Star. Doug showed up on Tuesday, took one look at the preliminary drawings and said, “I like it.”
Doug won the Swiftsure International Yacht Race seven times in Night Runner. I can remember being knocked on our beam ends, chute up going through Race Rocks one year. Doug was awarded the CCA Blue Water Medal for his voyage around South America and rounding Cape Horn. Doug raced Night Runner in the single handed TransPac. Night Runner had some nick names, Night Crawler, the Mayflower. It is one of the finest feeling boats I have ever sailed.
So now what? Wish I knew. I have this feeling that it’s the end of an era in PNW yachting. It will be interesting to see what happens to Night Runner now. So long Doug. It was an honor.
—Bob Perry, Yacht Designer
Douglas Martin Fryer died on Friday, April 17, 2020. He was an accomplished sailor, a maritime and admiralty attorney, a father, grandfather, husband and friend. Night Runner is a 42-foot Perry-design cutter.