In 1950, still a teenager, at the age of just seventeen, Don Green sailed around the world as part of the crew of the brigantine ‘Yankee’. For 18 months, over 48,000 miles, with a compass as the only instrument for guidance, they sailed through a hurricane, a cyclone and a typhoon. This saga resulted in a book which Don co-authored, ‘White Wings Around the World’ which described his adventure. But this was only the beginning for this passionate sailor.
In 1967 Don moved to Burlington to raise his family but it also brought him closer to the water he so loved to challenge. He spent many hours with his children in junior sailing but he was also anxious to get back into racing. Don did just that when in 1978 he challenged for the Canada’s Cup at the helm of his “one of a kind outright racing machine”, ‘Evergreen’. The Canada’s Cup is a sailboat race held periodically on the Great Lakes between two boats, one from Canada and one from the United States.
Evergreen won this challenge and Don, with his crew of mostly Burlington sailors were feted royally here in Burlington. The City threw a parade in their honour and an evergreen was planted at City Hall as a permanent reminder of their triumph. It was a victory not only against their American competitor but also against the sailing establishment in Canada which had some difficulty with this ‘brash’ newcomer. In 1980 Don was name to the Order of Canada for bringing home the Canada’s Cup again.
But there were bigger challenges on the horizon and Don, never one to shy away from a challenge or adversity, qualified to represent Canada in the prestigious Admirals Cup in England. It is a 700 mile race out of England, around Fastnet rock in Ireland and back again. Disaster struck the over 300 hundred boats in the form of a fierce and unpredictable storm. Seventeen lives were lost. In his book ‘Beyond Endurance’, author Adam Mayers details the savage storm and wrote: “Don Green worried about it all: the mast, the rudder, the keel, the crew, morale and whether this was the last night of his life. His crew did not sense his fear. They saw someone who was confident and in control”. His composure, courage and expertise guided them to survive the sixty foot waves and live to tell about it.
There remained one final challenge. Don was determined to represent Canada in the big daddy of ocean racing, the 1985 America’s Cup. He viewed it as the perfect opportunity to showcase Canadian innovation and technology on a world stage. It was a huge challenge, and an expensive one. Eventually Don merged his efforts with a group from Western Canada and built ‘True North’. They finished in the middle of the pack with the American team prevailing. However, Don was vindicated in a subsequent two boat challenge in the Caribbean, as True North defeated ‘Stars and Stripes’.
Don Green has been sailing since he was five years of age and he still looks forward to every day on the water because each brings “a brand new experience”. At the same time Don gives immensely to the local community and to the world of sailing. Just this past year he was the Honourary Chair of the 2011 Rotary Mobility Cup, a series of races established for disabled sailors and has just received the Canadian Yachting Association Award for Regatta of the Year. It is our distinct pleasure to welcome Don Green into the Burlington Sports Hall of Fame.