Someone You Should Know: Dick Hallagan

Dick Hallagan (WHAM photo)

If anyone ever told Dick Hallagan to act his age, it’s not likely that he listened. The Fairport man, 83, is in South America this week, preparing to compete in a major sailboat race. It’s his 22nd time taking on the challenge of the International Lightning Class World Championship.

Hallagan got into sailing in 1958, when his future father-in-law gave him a used sailboat as a wedding present.

“We knew nothing about racing,” Hallagan says. “And it took us about ten years to get it going good, and the rest is history.”

Dick is in Ecuador, one of many international sailing sites he has visited before. The biennial championship for Lightning Class sailors will draw 60 teams from around the world.

While it may sound like a jet-setting lifestyle, Dick points out that the boats used in this class of sailing are more accessible to people of average means, making it a great way for families to enjoy the sport.

Dick will be the skipper when the races begin on Friday. Both his crew members are in their mid-60s. Their ages total 251 years, and since experience is a key to success in competitive sailing, Hallagan’s making the trip knowing they have a shot at winning.

“We put our experiences together and make it go,” he says.

While Hallagan spends summers on the water, he enjoys the colder months on the snow. He stepped into the bindings of his cross-country skis about 60 times last winter. Dick says it helps to keep his legs strong, and credits that with helping in his battle with Parkinson’s disease.

Hallagan was diagnosed four years ago.

“We heard him say it in his office,” Hallagan recalls about getting the news from his doctor. “But it was going down the elevator that we realized what he meant. At first it was devastating, but little by little we realized we were handling it pretty well.”

Sailing, it seems, and life, are more enjoyable if we focus more on the journey and less on the finish line.

Asked what he gets if he wins the race, Hallagan says “A handshake. Thanks for coming.”

He says there’s no monetary reward, only the reward of knowing that you did it. That certainly applies to sailing, but also to life itself.

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