North Sails LOFT NEWS

Story Contributors: Drew Mitchell


Remembering Travis McGregor

Travis was a great sailor and a great friend of mine. I contacted the sailor who spent the most time racing with him on Turnagain as well as his partner and asked them a few questions.

Here are their responses to the questions I asked Uncle Vern Burkhardt.

Your first time meeting Travis.

I met Travis in Victoria during the Swiftsure International Yacht Race while I was the Chair of this event. A great friendship subsequently began when Travis was a student in 2013 of an Offshore Personal Survival Course (Safety at Sea) where I was one of the three instructors. Early on it was apparent that Travis was a highly skilled mariner who loved to sail and to compete in sailboat races.

How many races/deliveries have you done with him?

I raced with Travis in about four Oregon Offshore Races (since renamed the Pacific NW Offshore Race), four Swiftsure International Yacht Races, two Southern Straits, a Snowflake winter series run by the West Vancouver Yacht Club, and two Vic Maui Races (2016 and 2018). I also helped him deliver his SV Turnagain from San Diego to Vancouver. 

Also, we jointly arranged and took turns skippering various legs in the delivery of John and Judie Abel’s Beneteau 49 from Puerto Rico through the Panama Canal and back to Victoria via the Galapagos Islands, Marquesas, and Hawaii (over 11,000 nautical mile delivery). We also helped Abels deliver their newly acquired yacht from Halifax NS to New York City.

A funny experience with Travis.

Travis and I had many wonderful times together and shared some funny and also some very challenging conditions. We both loved to fish while offshore by dragging behind the boat a 1/8” line attached to a leader and lure. Whenever we had a fish strike Travis would become highly excited, unusual for Travis, and rush to grab the line to bring in the fish. 

The only time I would get to the line before Travis was when he was sleeping, but even then a few times he rushed out from below and grabbed the line with the fish before anyone in the cockpit could get to it. With a “fish on” he became very animated and excited when it was landed.

Whenever we raced in the Pacific NW Offshore Race we would sail to Astoria a week in advance presumably to be in Astoria in time for the start of the race. The real reason, it seems, was that Travis loved to sample the libations offered by the many brewpubs.

Almost every time we headed offshore for a delivery or a race, Travis would be seasick for the first several days. When asked why he didn’t quit sailing and instead take up golf he replied, “You can’t golf at night.”  

One of the most memorable experience with Travis was during the delivery of SV Turnagain from San Diego to Vancouver. We were off the Oregon coast at night and it was pitch black with no moonlight. Travis and one other crew member were below decks as they were off watch, and I was on the helm. A wave hit the side of the boat hard and washed over the deck knocking me off the helm and with great force against the pushpit. Travis bolted out of the cockpit and yelled, “Are you still on the boat” as the MOB ring and light were disappearing behind as its bracket attaching it to the boat had been bent by the wave.

In a few hours Travis lamented that we missed a great opportunity to practice a MOB recovery drill in the extreme wind and sea condition by retrieving the MOB ring and light. He didn’t mention, but I’m sure it was in his mind, and save the cost of replacement. Two years later the life ring was retrieved by a mariner off the Brooks Peninsula, and through luck the MOB life ring minus the light was returned to Travis only a week before his death.

What was the best attribute Travis brought to a sailing team?

Travis was meticulous in his preparation of SV Turnagain for any race. He knew every aspect of his yacht and had thoughtfully equipped it with incredible attention to detail. He was one of the best helmsmen, and a highly competent navigator and leader on a boat. Travis never lost focus and was always thinking about how to go faster and in the right direction to gain advantage.

A time Travis went above and beyond to make sure his team was safe.

Travis always went above and beyond to make sure his team was safe by ensuring the boat was well prepared, and he was physically and mentally up for any challenge that came along.

He showed his leadership skills when we lost the quadrant in the steering system in the 2016 Vic Maui Race. His first priority was the safety of crew and leading the crew in making a decision whether or not to continue racing with our emergency steering system knowing we were no longer competitive or change our mission to arrive in Lahaina, Maui in time for the Awards Party. The party option was the chosen option.

Travis’ crew briefings prior to each race or offshore passage were thorough and clear. He had a checklist of items to cover and did so in a manner that all crew were aware that a safety first culture prevailed on the boat. And he led by example.  

 What do you think Travis should be remembered for?

Travis loved his two children and was often melancholy about being away from them when we were offshore. He often spoke about them and how proud he was of them—a great role model for a father. He should also be remembered as a highly accomplished mariner who loved being on the water. He was a wonderful gentleman, a great friend, and respected and admired by an incredibly large number of people.

Kaitin Brunt:

When was your first experience sailing with Travis?

The first time Travis and I went sailing was for a few days cruising in the Gulf Islands. He picked me up at a tiny dock where he maneuvered Turnagain (in reverse!) into this super tight slip and made it look effortless, as he did with most things. As I was stepping onboard I thought to myself, “Oh my god, who is this guy??”

What was your favourite memory on Turnagain?

We were sailing back from Wigwam  with Travis’s kids. It was sunny, we had a beautiful breeze behind us, and Sylvia (his daughter) was driving. He loved being out with his kids and having them participate in the sailing. Sylvia was doing an amazing job and Travis was such a proud dad! 

What were Travis’s favourite activities/passions outside of his boat?

He loved to explore, be active and be in nature. He loved skiing, diving and hiking, anything that brought him outdoors. He was also a fantastic cook! 

Who did you consider Travis favorite person to be on a boat with?

He was definitely happiest when his kids were onboard. He really wanted to show them the world by boat.

Where was Travis’ favorite or top spot he enjoyed sailing ?

Tough question… I think he loved all his sailing adventures, whether it was Gulf Islands, Hawaii, or Galapagos. He really wanted to see it all by boat, but I think his heart belonged to the coast. Secret Cove, Tribune Bay, Princess Louisa .. he always said he wanted to end up here.

Which do you think Travis enjoyed more cruising or racing ?

Travis was definitely a cruiser. He enjoyed racing because it got him on the water but he was happier to explore on his own time. He liked racing because it was a great excuse to sail to Hawaii, but he would have cruised there if he could have justified it! 

Our sailing community lost an amazing sailor and friend. Before Travis passed he was co-chair of the Vic Maui and one of the reasons that the race has been as successful as it has been over the last few editions. He also helped a local couple deliver their boat home from the Caribbean. Travis always had his next adventure on his mind and I hope that his legacy will live on in the memories of his friends. 

Story Contributors

Friends Reflect On A Great Sailor And Partner headshot
Drew Mitchell

Sail Expert — Vancouver, British Columbia

Drew Mitchell grew up sailing at the Lunenburg Yacht Club in Nova Scotia. He has raced on and coached high performance one design for nearly 20 years. Drew races in the Melges 24, Farr 30 and the TP 52 PNW...

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