Husband sails through life while wife rows

Doug and Sigrid Knight of Bainbridge Island have excelled in competitions on the water, but in different sports—Doug in sailing and Sigrid in rowing.

Doug actually qualified for the 1980 Olympics in Moscow, but the U.S. boycotted them along with 60 other countries because of the Russian invasion of Afghanistan.

The Knights met at Queen Anne High School in Seattle and have been together since 1952. They didn’t start out in water sports. They began as a skiing family. But Doug took an interest in sailing. In 1956, Bill Buchan, who is married to Sigrid’s cousin, reached out to Doug about competing. “I had sailed before but not competitively,” said Doug, now 90 while his wife is 89. “You can get the maneuvers down, and we got to a point where we just said ready and go.”

Bill and Doug took over the sailing world in their star boat, a 23-foot racing keelboat that used to be featured in the Olympics. It is slightly different than the newer sailboats in the Olympics because it had more friction, had a few different mechanics and was more physically demanding.

From 1956-80, Bill and Doug dominated the sport worldwide. “We won a lot of races,” Doug said. “Everyone was calling me grandpa but I was still beating them. One time I calculated that we sailed at least a thousand races over twenty years.”

Some of the races Doug won included the 1971 World Championships, the 1980 Olympic Trials in Estonia and three Baccardi races leading up to the 1980 Olympics.

“Winning the world was very enjoyable,” Doug said. “It was good because we smoked everyone in that one. I don’t know how many World Championships I sailed in but the worst I did was seventh place.”

Besides winning several medals and trophies, Doug got to explore the world with Sigrid. “They got to sail all over the world,” Sigrid said. “We went to Germany, Sweden, Spain, Portugal and all over.”

They decided to move to BI in 1972. “He started building houses, and I went to work with the security of a salary,” Sigrid said, adding she worked for the Washington State Ferries for 39 years.

By 1980, Doug achieved all his goals except his top one. “My one goal was to get to the Olympics. We weren’t able to compete. After the trials, we came back and President Carter canceled the Olympics. As soon as he did that, I told Bill I was through.”

But “in 1982, Bill called me up and asked if I wanted to go for a little sail,” he said. “I heard that term before because the Olympics were coming up. I told Bill no I am too old.” He was 50.

Buchan ended up competing in the 1984 Olympics without Doug and won the gold medal.

But Doug started a new passion—hiking in the Olympic Mountains—while Sigrid began one of her own—rowing.

“I was at a Fourth of July event and heard people calling my name,” Sigrid said. “It was a few girls selling snow cones because they wanted to start a rowing club. I didn’t know anything about it, and I began going, and it was one of the best things I have ever done for myself.”

Sigrid has been a BI Rowing member for nearly 20 years. When she began, she competed in a shell that consisted of eight rowers. “We didn’t win anything great,” Sigrid said. “We came in second a few times and third. We went to nationals but I wasn’t a race winner.”

Recently, Sigrid stopped racing and began rowing in shells to stay active and enjoy her surroundings. “Just being out on the water itself gives a feeling of serenity,” Sigrid said. “I have begun sculling, and I love it.”

Sculling is with two oars instead of one, and so can be done with just one person.

Despite battling a few injuries, Sigrid continues to row. “I feel very fortunate I can still row at this age,” Sigrid said. “I’ve had a few setbacks but I fully intend to continue.”

Nowadays, the two watch the younger generations compete from the windows of their condo near the ferry dock.

Star Class Yacht Racing Association courtesy photo
Bill Buchan, left, and Doug Knight won several of the top races in the world.

Star Class Yacht Racing Association courtesy photo Bill Buchan, left, and Doug Knight won several of the top races in the world.