Jan Clover Gougeon, of Bay City, Michigan, died Tuesday, December 18, 2012 in Ann Arbor, Michigan at age 67.
He was born August 7, 1945 in Lansing, Michigan, the youngest child of Meade and Elizabeth “Betty” Gougeon. He graduated from Strong Vincent High School in Erie, Pennsylvania in 1961.
Jan served in the U.S. Army and is a veteran of the Vietnam War, where he earned the rank of Sergeant E-5. When he returned in 1969, he founded Gougeon Brothers, Inc. with his brothers Meade and Joel. The company began building boats and iceboats, and found great success in formulating and marketing epoxy resins for boat construction and repair.
A natural engineer, Jan became an accomplished boat designer and builder, and was always thinking about his next boat. At age 14 he began building boats as an apprentice to master boatbuilder Victor Carpenter. Over the course of his lifetime he designed and built numerous multihulls including Wee Three, Flicka, Splinter, Ollie and Pocket Rocket. In 2012 he launched his groundbreaking 40’ multihull, Strings. He was also a key builder on the multihulls Adagio, Rogue Wave, Slingshot and Adrenalin, as well as the several monohulls including the 1975 Canada’s Cup winner, Golden Dazy.
Racing iceboats and multihull sailboats were Jan’s passions, and he particularly loved sailing solo. His first sailboat race was in 1955 at age 10, and he competed in Chicago Yacht Club Race to Mackinaw aboard the newly launched, Strings in July, 2012. In 1980 during qualification trials for the OSTAR challenge, Jan’s trimaran Flicka capsized in the Atlantic Ocean. He spent four long days floating in Flicka’s disabled hull before he was rescued by a passing freighter. The next boat Jan designed, Splinter, was self-rescuing, as was every boat he’s designed since.
Jan placed first in the single-handed Port Huron to Mackinac race in 1981, 1982 and 1983 aboard Splinter. Racing his trimaran Ollie, he won the singlehanded Supermac in 1987 and the Great Lakes Singlehanded Society Peter Fisher Memorial Award in 1989. He competed in the DN Iceboat World Gold Cup Championships over the course of four decades and took the cup home in 1975, 1982, 1985, and 1991. He won the DN Great Cup of Siberia Race in Russia in 1989. He won his eighth North American DN Iceboat Championship in 2000. He competed annually in the Bayview Yacht Club’s Port Huron to Mackinac Race, the Chicago Yacht Club’s Race to Mackinaw and the 300-mile Florida Everglades Challenge. Jan was also a licensed airplane pilot.
Jan is survived by brothers Meade A. (Janet) Gougeon and Joel D.(Kay) Gougeon; Nephews Glenn C. Kirkland, M. Ryan (Janice) Gougeon, Benjamin P. (Logan) Gougeon, Jae H. Gougeon, John M. Thomas; nieces Anne (Randy) Mortensen, Renee (Alan) Gurski, Mia (Kwafo) Adarkwa, Laura J. Gougeon, Anne (John) Thomas Gabriel and Amy (Eric) Koch; 18 grand nieces and nephews; and many good friends including friends Captain J.R. Watson, James Derck, Butch Babcock, Ron Sherry, Jon Staudacher, Chris Cabela and many colleagues from Gougeon Brothers, Inc. Jan is also survived by friend (and former wife) Patricia Huddy. He was predeceased by his parents, sister Pamela (John) Thomas and nephew Gary C. (Michele) Kirkland.
A celebration of Jan’s life will be held at 12:00 noon, Thursday December 27th at the Saginaw Bay Yacht Club. All whom Jan would call friend and family are invited to attend.
Burial at sea will take place privately with the family at a future date.