Dag Pike, who first went to sea as a teenager and went on to become one of the world’s most respected – and most prolific – boat racers, navigators and seamen, passed away earlier this week. He was 88 years old, and lived in Bristol, UK.
I first met Dag at a Miami boat show in the early ‘80s, when he was already a legendary international boating figure, and he was writing for Motor Boating & Sailing, where I was the editor. In person, Dag was memorable; he always had a smile, he always had a new tale to fell, and he told them very well.
Dag’s boating career started when he was 16 and he joined the British Merchant Navy as an apprentice. His first shipwreck came two years later, off the west coast of Scotland. By the time he was 21, he had several circumnavigations under his belt. At 29, he was the youngest Trinity House lighthouse tender captain, going on to become an Inspector of Lifeboats for the RNLI.
Over the years, Dag has written more than 50 nautical books, and who-knows-how-many magazine articles, all based on his personal experiences. At one time, he held the transatlantic speed records for both power and sail. He also liked to say that he was the most rescued seaman in the world, having been rescued 13 times. Dag said he wasn’t particularly proud of that number, but if you keep pushing the envelope, well, things happen.
One of Dag’s more famous sinkings came in 1985 when he was on the Virgin Atlantic Challenger, a 65-foot race boat sponsored by Richard Branson, trying to set a record from New York to the Bishop Rock Lighthouse at the tip of Britain. The boat hit something and sank 138 miles short of its goal. The crew was rescued by a passing banana boat. The next year Dag came back on Virgin Atlantic 2 and set a new record.
Dag won the Offshore World Championship once and the Round Britain Powerboat Race twice, the second time when he was 75 years old. Dag’s professional CV goes on for seven pages, single spaced.
In more recent years, I continued to see Dag at boat shows around the world, in Monaco, Genoa, Düsseldorf, Miami. Even as he aged, he still was smiling, he still had a new tale to tell.
By the time he died, Dag was a Fellow of the Royal Institute of Navigation, a Fellow of the Institute of Marine Engineering Science and Technology, an Associate Fellow of the Nautical Institute, and an Associate Fellow of the Royal Meteorological Society. He was still writing, and he had started a late-life career as an expert witness in boating-accident trials.
Wherever he was, Dag cast a long shadow in the boating world. In 1999, I drove a 47-foot Fountain powerboat 162 mph with the late Fabio Buzzi, a ten-time world champion and close friend of Dag’s. It was the fastest in the world the time. When we got off the boat at the Fountain factory in North Carolina, Buzzi turned to me and said, “Now you’re the fastest journalist in the world. What will I tell Dag Pike?”
Dag is survived by his wife Cath.