One of the great characters of sailing Arthur J. 'Tuna' Wullschleger died Sunday, November 25, at the age of 94 years.
'Tuna' earned his nickname during the fateful Fastnet Race in 1979, when he ordered his crew to take down the spinnaker. The crew called him 'Tuna, Chicken of the Sea'. But, they won the race, and Tuna's order may well have saved their lives. Tuna used the nickname with pride for the rest of his life.
Tuna managed several successful America's Cup syndicates, and helped countless others - as a sponsor and volunteer.
Tuna was first appointed as an International Judge in 1982, and remained active as a judge and umpire until his passing. His IJ status was renewed at the 2012 ISAF Annual Conference in Dublin in early November.
Born and raised in Larchmont, New York, Arthur Wullschleger, who became known to all who raced and sailed with him as 'Tuna', grew up sailing on Long Island Sound, learning to love sailing at Larchmont Yacht Club, where he eventually became Commodore. As a young man, he spent his summers in a French speaking Canton of Switzerland with family, where he became fluent in French.
He attended College at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY studying engineering. During his college years, his passion was racing outboard powered hydroplane class boats. This series was held in many geographic areas of the US, and Tuna pioneered a system whereby he maintained a centrally based engine shop in Kansas City, MO, where his outboard motors were rebuilt, tuned and maintained.
This innovation in logistics allowed him to exchange engines that were race worn for a fresh motor on the way to the next event simply by detouring there en route to the next racing venue. He became very successful on the circuit, eventually winning multiple class championships with this system, including the U. S. Amateur Championship in 1938.
After receiving his degree, at the outbreak of World War II, Tuna enlisted in the US Navy where as a young officer, his knack for this type of organization and insight for staging and logistics was recognized in the fleet and he was assigned to be part of an advance team that would travel throughout the Pacific. Starting in Alaska where the Japanese were very intent on gaining a foothold in this territory, the team would establish defensible bases which were then supplied with fuel and ammo or even made into strategic forward airstrips that helped thwart this invasion attempt. Eventually, Tuna concluded the war period doing this throughout the Pacific as US Marines recaptured island territory. In September 1945, he was present, as an aide to the senior naval officer, when the Imperial Japanese Navy surrendered their naval base at Ominato.
After the war, Tuna returned to Larchmont and spent a successful career running the family textile business. There he formed an association with Colin Ratsey that would lead to many well known ocean racing boats named Golliwog, beginning with a sister ship to Finnisterre and finishing with a well known series of C&C Yachts to his final Peterson Three tonner. His racing career took him to many places and included numerous Bermuda Races, Transatlantic races, Skaw Races to Scandinavia, Cowes Weeks and Fastnet Races.
This was in the heyday of Offshore racing which has spanned the Offshore Grand Prix Races we still hold today. Along with this pursuit, Tuna was a founding member of the Storm Trysail Club and was instrumental in organizing their biannual Block Island Race Week. After serving as Commodore of the STC, Tuna was a key figure as well in the America’s Cup where he participated in several New York Yacht Club Defender syndicates in the 70’s and on into the 80’s where he led their America II Syndicate to Perth Australia in an attempt to win back the America’s Cup from the Australians.
During these years, Tuna developed a passion for judging and upon his return from Australia, became active in both the maxi Circuit as well as the Fifties series where he was a fixture in overseeing the jury at all of their events as Chief Judge.
Not content with protests and hearings as the most efficient way of resolving boat on boat issues for America’s Cup type match racing, Tuna was a part of the original group which included ISAF president Goran Petersson, and Tom Ehman who pioneered the concept of on the water umpiring in Newport, RI at the 1987 Maxi Series and used initially at the 1988 Congressional Cup. This system has developed into what we now regularly see at umpired match and Team Races internationally.
Although Tuna retired from umpiring in the mid-2000's, Tuna continued to judge actively well into 2012; participating annually in Key West Race Week, the Etchells Jaguar Series, the International Rolex Regatta, Antigua Race Week and the Newport Bermuda Race, to name just a few of his favorite events.
Behind the gruff exterior was a heart of gold. Many of ISAF's top race officials can trace their development to advice and mentoring given by Tuna.
There are few people in the World who have contributed more to the sport. The sailing community has lost a legend.
The video below features Arthur 'Tuna' Wullschleger in his capacity of Operations Manager for the New York Yacht Club and speaks as they exit the 1987 America's Cup Regatta