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28 Nov 2020

It is with great sadness that World Sailing reports the passing of Kevin Burnham, aged 63, on Friday 27 November 2020 after a long, courageous battle with pulmonary disease.

Burnham is a three-time Olympic sailor and a two-time Olympic medalist for Team USA. He won Athens 2004 Olympic gold with Paul Foerster and a silver medal with Morgan Reeser at the Barcelona 1992 Olympic Games. Burnham and Foerster were named Rolex Yachtsman of the Year for their gold medal performance and were nominated for Rolex World Sailor of the Year. Burnham also won a gold medal at the 1986 Goodwill Games.

"The World Sailing community is deeply saddened to hear of Kevin Burnham's passing and on behalf of World Sailing, I extend our condolences to Kevin's family and friends," commented World Sailing President, Quanhai Li. "Kevin embodied the spirit of sailing with passion for competing and nurturing sailing talent worldwide. His energy and enthusiasm for the sport was unrivalled and he will forever be remembered for his kindness and outstanding achievements in the sport."

"On behalf of everyone at US Sailing, we are deeply saddened to learn about Kevin Burnham's passing and we send our condolences to the Burnham family during this difficult time," said Cory Sertl, President of US Sailing and Vice-President of World Sailing. "Kevin's accomplishments as a sailor are extraordinary and his Olympic spirit is iconic. We will remember the energy he had for coaching and teaching sailing. Kevin was an inspiration to so many and will be missed by all who had the pleasure to know him."

Burnham started sailing when he was eight and through to 18 he and his family went cruising every week and in the summer on a Columbia 22 and then a Morgan 30. Commenting in 2004, when he was nominated for Rolex World Sailor of the Year, Burnham said, "Initially I was not interested in sailing. In fact, when I was 9, I used to sabotage the engine of the Columbia 22 so that we could not get out of the harbour and go sailing! I was more into surfing and tennis."

His focus and passion for sailing started to materialise in 1975 when he met Steve Benjamin at the Coral Reef Yacht Club in Miami, USA. Burnham commented, "At this time, I did not even know that sailing was an Olympic sport. Steve indicated to me that my physique was ideal to be a crew in a 470 and asked if I was interested in going out for a sail with him.

"The next day we went sailing in 15 to 20 knots of breeze in the 470. This was my first day of sailing a dinghy - a lot more exciting than the Sunday sailing days on the Columbia."

From there on, Burnham was hooked and aside from his Olympic journey, he was versatile sailor who competed in various boats and different racing formats over his exciting career. In ocean racing events, he competed at the Sydney-Hobart Race, Rolex Transatlantic Challenge, Newport to Bermuda Race, and won the 1989 Worrell 1000 Mile race. Burnham was an 11-time U.S. National Champion.

Later in his career, Burnham coached sailing athletes in the U.S. and around the world preparing them for the highest levels of international competition. He especially loved coaching youth and Paralympic athletes.

His overall positive presence, incredible optimism, and never give up attitude will always be remembered.

World Sailing sends its condolences to wife Elizabeth Kratzig, son Eddie Burnham, daughter Kyla Burnham, brother Greg Burnham, his father Bruce Burnham and his friends and extended family.

Source: World Sailing