Karen and Rob Wilson

The Wilsons live in Austin, Texas, which is near the center of the state. Austin has a mild climate that allows them to sail all year long. They keep their boat at the Austin Yacht Club on the shores of Lake Travis, a large reservoir that is a few miles west of Austin. Rob works for 3M in new product development and Karen is the Director of a county health department.

Karen and Rob both grew up in southwestern Montana, an area not known for its sailors. They began sailing on Fern Ridge Reservoir in Oregon when they moved there so Rob could do research at the University of Oregon in Eugene. They bought an O’Day Day Sailor and spent many summer hours cruising on Fern Ridge (the reservoir was drained in the winter). They took the Day Sailor with them when they moved to St Paul, Minnesota and soon sold it and bought a San Juan 21 that they trailer sailed on the lakes in Minnesota (when they weren’t frozen, which is a lot shorter time than you might expect).

When the Wilsons moved to Austin they took the San Juan 21 with them and kept it moored on Lake Travis. They soon added wind surfing to their sailing and quickly found they weren’t using the boat enough to justify keeping it. After a few years of wind surfing Rob began crewing on large boats racing out of the Austin Yacht Club. But then Karen and Rob got the fever to get a new boat of their own.

When they started looking for a new boat, they knew they wanted a high performance boat with a modern design and they wanted a lifting keel so the boat would be as easy to trailer sail as their San Juan 21 was. After reading a magazine article they contacted Jeff Canepa at USI and made arrangements to meet John McWaid at a reservoir near Fort Worth for a test sail of the new Ultimate 20. At that time John was touring the country in his RV to expose people to the Ultimate 20. Karen and Rob liked what we saw and a few months later took delivery of Blue Norther, U20 #9, one of the early boats that were made in Ron Moore’s shop. (Blue Norther is a local term for a cold front that approaches from the north into central Texas). For about two years they raced Blue Norther in a PHRF fleet at the Austin Yacht Club and trailered it to the first U20 Nationals.

Rob and Karen with their friends Beth Flake and David Michalek and Blue Norther at the 1995 Nationals on Tampa Bay

Blue Norther has since moved still "norther," and has been renamed Snowy Owl by its current owner, Bill Garry in Juneau, Alaska. The Wilson's now own U20 #68, Blew By U, the first boat built at the new USI factory. They have towed it to many U20 regattas including the 1997 and 1999 Nationals, and took second place in the 1999 Plenty of 20s Regatta in Little Rock.