Richard Hinterhoeller was only four years old when his father designed the Shark 24 sailboat.
Sixty-four years later, it has gone on to become a favourite of many across North America and is set to be the star of a sailboat racing championship starting this Friday in Niagara-on-the-Lake.
Hinterhoeller said his late father, George Hinterhoeller, created the 24-foot sailboat in 1959, here in NOTL, to serve as a family-friendly means of sailing the water.
“He moved to Canada in the mid-1950s and he’d built himself a Lightning class boat,” he said.
The Lightning class sailboat is a 19-foot racing sailboat first built in 1938 and used all over the world.
However, when his dad took his older sister out onto Lake Ontario one day in the Lightning, and as he looked out at the water – with no shoreline in sight – he realized something.
“He said, ‘This lake is too big to take a family sailing in a boat that could capsize,’” Hinterhoeller said.
So, in 1959, Hinterhoeller’s father built a boat that was safe for the family and performed well on the water.
“The result of that was the Shark,” he said.
Hinterhoeller will be the race director at this year’s World Shark Championship being held at the Niagara-on-the-Lake Sailing Club from Aug. 18 to 25.
More than 150 contestants from around the globe will be in NOTL for the competition, racing a boat that his father created.
“I’m just dazzled by the fact that he came up with something that is this popular,” he said.
The younger Hinterhoeller grew up in Niagara-on-the-Lake and is now retired in Mississauga.
“I identify as being from around Niagara-on-the-Lake — always have always will,” he said.
He still has his foot in the sailing world and volunteers with World Sailing and other international committees.
“This is the home of the Shark: this is where it all started,” he said, referring to Niagara-on-the-Lake.
“To be a part of it is always wonderful,” he added.
The Shark boats are still being built in Europe in small numbers, he said, adding that a few years ago his mother received a royalty check.
“My one niece says, ‘Boy, our grandfather sure set a pretty high standard for all of us, didn’t he?'” he said.
George Hinterhoeller would be “tickled” to see how popular the boat still is over 60 years later, his son added.
“His grandchildren’s generation is now buying these boats and fixing them up and then racing them competitively,” he said.
Hinterhoeller’s sailboat from 1982 will be out on the water during next week’s competition — but he won’t be behind the helm.
“I’m lending it to one of the European sailors who’s coming over,” he said.
He’ll be out on the water with his daughter, Madeleine, who will be one of the recorders.
One of the recorders’ jobs is to record the order in which the boats finish.
“It sounds simple until you have 20 boats crossing the line in 14 seconds,” he said.
He’s excited about the competition and looks forward to seeing the boats out on the water — and hopes for some good wind.
“The Sharks are quite an impressive boat when the wind kicks up,” he said.
His father’s sailing partner always had three pieces of advice for sailors.
“His advice was to start first, sail fast and head in the right direction,” he said.
“I will add one — have fun.”