I have been searching the Internet unsuccessfully for a sailboat called Mr. Bill’s Dog my father used to race all over the world. I have been on some of the largest sailboat forums asking all the right questions about the boat and posting information to once again have the chance to see Mr. Bill’s Dog. The boat was designed by Bruce Kelley, and built by Lovfauld Marine located in Florida.
In 1976, my father Mike McKillip began sailing. One of his clients was sailing a three-quarter ton sailboat named ‘Fun.’ My father really got into the sport and bought a sailboat and started racing. The year before my father was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. He was told that he had about five years to do what he wanted and that the doctors really didn’t know how the MS was going to affect him.
In 1977 he was sailing every weekend, and my two brothers and I would spend the weekends at the cabin at Grand Lake while dad went racing. 1977 was a good learning year for my dad, as he won the PORC in San Diego and placed 3rd in the three-quarter ton Torc in Corpus Christi, Tex.
In 1978 he had placed second in the one-quarter ton North Americans located in New Orleans, and placed first in 1978 at the Mini-Ton North American in Dallas sailing a Lindenburg 22 named Sauerkraut. In 1978 dad started talking to Bruce Kelley about designing a Mini-Ton boat. The boat was built by Lovfauld Marine in Florida in 10 weeks. It was a cold molded boat from what I have been told.
“1979 my father was losing the use of his legs and was complaining about how the bottoms of his feet were feeling. I remember him going to Dallas for treatments. He would come home from Dallas and Houston and would spend weeks in the bed trying to recover from the doctors” exploratory treatments. Despite the medical problems, 1979 was again another great year of sailing for my dad. He won the 1979 Mini Ton North American in Marina Del Ray, and again in 1980 in Annapolis. At this point the Mini-Ton association was becoming very strong and my father was invited to the World Championships in Scotland.
By this time my dad had taken a turn for the worse and was now walking with a cane. I remember him taking us all to Hawaii for Christmas in 1979. By the time we all got back he now had to use crutches, and he decided to let the crew of the boat take her to Scotland.
In 1980 the crew of Mr. Bill’s Dog had won the World Championship. Dad seemed like he was on top of the world, but he was stricken with the MS. At this point in our lives things started to change. The expensive cars and houses were being sold to pay for medical bills. The boats were all sold, and the cabin at the lake was also sold. I have fond memories of Grand Lake; I also remember my oldest brother taking my father over his shoulder and having to carry him down the catwalk to the dock with Max, our English bulldog, sitting on the beach eating rocks.
My father was a fighter and wouldn’t let the Multiple Sclerosis keep him down. He was a fine arts major from the University of Tulsa and had learned to use a head mouse so he could paint on the computer. He had a showing at Philbrook Museum in Tulsa. It seemed that he was keeping his mind off of the MS and back on the sport he loved, sailing.
In 2003 my wife and I bought a 1975 San Juan 24 sailboat from the local MS Society. My father had remembered the boat from his sailing days, and my wife and I loved going over to my parents home and telling my father what we had learned on the boat. In 2004 we bought a Capri 25, which needed some work done to it, and I would love going over to the house and telling dad again what I was up to. I was repairing the boat for our annual MS Close Regatta that was to be held on September 10, 2005. It was June of 2005 when I received the news that my father had only about a month to live. I spent every day at his bedside or at the lake trying to get the boat into the water.
July 1, 2005, my dad passed away at 59 years old with us all at his side. His last request was for him to be set out to sea. He wanted his ashes spread into the Gulf of Mexico off of Corpus Christi. “Not in the bay,” he said “but in the ocean” where he used to sail. On my father’s birthday my mother felt it was her time to let my father go. Mike Braney lived down in Corpus along with a great friend of my parents Mark Foster. Braney and Mark had set us up with a great place to stay, and we set out to sea on dad’s birthday, spreading his ashes into the Gulf. We had a relaxing day back at Corpus.
I sail our boat because of my father. He never really had the chance to teach me how to sail. But I would sit by his bedside and listen to him tell me what I needed to do. Without him in my life I would have never had the sensation of the wind blowing across my face. When I walk outside and I feel the winds picking up, I think of him. I know that he would have given anything to be sitting by my side on the weather rail.
For whoever has the boat Mr. Bill’s Dog, you hold a very important part of the lives and history of the McKillips. Keep her in good shape, and sail her fast.
I lost my father Michael McKillip to Multiple Sclerosis, a potentially debilitating disease in which one’s immune system eats away at the protective sheath that covers the nerves.
Later this year will be the 31st year that Windycrest Sailing Club holds the MS Close Regatta. The Regatta will be held in September.
For more information about how one can support the MS Society, please visit a local MS Chapter or Windycrest Sailing Club Windycrest Sailing Club is located on Keystone Lake just a 30 minute drive from Tulsa.
This article was written by the son of Mike McKillip, a Tulsan and Regatta sailor who won the World Championship in 1980 in Scotland while suffering from Multiple Sclerosis. Chris McKillip writes of his memories of his late father and his love for and successes at sailing. His son hopes to repeat his father’s sailing successes and fight MS by supporting the MS Close Regatta at Keystone Lake in Sept. Thanks to GTS newspapers.
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