Eight Bells: ROBERT WARDEN McKimm

Sail Canada is deeply saddened to hear of the passing of a cherished member of the sailing community, Robert Warden McKimm.

On 4th May, in Ottawa. Husband of the late Margo (Grace) McKimm (2008), father of John Warden (Nathalie Lanctot) of London, England and Martha Grace (Dennis Darby) of Toronto.  Proud grandfather of Lydia and Andrew McKimm and Grace and Max Valihora. Devoted brother of the late Charles, George, Barbara (Beattie), Joan (Fairbairn) and Sheila. The youngest son of Charles McKimm M.C. and Anita (Warden) McKimm, Ward grew up in Smiths Falls, Ontario, where his family owned the local newspaper, The Record News, which had been founded by his grandfather. After graduating from the University of Toronto’s Victoria College, he studied Law at Osgoode Hall and went on to join the Department of Justice in 1953 where he worked in a number of capacities, including as Chief Counsel to the Privy Council. He subsequently left the government for private practice and enjoyed a successful career, a highlight of which was acting for the appellant in Canadian Aero Service Ltd. v. O’Malley, a leading civil case decided by the Supreme Court on director and officer liability.  


As a boy, Ward spent most of his summers on his family’s island on Rideau Lake, where he discovered what was to be a life-long love of sailing. An avid all-round sportsman, his love of competition eventually led him to become active in racing International 14-foot and Flying Dutchman dinghies from 1956 through 1968. During this time, he was a member of the Canadian teams that won the 1956 and 1961 International 14 World Championships, was 2nd in the 1965 International 14 World Championships and 1965 International 14 Canadian Champion. In the Flying Dutchman he won the 1963 North American Championship and the 1962 Canadian Open. He was also the recipient of the Stevenson Trophy, Converse Cup, President’s Cup, D.P. Kirby Memorial Trophy and the Viscount Alexander of Tunis Trophy. In the 1970s, he left the practice of law to join his friend and former International 14 sailing partner Ian Bruce to develop the Laser sailboat, which eventually became and still is the largest sailboat class in the world. The first North American Laser Championship took place in 1971 and the first Laser World Championship in 1974. Ward participated in these and many later Laser championships and became one of the world’s top Laser sailors. In the ‘80s, ‘90s and ‘00s, Ward was engaged various entrepreneurial endeavours and spent all his spare time at his cottage on 31 Mile Lake, near Gracefield, Quebec, where up until the age of 85 he taught sailing and organized regattas for fellow cottagers and friends. He was inducted into the International 14 Hall of Fame in 2013. Ward was devoted to Margo, his wife of 46 years, his family, and his beloved grandchildren.  He will be sorely missed and fondly remembered. A memorial service will be held in the Autumn. Donations, if desired, to Sail Canada, www.sailing.ca.