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The Budding Branches of a Sailing Family Tree

On July 16, the Rush Creek Yacht Club youth race team/summer camp, based in Heath, Texas, was out for a sail when León Teunis van Os saw what appeared to be a swimmer in distress. In fact, León — a 13-year-old visiting from Mexico — spotted a windsurfer who’d lost his board. “León alerted the rest of the crew, and they all worked to rescue the swimmer,” a RCYC Facebook post read. “Our youth made RCYC and their families very proud today!”

The rescued windsurfer wrote an email to Paul Barnes, RCYC’s Youth Program head coach: “[The boat was] by far not the closest vessel to me, and yet they were the ones who responded to my frantic waving. In strong winds and rough waters, they only needed one pass to pluck me from the water. They deserve some recognition for good citizenship and for adroit sailing skill. I thank you for teaching them well.”

Above: In July, the crew of IC24 Fun rescued a windsurfer on Lake Ray Hubbard in Heath, Texas. (León is wearing the green shirt.)
© 2021 Rush Creek Yacht Club
León, already building his on-the-water experiences.
© 2021 Courtesy Virginia van Os



León is a new branch on an old family tree spanning the Netherlands, Arizona, Texas, the East Coast and, really, most places in the world. As I started to write about León’s family, the van Oses — whom I grew up with, and am a cousin to through marriage — I realized there was no end to what I could say.

Families with deep sailing roots are not uncommon, but León’s moment on the water got us thinking about family matters. Do you come from a sailing family? Were you dropped into a dinghy while you were still in diapers? We’d love to hear from you. And, if you’re the first from your brood to take up sailing, then we’d like to hear about that, too. Please comment below, or email us here.

León had been staying with his Aunt Virginia and Uncle George for a few weeks this summer. Virginia grew up sailing Sabots and Holder Hawks (the latter a short-lived but competitive junior sailing class). She was on the UC Irvine sailing team, and has gone on to win a couple of national championships on the MC Scow with her skipper Kenny Wolfe. Virginia’s oldest of three daughters, Katy, is a dedicated dinghy racer, and crew on a superyacht.

Virginia and Kenny Wolfe racing MC Scows.
© 2021 Contributed
Virginia, center, in a VX One regatta.
© 2021 Contributed
Way to hike, you guys!
© 2021 Contributed

León is the son of Edward ‘Frondo’ and Ailyn van Os. After cruising around Mexico for a few years, Frondo, a maestro with fiberglass, started Mexicat, building innovative custom boats, and specializing in catamaran motor boats designed for surfing/fishing excursions. Frondo and I started sailing and surfing at the same time, but he was a gifted and superior athlete. I’m sure he was a decent junior racer, but he always sailed to his own tune, cruising, surfing and fishing all over the world. (I paid this branch of the van Os family a visit in 2018, where boats are even a part of Frondo’s hillside home.)

That’s Frondo at the helm of a Holder Hawk hull with a Sabot sail (and it looks like the mast and boom, as well.) León is doing some ballast testing on the bow, while youngest son Hawk stays close to the tiller.
© 2021 Ailyn van Os
Here’s how the latest generation of van Oses has grown up.
© 2021 Courtesy Ailyn van Os
Here’s how Frondo (left) and I grew up in the 1980s, showing off our meager catch and bowl cuts.
© 2021 Courtesy Frondo van Os

Virginia, Frondo and I grew up together in San Diego, starting our junior sailing careers at Southwestern Yacht Club shortly before Piet (pronounced ‘Pete’) came along. The van Oses relocated to Mission Bay Yacht Club, and Piet went on to great sailing success. He’s a graduate of the California State University Maritime Academy, and was in the Disney documentary Morning Light, where he served as navigator aboard the namesake vessel in the 2007 Transpac. Piet went on to navigate other well-known offshore race boats, and has worked all over the world in the maritime industry, most recently settling on the East Coast and cruising the Chesapeake on a variety of boats with his wife Franny and their 2-year-old daughter Eloise. They have a son on the way this month.

Franny and Piet on Chesapeake Bay a few years ago.
© 2021 Courtesy Piet van Os
The crew of Morning Light. Piet is third from the left.
© 2021 IMDB

The van Oses’ maternal grandfather was Arizona businessman A.B. Robbs, who won the Transpac in 1961. (A.B. was the father of Allyson, who is Virginia, Frondo and Piet’s mother.)

The 66-ft cutter Nam Sang took the Barn Door Trophy in 1961.
© 2021 Arizona Yacht Club

Edward van Os Sr. is the brother of my stepfather Robert, who was married to my late mother Karen. Ed and Rob (who have a sister, Pat) were born in the early 1940s, during the German occupation of the Netherlands. Ed and Rob’s sailing résumés are simply too long for anything shorter than a book. They’ve sailed all over the West Coast, Caribbean, Atlantic and Europe since the 1960s. Being Dutch, Rob and Ed each speak upward of five languages. Boats have brought them to nearly every corner of the globe, including Cannes, France, Brazil, Finland, North and West Africa, Dutch Harbor, Alaska, Turkey, Italy, Spain, etc., etc.

As we grew up in the ’80s, ’90s and early 2000s, we were (and are) always building, working on, looking at chartering or taking rides on, watching a movie about, or talking, writing, thinking and dreaming about boats, boats, boats. Boats, sailing and the ocean were, and are, everything, all the time. The van Os house was full of global maritime treasures like glass fishing buoys from Japan, hand-carved paddles from Africa, large Beken of Cowes photos of classic J Class boats, big metal divers’ helmets, and dozens of half and full models, many of which Ed and Rob’s father, Teunis, had built.

I firmly believe that boats brought out the best in each of us, especially me. Every one of us would go on to carve their own niches in the sailing world, be it business, brokerage, boat building or racing, writing, windsurfing, or simply messing about with boats.

But enough about my sailing family. Tell us about yours.


  1. Pat Broderick 3 years ago

    Whew! I need a van Os / Henry family tree to sort all of this out. On the other hand, here’s my family sailing resume: No one but me — no ancestors, brothers, children, cousins, in-laws. Simple! And since my grandchildren have no interest, probably one and only me. Even simpler. Where did my life go wrong and end up on the water?

  2. Susan Flieder 3 years ago

    I loved reading this story – thanks! And, I was excited to read that you sailed at Southwestern YC, where our 15 year old son recently started sailing Sabots and FJs . . . I dropped him off there after school today. Meanwhile, his dad, my husband, Paul, is on his final leg of bringing our sailboat, Andiamo (a Buizen 48), from Sydney, Australia to her new homeport in Sausalito. He left Ketchikan, AK yesterday with 2 friends, and they’re now holed up at Refuge Cove after a rough night and expecting heavy winds the next day or so. We just spent 2 weeks cruising a small, but beautiful, part of the Inside Passage before we flew home so the kids could start school.

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