Many members of the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame achieved notoriety by dominating the local sports scene in well-publicized sports. However, a precious few have attained prominence on the world stage only to find that prominence unrecognized due to the obscure nature of the sport which they have mastered. Tonight, the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame welcomes the opportunity to grant center stage to Tom Allen, a world-renown sailor who has patiently awaited his time in the limelight.
Allen began his rise to sailing prominence as a young man in the early 1950s. In 1954 at age 23, he burst onto the scene as the youngest man ever to win North American Lightning Class; he would win that race an additional seven times.
A five-time Canadian Open champ, Allen also won Gold and Silver medals in the Pan American games, and was a member of the 1968 Olympic team. The Allen resume also includes the U.S. Albacore Championship in 1971, Canadian Albacore Championship in 1972, and North American Flying Dutchman Championship in 1968 and 1971.
Allen was first to win the bi-annual World Championship Race in 1961, as skipper of a boat he built. With additional titles in 1963, 1965 and 1977, he turned the race into a personal showcase for his sailing skills. The 1977 title featured four wins in six races against the world’s best sailors. The 1977 World Championship also provided Allen his greatest thrill in racing, as his winning crew consisted of two of his children, teenagers Tom and Brenda Allen.
Allen was credited by his racing rivals with an uncanny sense of wind and currents, and heightened skills of anticipation. His experience and instincts made him a respected master of his craft. Allen has parlayed his mastery of sailing into a successful business building and selling boats from the Allen Boat Co., of Fuhrmann Boulevard in Buffalo, a logical career evolutionary path given his intimate knowledge of his boats.
Allen continues his active involvement in sailing today, an involvement which was highlighted by his assistance to the 1996 U.S. Olympic Sailing team in Savannah, Georgia. In 1996, the public became aware of what these young Olympians already know: that in his chosen, life-long field endeavor, Tom Allen has few peers.